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A company posted a requirement for an internship position for 3 months. They got an application for the same but during the interview it was found that the applicant already is well versed with the roles and responsibilities of that position.

Now he is negotiating that he should be compensated a higher salary since he is not getting to learn anything new but he is going to do the same job he has done before at a different firm. Is this behavior professional and should HR offer a higher salary to the candidate?

When asked why did he apply for intern position he said because it's required by the institute where he has enrolled for post graduate program to complete 3 months internship.

  • 54
    What does your company hope to gain by offering the internship? (usually you are looking for long term recruits, right?) – P. Hopkinson Feb 28 at 8:43
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    You may be stuck on "We wanted an intern. Is this an intern?" when you should be thinking about what the company actually wanted an intern for. – JollyJoker Feb 28 at 9:43
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    @P.Hopkinson Yes, but as he is in middle of his post graduation course he won't be able to continue after 3 months to work. – noob Feb 28 at 10:17
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    Sounds like he's applying for a temporary position and not an internship, to me. – Phil N DeBlanc Feb 28 at 11:33
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    I do not understand why this is thought to be different than any other compensation negotiation. – Michael J. Feb 28 at 21:23
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Short Answer: If you have budget and requirement for an internship, then that is on offer. This person can choose to take that or not.

If the role you have available is for an intern, then that is what you are offering. The person is applying for an internship as this is a requirement for their course.

In the end, you have a role you are offering, and they have an expectation of what they would like to be paid for. The fact is that they are still an intern, so they have to decide if they are going to accept an offer at that level.

It really is up to you if you wish to pay them more for their internship, but I would make it clear that the role on offer is an internship (which they need to complete requirements for their studies) and there is a rate for that role.

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    I'm also a fan of equal pay for equal work. If the person is good, and they'll want to hire them later, then it makes even more sense to pay them equally since it puts the company in a positive light. – Malisbad Feb 28 at 6:41
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    @Malisbad I don't disagree, and as in my answer, it is the prerogative of the employer to make that determination. However, if the company had the budget and requirement for an intern, then they have every right to offer it. The prospective employee/intern then also has the right to disagree and not accept the offer. Remember that the role is meant to be a three-month intern to allow the intern to cover the requirements for their qualification, which was clearly what was discussed with the OP and their firm prior to the candidate requesting higher. – Jane S Feb 28 at 6:43
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    @Malisbad They applied for an internship, not for a full job. If the candidate is overqualified, that's their problem - a former Michelin Star chef who goes back to University and starts working part-time in a Fast Food restaurant can't expect to demand the same pay they used to have. – Chronocidal Feb 28 at 10:46
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    @Chronocidal You are ofcourse correct, but: If he is able to, and can be utilized as a full employee it is reasonably fair to reimburse him as one. Interns are paid less mainly because the equilibrium is established on them gaining skills and experience in lieu of payment. If there is no such gain, then money will have to make up for it. Or he is deemed overqualified and the job given to someone who does not have the skills and experience. – Stian Yttervik Feb 28 at 11:12
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    @luk32 At least in the UK, there would be some conflicts of requirements and interest there. If you hire a contractor, you provide no training, opportunity to learn how the entire company functions, sick pay (if it arises during the "intern's" employment), etc. If the internship is required by an educational institution, some of those may be expected parts of the internship package. Putting together a one-off package to keep everyone happy for only three months duration isn't going to be worth the hassle. Either the OP applicant takes the standard internship package or goes elsewhere, IMO. – alephzero Feb 28 at 12:06
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An internship is not the same as a full-time position with less pay.

An intern:

  • little to no responsibility beyond doing the tasks given to them
  • learns on the job
  • is limited form a few month to a year

A full-term employee:

  • takes ownership of their work from beginning to end
  • after on-boarding is done doesn't need to relearn their core function
  • stays with the company often for more than a year

A intern should be able to expect some hand holding and ideally to see new aspects of the job he or she is growing into. An intern position (if done right) takes away time from a more senior employee to onboard and all that specific knowledge leaves the company after 3 months.

For a certain projects interns are a really good fit: e.g. write some stand alone piece of code that is used only for short period of time Such projects often only get funded, because they can be done by an intern.

Paying an intern a full-time salary makes your "intern projects" more expensive.

So in the end it is not just about the skill set of the candidate it is about what is adequate for the role. There might be a little bit of wiggle room, but if you are looking for an intern for an intern project you really shouldn't pay a full time salary for no reason.

  • Although company and candidate connected with one another through an opening labeled as an intern position, that does not mean that if the candidate does take a short term role, they will necessarily be functioning in the capacity of an in intern. The opening of the question already recognized that they have more capability than a typical intern, treating them like one would be a mistake, so this is really about if the company and candidate can agree on what would functionally be another type of role. – Chris Stratton Feb 28 at 16:05
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    A temporary 3-month employee that is being evaluated for an intership should definitely be treated like an intern; there's no guarantee they'll ever be anything more. 3 months isn't even enough time for an experienced engineer to get fully up to speed. Pursuing a different arrangement might be reasonable if the applicant here didn't specifically need a short-term internship, but otherwise they should both accept what it is. I've done such an "internship" myself. – Matthew Read Feb 28 at 18:06
  • On the contrary, when a person is actually matched to a defined problem, it's fairly normal to make useful contributions within the first week and not at all unusual to do so on the first day - if this does not happen, likely the task was misidentified or the wrong person was chosen. And that is part of the key contrast between someone who has the skills to do the work, as this candidate may, vs someone who needs guidance in developing those skills, as a stereotypical intern would. – Chris Stratton Feb 28 at 22:33
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It's really impossible to answer your question without more details.

The pay you can offer them should reflect:

  • how much he is worth to you. Is he worth to you more than "normal" interns are? Would you be able to make use of his more developed skills?
  • your budgetary constraints. Can you afford to have a new employee?
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An intern who you know will only be there for 3 months is not worth as much as a full-time employee.

The value of an employee isn't just the work that they complete in a particular time period. It's also the anticipation that they will continue to learn and grow and add more value to the company over time. Personally, my second 3 months with the company produced a ton more value than my first 3 months, and my most recent 3 months was a lot more valuable than either of them. That's because I've learned a ton about the job since I started, and because I've also learned a lot about the company and how to work here.

Even if an intern produced the same amount of work in 3 months as a full time employee would have, they still aren't as valuable to the company as a full-time employee who will continue to learn and grow from there.

Also, companies can invest in a full-time employee through stuff like training, tuition reimbursement, and conference attendance.

Full-time employees may be able to access sensitive data or make certain decisions that an intern couldn't.

A full-time employee will (hopefully) still be around after 3 months to answer questions. (I have colleagues who routinely field questions about projects that they worked on years ago; if an intern had done that project, that knowledge would be lost to the organization).

Finally, a full-time employee could potentially be promoted over time.

With that said:

Now he is negotiating that he should be compensated a higher salary since he is not getting to learn anything new but he is going to do the same job he has done before at a different firm. Is this behavior professional and should HR offer a higher salary to the candidate?

The fact that he won’t be learning anything new isn’t relevant in the least - the only relevance to how much you offer him is how much value he can provide to the firm which is, as I just pointed out, significantly less than what a long-term full-time employee would provide. The fact that he has relevant experience already probably is relevant, though. That being said, his value to the company is probably somewhere between what a less experienced intern would offer and what a full time employee would offer.

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You should really evaluate what the company needs and what he can offer.

Internships are usually already an investment which cost the company more than they bring initially. You have a lot of time invested in onboarding, mentoring, HR, hardware/software, tax-forms and so on. Compared to the amount of work the intern does this hardly balances out. The prospect of the intern becoming a fulltime employee after the internship (and maybe good PR) is usually what justifies the investment.

According to your comment the post-grad student has no inention of bein employed at your company after the 3 month internship. And he wants to be payed a lot more. Companies usually don't hire full time employees for a period as short as 3 months, because the expenditure for a new employee are not amortized after such a short period.

This all would likely lead to the conclusion of not hiring him for more than the usual internship salary, if even hiring him at all for an internship.

  • 2
    The comment only says that the candidate won't be able to continue beyond three months. But most interns cannot immediately continue to a full time role, they go back to school for additional semesters or even years. Internship based recruiting is a "long game" and there is not specific evidence that is not viable here, though a more advanced degree tends to put people into different categories of recruitment. In terms of "the expenditure for new employees" there are plenty of situations where those with the right skills (which this candidate may have) can generate value from day 1. – Chris Stratton Feb 28 at 16:08
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First of all hats off to him for asking what he is worth. There is nothing unprofessional in that.

Now to your situation. If I was HR, I would offer him equivalent to what he will be worth to company during his 3 month internship. I will disregard the job title, and pay him according to his abilities. He will spend few days out of 3 months in onboarding and won't be productive for that duration, so I will also consider that while negotiating with him.

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A person should be paid what they're worth to the company hiring them, internship or no.

The circumstances for him getting the job should not matter if the applicant will be doing the same work as someone else working next to him. If the qualifications and experience on his application show that he's capable and able to do the work, then he should be paid accordingly.

If a company cannot afford on-boarding, HR expenses, etc. then that company should not utilize a stipend-based internship and move to a "work for free" internship.

If the company still finds themselves questioning the worth of the applicant vs. the amount the applicant is asking, then they should decline his services, as is their right to do so.

  • Truth is, interns are worth less to the company than regular employees performing the same tasks, exactly because they are interns. – Dmitry Grigoryev Mar 1 at 13:35
  • You're speaking in absolutes, which is a fallacy. An intern that outperforms a full-time employee is not - as you've stated - worth less. In the same way companies hire seasonal workers to do a job and pay them the same amount as a full-time worker. You should be paid for what you're able to do. If you have never worked in the field, obviously you wouldn't be paid the same as someone else with more experience. If you DO have experience doing the very same thing, you'd be paid the same. You're hung up on the word 'intern' while dismissing all work being completed. – Newbie Mar 1 at 13:38

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