Top-Rated Workplaces By Interns: 5 Lessons from the Winning Companies

For people at the start of their careers, an internship can be a crucial professional development tool. The right internship is not only a great way to get a foot in the door at a company but also an opportunity to “try out” a career to see if it’s a good fit.

Other benefits include mentorship opportunities and the ability to establish a professional network with other interns at the company—not to mention (depending on the firm) the opportunity to experience company perks.

But the benefits aren’t limited to interns alone—for companies these programs represent a way to attract top young talent. In fact, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 67% of college students’ internships in 2017 turned into job offers—with a 76.4% acceptance rate.

Which companies receive the best reviews from interns?

Not all internships are the same, of course. So to identify the very best, Indeed’s data science team crunched the numbers from reviews by interns at firms in our 72 million-strong database of ratings and reviews. We then ranked the top workplaces for internships in the US based on overall ratings from interns.

This list is useful both for job seekers looking for the best internships and for companies trying to learn best practices for providing a positive intern experience. And here’s some good news: no one sector is dominant—the ranking features a variety of companies in different sectors, including health care, retail, food service and entertainment.

Kaiser Permanente scored highest overall, with a 4.24 overall rating from interns. Kaiser Permanente is a health-care organization that was a pioneer in prepaid health coverage, and it also placed first in our Top-Rated Healthcare Workplaces in 2018.

According to Kaiser Permanente’s program, they are looking for interns who are “bold, creative, curious, and excited to contribute to the future of health.” One standout review was from an intern who was impressed by the company’s passion for service—“You get to experience working with an amazing staff who care about the clients they are working with.”

Next on our rankings we find the Walt Disney Company, with an overall rating of 4.14 from its interns. Disney offers interns the chance to work with “a family of legendary brands passionate about creating world-class experiences on a global scale.” Interns at the world-famous company get the chance to work with world-class experts in their respective fields at an entertainment juggernaut that shows no sign of slowing down.

Rounding out the top five places for internships were financial services giant Northwestern Mutual (overall rating: 4.10), national pharmacy chain Walgreens (overall rating: 4.07) and everyone’s favorite place to get fit and hang out, the YMCA (overall rating: 4.05).

Now let’s take a look at some of the best practices gleaned from the top-ranked companies.

1. Paid internships can lead to better results

Though we didn’t set out to include only paid internships on our list, we learned that all of the highest-rated companies do pay their interns. Although not every firm can afford to do so, paid internships are on the rise and one study found that paid interns tend to gain more experience because they are given more advanced tasks. For example, in terms of day-to-day activities, paid interns spend about 42% of their time doing professional tasks like analysis and project management, compared to unpaid interns who do this kind of work only 30% of the time.

2. Offer interns a variety of tasks

If interns wanted to take coffee orders and make copies all day, they would look for work as a barista or at a copy center. In a professional internship, offer them the chance to try different professional tasks in order to provide challenging experiences. This also allows a company to see how an intern handles a variety of tasks that a regular employee at the company would have to do—a great way to evaluate potential future fit at the company. An example of a company doing this well is Macy’s (#10 on our list)—they offer a range of different types of internships from store management to buying/digital merchandising.

3. Plan your intern’s work ahead of time

Interns need to be kept busy if you want them to be engaged at work and contribute to the company’s goals. When companies don’t think through what they expect of interns and outline tasks in advance, this can result in a wasted opportunity for both parties, as the unhappy interns have little to show for the time they spent with your company. Be sure to plan work for interns ahead of time. A common thread in reviews for top companies was that interns enjoyed always having work to do. As one satisfied intern at fourth place Walgreens put it, “You’re never not busy while on the clock.”

4. Think long term

Companies need to do the work up front to make sure the intern is a good match for the company, beyond just the summer or semester they spend there. This can lead to a potential candidate who already aligns with the company values and mission. The payoff can be huge in the long run in the form of a full-time hire when the internship ends. Home Depot (#9) seems to be doing very well in this area—77% of their interns get a full-time return offer.

5. Offer perks and assistance

Interns have many options when it comes to choosing a company, so perks and assistance can tip the scales for a company. Consider how you can make living in your city easier, as well as any unique company products you can offer.

For example, Starbucks offers housing assistance for those based outside the Seattle area—a notoriously expensive city to live in. They also give interns a free pound of whole bean coffee per week and all the handcrafted beverages they can drink.

More affordable ways to help out include providing transportation and access to any on-site amenities that employees already use. At Indeed, for example, interns can use a bus service to get to work and eat in the cafeteria.

Conclusion

When done well, internships can be a valuable benefit to everyone involved. Interns gain much-needed work experience and professional contacts, and companies get a chance to add temporary staff to areas that need help.

But it’s also important to think long term. In today’s tight labor market, interns provide the company with a pool of potential candidates they have already vetted and with whom they already have a relationship. So be sure to make the most of this opportunity and start deepening your future talent bench.

Methodology:

The best places to work with internships in the United States in 2018, based on overall ratings and reviews from users who select their employment status as “intern” while reviewing a company on Indeed.com