Why won't employers hire interns without a lot of experience

14 days 38 Last Comment
Jul 9, 14 6:52 pm

Hello Everyone,

I graduated from an accredited Interior Design Program from Kean University in New Jersey last year and have been in search of a job ever since. I interned at a couple of small firms here and there, but I have been trying to land a good job at a prospective firm and so far all the jobs I've wanted to apply to won't accept resumes without at least a minimum of three  years of experience or more. How am I supposed to gain experience if no one wants to hire someone with less than a year of experience. I really love Interior Design and know the majority of the programs required in this field pretty well but it's desperate times like this (being jobless with a big student loan debt) that sometimes make me wonder if I should consider a new career path. Helpful advise anyone? 


Jul 9, 14 7:01 pm

Cuz employers can't afford the money to train you then have you go to another firm after 3 years. They want someone else to pay for the training.

Jul 9, 14 7:02 pm

the like to hire architects first because they can kill two birds with one stone, work with interiors and architecture also... or so they assume

Jul 9, 14 7:03 pm

Also, don't ask if they're hiring or not.. Just send them an email saying you're looking for work and attach your resume.  If you portfolio is any good, they will get back to you.

Jul 9, 14 7:23 pm

I've applied to about 50 job postings the last year and I haven't gotten an offer yet, I think I have a decent portfolio but nothing so far. Maybe I should consider majoring in Architecture which seems to be doing better than Interior Design.

Jul 9, 14 8:30 pm

you could go get a graduate degree in architecture.. But beware, this profession could be just as bad xD

Jul 9, 14 8:37 pm

I don't understand what more you gain from majoring in Interior Design than in Architecture? Once you get a degree in Architecture, go and do whatever you want with your life... but majoring in interiors is a total joke....

Jul 9, 14 8:58 pm

@mcamposid: It's simple - because there's an oversupply of designers of all types, employers can hire new staff with experience for not much more than they would have to pay if they hired you. The current economics do not work in your favor. 

For that reason, you have to give employers an unusually solid reason to hire you. Generally, that means offering some skills that otherwise aren't readily available. But, employers also will hire someone they know before they hire a total stranger. So - you need to get out into the community and make contact with people who work in design firms (architecture firms and ID firms) -- establish and maintain relationships -- join ASID and go to all of their events --  network like crazy.

If you can find a temporary gig -- even if it's for just a few days -- take it and work your ass off. Some of my best hires over the years have come from people who came into the office for just a few days to help with a deadline.

Good luck.

Jul 9, 14 9:07 pm

If you're doing cold applications, don't forget your resume/ port folio don't ever get read. Or if it ever get read it will be put aside and will be forgotten in 3 days. You need to turn up in the office and introduce yourself and talk to the owner of the firm.

If you're applying from an advertisement then obviously you don't meet their requirement of minimum experience. This is always the trickiest part when trying to get your very first job. One way around it is to exaggerate your experience. There's nothing wrong about saying that you have the experience and then try to pick up as you go and do extra homework after hours. If you want to beat all your competitors then you have to do something different and work extra hard.

The other option is to wait for the perfect and kind boss to appear and offer you a job and who is willing to train you from scratch. This is the longer option.

Also I'm not being sexist or anything but I think females have a slight advantage when it comes to getting their first job if they have little to no experience than males. There are people out there who are willing to pay a small wage to have a person with some sex appeal than a geek to train up.

Jul 9, 14 10:14 pm

Thank you for all the advise, @BulgarBlogger interiors is no joke I bet you don't have a clue about designing for children with Autism or people with Alzheimer's. It's not just about picking pretty colors or wall papers it's about the environmental psychology that affects people and interior spaces and there's a lot of codes you have to follow in regards to the welfare and well being of people. 

Jul 10, 14 12:05 am

Look what we have here... A designer lecturing an architect... HA

Jul 10, 14 12:41 am

^ Why are you making fun of a interior graduate? smh. mcamposid made a point.

Everyone, lets quit being phallics.

Some architects can learn a things or two from interior designers because they specialize on interior design while some architects don't involve themselves in interior design.

I'm a building designer but also by virtue of being a building designer am an interior designer as well. It depends on the focal point of the services I provide. However, I think the babbling going on between architect & interior designer is kind of off topic to the question.

Non Sequitur
Jul 10, 14 8:22 am

Well that degenerated quickly.

For the record, many arch schools do teach what Mcamposid mentions above. Perhaps the problem is over-saturation of designers in his/her market.

Jul 10, 14 8:37 am

You're probably a designer because you can't become an architect...

Non Sequitur
Jul 10, 14 8:45 am

Bulgar, Snoop mentions that he's a licensed architect in another post in the forum...

But on another point and in my own experience, I've found that if int-des schools would spend more time training their students to design rather than fuel the "us vs architects" mantra, these pointless quarrels would disappear.

Jul 10, 14 9:08 am

so, mcamposid, are you only looking for jobs that focus on kids with autism or people with alzheimers?  you might be having trouble finding a job because your education was so focused on a narrow specialization without a lot of cross-over relevance into other fields.

or are you looking for a job picking colors and just wanted to try to make a point?  architects can learn about psychology too.

Jul 10, 14 9:29 am

I'll tell you why....

because I just got drawings from one of our interns (BS in Architecturs) for a house addition (elevations and floor plans) that I was supposed to get mid day Monday and they still look like crap. The builder knows how long it should take, so how can I explain and bill 31 hrs. and it was supposed to take 4 hrs. So I have to take it out of my own packet for him to learn and right now we are simply not in that position.

Not that we don't want to train fresh graduates, we all went through that, but right now its very tight for everybody and we can't afford it.

Now, this is a potential Architect down the road, so we are giving him a chance so down the road we benefit from him. Most architecture firms don't have interior design department, so when you apply to an architecture firm, they simply ignore it and don't have time to respond to you.

And sending 50 resumes and waiting for a response is nothing, people (with outstanding resumes and portfolios) have been known to send 50 a day and still no response.

Its a tough market out there, but good luck!!!

Jul 10, 14 10:33 am

Don't take all the digs from these guys serious, they are just jaded because interiors make more money than them starting out.  If your in New Jersey look into other options.

Interior designers have the entire field of finish product rep and furniture rep that pays better as well.  

You might look at some of the large companies that build a lot they tend to have a staff of people to oversee the work of the firms they hire.

You might also look at government work, city, state feds.  not flashy and would probably suck the life out of you but come the next down turn we will all wish we weren't sitting in your cubical getting a paycheck.

Non Sequitur
Jul 10, 14 11:10 am

Robbmc, generally speaking, int-des do not make more than architects in a typical office setting. The breath of their skill set simply does not compare... unless you're referring to zero experience grunt staff working $14/hr. In my market for example, a graduate int-des can expect a 38K start while a M.arch applicant can hit anywhere between 40 to 50K start.

Your point about gov work is spot-on though. Many building and HR departments hire int-des to help communicate between the design teams for large office fit-ups. I do a fair number of these jobs... and let's say, the quality of the staff is... well... underwhelming.

Jul 10, 14 11:40 am

I wasn't talking about snoop

David C. McFaddenDavid C. McFadden
Jul 10, 14 12:32 pm

Dear mcamposid,

I feel you.  You belong to the "greatest recession, since the depression" economy.  (On an aside I am trying to think of a for you guys and gals - suggestions encouraged.)

The good news is firms ARE hiring. According to a leading agitator of classified ads for architects, since July of 2013, there’s been a 24.4% increase in employment in Los Angeles and 34.4% in New York, so things are looking brighter if you are in the right place geographically. 

Shameless Plug. I own CFA a placement firm for architects. Keep in touch if we can help.

Good luck,


Jul 10, 14 12:40 pm

@BulgarBlogger I am not lecturing you I am just defending my field which i don't believe is better or equal to architecture because they are two different fields of study. Being said that, I am not going to tolerate you calling this field a joke because architects and interior designers need each other to help make the interiors of a structure pleasant spaces to occupy. If you come at me disrespectful I will treat you that same way. I respect the architecture field, most of my professors in college had degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design and they taught us to respect both fields because they are dependent on each other. I could have been an architect if i would have put my mind and effort into it, but that was not my first choice as a career path. So don't degrade people because you feel as though your superior to others. @curtkram i was just responding to VulgarBlogger the same way he responded to me, not trying to offend any one, and at this point any job would be great!

@robbmc thank you for the advise I will look into this, nice to know gentlemen still exist.

Jul 10, 14 1:55 pm

There's a difference between majoring in Interiors and practicing as one.

The interior designers at my current place of work are well respected by their clients and us architects. Sometimes I hardly see the division between the two groups. Their skills bring plenty of value and they work just as hard as any other member of the team. Very business savvy.

However, when I'd see what interiors students were doing vs. what my architect colleagues were producing, I admittedly scoffed more than once.

Jul 10, 14 2:47 pm

^-- they move stairs and columns.  it's just not right.

Jul 10, 14 6:33 pm

Non Sequitur.  I was referring more to the other common type of interior positions not necessarily the typical arch firm.  I would say your 38 to 40 is fairly accurate spread strait out of school for typical arch firm.  Not much difference when you consider the arch spent 2 more years in school.  The interior designer would have two years experience by the time the arch grad hit the street.  I'm in a fairly robust market though with a lot of interior positions/options (Dallas) typical mid range cities wouldn't have near the options. I'm arch wife is interior so I've seen both sides, seems pretty level here until you get to the project architect level where the spread opens up a bit in the arch office.   


I've done projects with and without interiors they typically come out better if there's an interior designer working the finishes and interior details.  Big jobs get too complicated and these types of things get shoved to the end and done quickly without someone who's more knowledgeable on the options available and working the design from the beginning.   The shear amount of finish options alone means a lot of big firms actually have a librarian to weed out and keep up with whats out there (another job option)  

gives me a headache just thinking about it.

Jul 11, 14 1:30 am

to the opening poster, sorry did not read all responses. Just wanted to let you in on a secret Architecture firms are hiring but they dont want to pay... much.  Especially big firms like fill in the blank,  they are trying out their old model of having one or 2 people that know what they are doing, and surrounding them with lots of inexperienced fresh bodies from college, crossing fingers and praying that nothing breaks down. try the websites apply.

Jul 12, 14 8:45 pm

Every firm is really just looking to use you as a tool.  Think of it this way: the owners/management have too many meetings to pay attention all the time to all the details of the building.  So- they have to hire people to do it.  They basically just want a machine that will spit out the construction documents after paying it x amount.  Possibly do some renderings as well, and make sure the building gets built the right way.


At least from my experience this is how most employers are going to look at you.  They really aren't going to care that much about your portfolio, except that if it seems aligned with what they do and can make you seem more like them.  Its all about sucking up and kissing rear end.


So - when you apply keep that in mind.  It will make finding a job much easier.  Experience with construction documents helps because they start to trust that you aren't going to skrew things up.  But most firms will train anyone they hire for a bit.

Jul 16, 14 12:46 pm

mcamposid, I had a 40 year career as an owner/architect, had offices in 4 cities. The key is: do not give up! Starting out is torture, was for me 40 years ago.

Quizzical has good advice, take it to heart.  Also, in your field, you need to consider (hold-your-nose) working as a Rep or at a commercal furniture concern. Being a Rep can really be propelling. It gets you inside firms, tons of networking opportunities and the pay can be really good to help with your student loans and get you on your feet.

Two secrets to share: One is to always do what others don’t do. I once received a hard copy resume/portfolio via FedEX . It was not my place to act on it but I did look at it and it got a post-it-note from me and sent on….later I learned that he got an interview. Another is an individual that I interviewed. I liked him but he did not have the experence I published and I was sitting there wondering what to say next and he then said….” I know you seem unsure but I know I can prove myself….how would it be if I worked for for free for a month, no strings attached…”. I hired him on the spot and he stayed on for quite awhile.

You sound like a good person and have a great foundation…good things happen to good people, I know you will find your way.

Jul 16, 14 3:08 pm

You know what... it is rare a recent grad jumps into a full-time position without first being an intern or having interned previously.  Apply to jobs as an intern.  Looking for full-time work without any prior work experience does scare employers, unless you have kickass work.

Jul 20, 14 2:03 pm

Mcamposid, I think I owe you a more direct answer to your question, “Why won’t employers hire interns without a lot of experience?” It’s really just about money, it isn’t about you. My struggle with this was always how am I going to get paid back? People without experience are not very billable. Interns can consume a lot of time on a task and as an owner I had to be very careful when invoices went out to check for gouges. Client’s pick-up on this kind of thing and it can lead to answering embarrassing questions. One slip and you can get your entire invoice questioned.

I tried many times but one time I took an intern along with me to a meeting for her help and learning. The client asked who she was and when I explained she wanted her out of the meeting. We were 60 miles from home and she had to go sit in the car and wait. It was embarrassing and I couldn’t bill her time. This is business and interns can be a liability. Office overhead (time/things that can’t be billed) is a real burden on owners. I guess just bringing them on to help and learn without billing them is the right thing to do….my partner was constantly bringing in “stray-cats”. I ran the business side and would just cringe.

Right now it’s a Catch 22….Try to find my partner or divert for a period as I suggest in my former post, you’ll eventually get in, patients needs to be applied here.

Jul 20, 14 3:26 pm

^ which is why IDP is a complete bullshit system.  The career of a grad should be in his/her hands not in the hands of other professionals. 

Jul 20, 14 5:27 pm

What Carrera said is the ugly truth. And did you noticed he hire a girl intern? Guys probs have no chance. That's why the only way to break through this so call "catch 22" situation is what I explained earlier. Be creative, take risks, exaggerate, after all what's the worse that could happen? You can get fired and a bad reference. That's ok.... it is worth it because if it pays off you'll make it. Pateintly waiting is another option as suggested however I've seen people working at cafe serving drinks for a long long time and they forgotten they had an B Arch degree. 


I half agree with jla-x. The system is not bullshit. The school is bullshit. If schools focus more on teaching and feeding students what employers look for instead of useless 5 years of rubbish then this problem wouldn't occur. Take an electrical apprentice for example. They do a two years course, after they completed the course they are qualified to work as an entry level apprentice without any problems of incompetency.

Jul 20, 14 5:31 pm

Btw that client of yours who ask your intern to leave is absuletly not on in my practice. I would have said something. Poor intern. 

Jul 20, 14 5:32 pm

Absolutely* iPhone correction 

Jul 20, 14 7:34 pm

Jla-x, you should start a forum on IDP, I’d blast them there. The whole process of getting licensed is “bullshit”. It’s discussed throughout Archinect so I won’t go far….when I was coming up I worked for a contractor/developer to garner experience in construction. I was his in-house (unlicensed) architect. My goal was to become an architect/builder. Too I had a young family and could not survive on a draftsman’s salary. I paid hell trying to get a seat at the state exam and later too trying to get my NCARB. Both discarded the experience and wouldn’t even give a discounted credit. No credit for learning how to build a building!? Learning that vs. humped over a drafting table doing door schedules? Garnering experience anywhere in the industry should merit. Creating our built environment is an amalgamated process and experience is necessary from a thousand points of light. Bringing these things to the table is intern development.

Snoopy316 the rejected intern thing caught me by complete surprise. The client didn’t ask she directed me. I was so taken back I think if I had said something I would have started stuttering. And she was a woman rejecting another woman!

Stretching the truth – I once lied at an early interview as to whether I knew how to check shop drawings, I said yes. Within a week I got a pile dumped on my desk. I remained calm, waited for everybody to go home that night and I jumped into the file cabinet to look at my predecessors shops and figured it out. Sometimes this approach is necessary so long as it’s not your primary responsibility.

Jul 20, 14 9:02 pm

Ok- I think I have a solution to the education issue...

Why can't a 5-Year Bachelor's of architecture be focused on the topics tested on in the ARE and the M.Arch be focused on design theory and criticism...? If someone coming from a non-architecture background wants to get a Master's in Architecture, then the program would be longer- not 3.5 years... but more like 4-5 years or whatever the equivalent is... 

Jul 20, 14 10:56 pm

Carrera, the woman client probably had the hots for you and was threatened when she saw the young intern whom she probably assumed was your mistress, ha ha! 

As for stretching the truth & lying, as they say:  Fake it til you make it!

Jul 21, 14 11:26 am

GraduatedLicensure, that’s funny! You know what though….at the very moment it happened I actually thought it was some kind of bad gay bar flashback thing happening….because she didn’t explain why or lecture me after about it.

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