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The Downside of Unpaid Internships for Business

As London Fashion week got underway this February, campaigners highlighted the plight of the fashion industry’s unpaid interns. Their stories – of exploitative and often illegal employment masquerading as work experience – are sadly familiar.

It’s often assumed that businesses using unpaid interns only win in this unfair equation. But what if there is a downside to unpaid internships that undercuts the more immediate benefits of free labour and risk-free talent screening?

British business is relatively new to internships. Once, ‘intern’ just meant ‘junior doctor’, but in the 1930s the term crossed over to describe unpaid hopefuls in politics and then business in the US. In Britain, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the boom in internships really kicked off . However, once it started there seemed to be no stopping it.

By 2011, CIPD figures put the number of UK internships between 50,000 and 70,000 each year. According to government estimates, between 10,000 and 15,000 of these were unpaid.

Despite high-profile campaigns and HMRC action against unpaid internships, research indicates that not much is changing. (Take the 2012 survey by the Public Relations Consultants Association – of 150 PR interns surveyed, 23% were not paid at all.)

So perhaps it’s time to examine the business case against unpaid internships.

  • Internships can put your business on the wrong side of the law. Internships part ways with work experience when they involve real work and not simply ‘shadowing’. When that’s the case, interns are in fact workers who are entitled to the national minimum wage. In 2011, government legal advice suggested that employers who use unpaid interns could be breaking the law by ignoring minimum wage rules. The HMRC, too, has stepped up its efforts to crack down on unpaid fashion internships. Obviously this remains a grey area, and it’s not as clear cut to say that every business using interns is acting illegally. Still, it’s worth remembering that the legal status of interns remains unclear, and as a business it’s worth monitoring any developments in this area and being ready to respond as necessary.
  • Internships can limit the talent pool. For businesses looking to recruit the brightest, the best and the keenest, internships for no or token pay may sometime be counter productive. There are plenty of talented students and graduates who can’t afford to forgo a regular paycheque– and each one is an opportunity missed. Campaign group Intern Aware points out that firms offering paid experience get more applications from a more diverse range of candidates.
  • Internships can negatively affect morale– and your brand. Firms with well-organised internship programmes regard these as valuable PR. They actively seek out graduates at university seminars and recruitment fairs and try to win them over to the benefits of their brand as ‘employers of choice’. That effort goes on well after the interns start – appropriate training, induction and support, as well as positive experiences in the workplace, all reinforce graduates’ favourable impressions of their prospective employer. Exploitative and poorly structured internships do just the opposite. When a firm earns a bad name among its interns, it’s earning a bad name among potential employees (and probably also losing the best recruits) and setting itself up for the problems that come with low morale and motivation.
So what measures can you take to ensure that your internship scheme is helping, rather than hindering, your business? Continue reading “The Downside of Unpaid Internships for Business” »
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Pluris feedback

At Pluris, we utilise a number of leading job boards to support our other internal resourcing methods.  Whilst Jobsite has consistently performed at a higher level than our other boards, their account management team, led by Sam Bailey, has dedicated its time to work in collaboration with the team at Pluris to develop new, innovative ways of sourcing talent and therefore increasing our return on investment.  The team’s investment in our business is unique within the job board sector and, for this reason, we will remain a long term partner to Jobsite.

Peter Colborne, Managing Partner

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Telling Stories, Engaging Leadership and Social Collaboration – Recruitment and HR in 2013

If the first two HR and Recruitment conferences that we have attended in 2013 are anything to go by, then there will be certain key themes dominating discussions during the year.

At both the HR Directors Summit and Enhance Media Online Recruitment Conference there were many ideas and case studies shared, and most learning points came back to three topics – Telling Stories, Engaging Leadership and Social Collaborations

Telling stories

For recruiters, 2013 will be the year of the story, whether it’s a way of conveying your Employer Brand/Employee Value Proposition or a route to attracting the talent you need.

Virgin Atlantic talked about their story that personalises the company for both consumers and potential employees – “Employee Value Proposition is the first date spiel you share initially with a candidate whilst the Employer Brand which is the honesty speech you need before a marriage or in this case, the final stages of the recruitment process” – whilst Social Housing group Bromford presented an in depth look at their #gottalovecake twitter recruitment campaign which not only delivered great results, but also won the award for Excellence in Recruitment at the HR Directors Distinction Awards.

TMP Worldwide shared some of their work with clients and said that for talent attraction the story needed to be an emotive one about your organisation, people, career and jobs.

Engaging Leadership

As you will often find at HR events, a number of sessions dealt with management and leadership. Certainly the accent was most definitely on the latter this time with inspirational leadership to the fore and more traditional management mentioned less.

When it was, then questions were asked around how you select managers – is it a reward for a successful or loyal operator, is it a separate skill or just seen as an add-on, is a manager an implementer – and a clear need for ‘softer’ skills (having difficult conversations, taking responsibility of wellbeing) alongside ‘harder’ skills of policies, procedures and financial awareness.

Leadership was spoken about at a number of keynotes. The need to become a leader rather than learn a leadership model was much discussed, as was the importance of listening and caring about the wellbeing of those you are responsible for – they feel the emotional commitment and respond productively.

Introducing social collaboration tools were seen as key to flattening hierarchies and influencing management behaviours, whilst an e-mail based style of management creates distance and lessens engagement.

Social Collaboration

Underpinning most of the case studies and presentations at both conferences was a sense of the power of a socially connected business. At the HR Directors summit blueKiwi shared their experiences of moving a global organisation away from e-mail based internal communication to a more collaborative platform. Some interesting quotes during the presentation including:

  • A move from e-mail to social collaboration is not just about systems & technology but really about organisation, culture & attitude as well”
  • “Social collaboration increases agility, productivity, speed & effectiveness through better talent mobilisation, knowledge sharing & communication”
  • “Next generation communication tools are necessary to attract & retain new generation talent not just in Europe but worldwide”

Continue reading “Telling Stories, Engaging Leadership and Social Collaboration – Recruitment and HR in 2013” »

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Five Reasons Why Recruitment Consultancies Are a Vital Resource in the Digital Age









Whilst many in-house recruitment teams may be trying to reduce, or even eliminate, their usage of third party recruiters, our recent Quarterly Recruitment Review showed that consultancies remain a key route to market for over 50% of businesses and 60% of jobseekers.

In this guest post Adrian Kinnersley, Managing Director of Twenty Recruitment Group, looks at five reasons why it pays to still keep them in the talent acquisition mix…


“One of the major objectives for any in house recruiting team is to drive down costs by reducing the reliance on third party recruiters – an objective that many feel can be met more easily in a digital age. My view however, is that a reliance on social media and other networking tools is not only short sighted – it’s a false economy. Recruitment has many business models but I believe that good recruiters will be at the very heart of the corporate future because:

  • Talent is not a commodity – it has opinions and options. It can also be unpredictable, irrational, high maintenance and uncommunicative. As recruiters providing a professional service, we can take into account all the intangibles and freedom of thought from all parties which prevents the existence of ‘black box recruiting’
  • There is too much margin for error – A bad hire is so much more costly than a recruiters’ fee. A recruiter can help qualify what a client actually needs and market map that role against competitors to avoid clients heading down blind alleys when defining job roles and department structures.
  • It’s a labour intensive process – A good recruiter should provide information on what type of candidate a client can expect; what other companies are looking for the same skills; advice on how to position your role and company to appeal to candidates; present multiple candidates and identify what their ‘hot buttons’ are; manage the interview process; manage the offer process….I could go on.
  • Recruitment has to be high touch – The mobility and flexibility of talent in the global generation is the most valuable corporate currency of the future. Being able to attract, extract and deliver talent has to a high touch service – being able to just see where it is in a social network just doesn’t cut it.
  • Talent has a choice – Candidates want to interact with a recruiter because they want a variety of options; they want to have a clear idea of their market worth; they want background , advice and coaching on interview technique; they want advice on how to go through the resignation process… they want a consultant.”

Adrian Kinnersley is Managing Director of Twenty Recruitment Group, a specialist finance, technology and engineering recruiter with offices in London and New York



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Jobsite Sponsors Keynote Speaker at SMART Resourcing 2013

We’re looking forward to the Recruiter SMART Resourcing Conference 2013 which takes place in London on 28th February, and promises to be an exciting knowledge sharing event for recruitment professionals.

The event boldly promises to take recruitment leaders ‘two steps beyond the expected’ and offers the opportunity to find out more about:

  • How workforce analytics can shape an organisation’s most proactive and effective talent acquisition and management strategies
  • How early assessments can dramatically improve retention – with a case study from the British Military
  • Educating the new breed of internal recruiter
  • The most effective recruitment training for hiring managers
  • Devising successful ‘onboarding’ practices tailored to help build bridges for new hires


At this event we are proud to be sponsoring the Keynote Speaker, John Vlastelica – a former recruiting director with Amazon and Expedia, and consultant and trainer to organisations such as Nike, Groupon, Google, Hitachi, Electronic Arts and T-Mobile. In his session ‘Lead or Be Led‘ he’ll be sharing the secrets of what makes an effective recruiting leader, and also disclosing the 8 things that the best recruitment professionals do better than the rest!

He will be supported on the day by an impressive range of speakers from organisations such as LOCOG, Lloyds Banking Group, RAF, Network Rail and the Moving Picture Company.

There are still a small number of tickets available and we have managed to secure Jobsite clients a 10% discount. Just use the code JOBS1T3 when you register on this page.

We hope to see you there!









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Recruitment Review of 2012 – significant disconnect between jobseekers’ and employers’ needs & desires from their online resources

The Winter 2012-13 Evenbase Quarterly Recruitment Review of changing UK recruiter and jobseeker behaviour is free to download now.

This report is conducted on a quarterly basis by independent brand tracking agency HPI, and shows these key findings since our last report:

  • The average number of vacancies advertised has risen to 7.8 per business, the highest figure of 2012
  • 54% increase in temporary/contract roles advertised since a year ago
  • Almost two-thirds of job vacancies are advertised online
  • 83% of jobseekers cite job boards as their most considered job search method
  • Mobile shift – 76% of jobseekers now own a smartphone (up from 43% in 2010)
  • 13% increase in the number of SME businesses (50-249 employees) looking for staff

Evenbase’s Winter 2012/13 Quarterly Recruitment Review sees a continued trend in the hiring uplift reported in the Autumn Quarterly Recruitment Review, with the average number of vacancies advertised per business back up to 7.8, which was last seen in Nov 2011 and is the highest figure reported in 2012.

The most recent Recruitment Review saw a 13% surge in temporary/contract vacancies being advertised by businesses with 4.3 temporary/contract vacancies per business; this can be linked with the annual trend of seasonal jobs, but it is still a 54% increase in temporary/contract roles year on year.

Almost two-thirds of all vacancies are now advertised online, which has risen since the autumn to an average of 5.1 online vacancies per employer. However, businesses’ consideration of using newspaper ads has leap-frogged job boards for the first time in 2012. This shift in vacancy advertising is likely to be attributed largely to the 13% increase in the number of SME businesses (50-249 employees) looking for staff as smaller businesses with less resources perhaps prefer to stick to traditional mediums of recruitment advertising and their own personal networks.

For businesses looking to hire new staff, the talent pool of candidates can be found online – as 83% of jobseekers cite job boards as their most considered job search method. This is the highest figure on record since Evenbase’s Quarterly Recruitment Review began in 2008 and has increased a further 5% from Autumn 2012.

Another indication of the ongoing strength of digital recruitment is that jobseekers are also considering using company websites to find their next role, which has jumped by 10% this quarter to reach the same level as job boards. Also, the consideration of using social and business networks has reached 50% for the first time – indicating that jobseekers are proactively considering more channels in their job hunt.

Continue reading “Recruitment Review of 2012 – significant disconnect between jobseekers’ and employers’ needs & desires from their online resources” »

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Disclaimer: Any views here do not necessarily reflect the views of Jobsite. As such we cannot be held responsible for the views expressed here or any actions taken as a consequence.