Can I Get You a Cup of Coffee, Boss? Landing a Job after an Internship

Topic: Selection, Recruiting, Mentoring
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (OCT 2010)
Article: Internship: A Recruitment and Selection Perspective
Authors: H. Zhao, R. C. Liden
Reviewed by: Holly Engler

Looking for a job? Internships are a great way to gain practical experience before entering the workforce, post graduation. In fact, many companies including J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs’ report that nearly 89% of new hires were previous interns. So, it is reasonable to assume that an internship opportunity is the guaranteed gateway to getting hired? Not quite.   Until now, however, little research has studied how interns can obtain job offers or how host organizations can convince interns to stick around.

Hao Zhao and Robert Liden investigated how interns and organizations, both, use impression management (IM) techniques to satisfy recruitment goals. Individuals perform IM through self promotion techniques (pointing out strengths to appear competent), or through ingratiation (engaging in flattering behaviors to increase likeability). The students wish to make an impression on the organization in hopes of receiving a job offer.  Organizations perform IM through supervisory mentoring, listening to interns’ creativity, and demonstrating the ability to grow within the organization – in hopes of expressing that they are a desirable workplace.

Zhao and Liden proposed two main ideas: (a) Interns seeking a job are more likely to perform IM, and (b) organizations are more likely to perform IM if they intend to make job offers. 

Results of the given study show that interns who actively used IM in the form of self promotion alone had an additional 51% chance of being offered the job than those who didn’t. Likewise, interns who used ingratiation alone experienced an additional 55% chance of receiving a job offer than those who didn’t.  In fact, IM techniques had a much stronger influence than even performance in terms of receiving a job offer!   Organizations proved to perform higher levels of IM through supervisory mentoring and fostering creativity when they were looking to extend job offers.

While there is much more room for research in the field of IM, one thing is certain: an internship doesn’t guarantee a job offer, but a few compliments to the boss and a little bit of bragging can certainly help!

Zhao,H., & Liden, R.C. (2010, October 18). Internship: A Recruitment and Selection Perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication. Doi: 10.1037/a0021295