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Written by Lotte van RijswijkLotte van Rijswijk

The companies that interns are most and least likely to recommend to a friend

36 min read
The companies that interns are most and least likely to recommend to a friend
Each year, millions of U.S. students take up intern positions to gain work experience in their field of choice or at a company they admire. Lots of those interns will have a positive experience, but inevitably, others are left unimpressed. So which are the best and worst U.S. companies to intern for, according to interns themselves? We explored thousands of reviews on Glassdoor to find out.

Before entering the world of full-time work, just over a fifth of college students in the U.S. will start an internship each year. Lasting on average for 18.3 weeks, internships are a time-tested way for students to gain work experience, network with colleagues and improve their social and professional skills. 

But internships aren’t without controversy. Close to one in two interns in the U.S. aren’t paid, and as the National Association of Colleges and Employers highlights, unpaid interns receive fewer job offers than their paid counterparts and start on a lower salary when they do start a job. Moreover, women and people of color are less likely to be represented in paid internships.

That being said, one company’s policies, pay, perks and benefits packages for interns will differ from another’s, and all of those factors can affect an intern’s experience and whether they’d encourage another intern to apply. So which U.S. companies are the most and least likely to be recommended to a friend by interns? Resume.io explored intern recommendations on Glassdoor to find out. 

What we did

We began our research by compiling a list of 4,404 of the most popular companies on Glassdoor that operate and/or hire in the United States that have at least 1,000 employees and 500 reviews on Glassdoor. For each company, we then retrieved the total number of reviews left by U.S.-based interns and data on whether or not those interns would recommend the company to a friend. We then carried out the analysis again on a city level for New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, focusing on reviews originating from those cities where the company operates and/or employs interns who are based there.

Key findings

  • Tech firm Salesforce is the top U.S. company to intern for — nearly all (99.22%) of its interns would recommend it to a friend (the highest proportion of any company)
  • Other top tech companies to intern for include Adobe (98.79% recommended), Autodesk (97.44% recommended) and eBay (97.35% recommended)
  • Conversely, finance company Aflac is the worst U.S. company to intern for — only 43.26% of its interns would recommend it to a friend (the lowest proportion of any company)
  • Other finance companies leave a more positive impression on interns — none more so than Nationwide (97.20% recommended) and Charles Schwab (96.55% recommended)

Salesforce offers interns the best experience of any U.S. company

Nearly all (99.22%) of Salesforce interns who have left Glassdoor reviews of the tech firm would recommend it to a friend, making it the top U.S. company to intern for. In 2023, Fortune named it the eighth-best company to work for, the 15th consecutive year in which Salesforce has appeared on the impressive list. Fortune highlights the company’s dedication to pay equality, having spent more than $22 million since 2015 addressing unexplained wage differences.

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Interns that recommend Salesforce mention impressive pay, perks and a friendly company culture in their reviews. “This company spoils its employees (in a good way), even its interns,” writes one intern. “Everyone is super friendly and very willing to meet and connect you with people … As an intern, I'm given valuable work and am treated as a fellow employee and not like the bottom of the power chain.” 

Aflac leaves the worst impression on interns

At the other end of the scale comes finance firm Aflac, recommended by only 43.26% of its interns on Glassdoor — the lowest proportion of any U.S. company included in our analysis. You don’t have to scour the company’s reviews too hard on Glassdoor to find less-than-glowing write-ups of intern experiences. “The intern program is a scam,” writes one. “They asked all interns to call people they are close with on the SECOND day of training, so they can sell insurance to them.”

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Despite being named one of the world’s most ethical companies for the 17th time this year — and the only insurance company to ever appear on that list — in 2018, nine former employees accused the company of an array of exploitative practices, one of which, tellingly, was encouraging employees to sell insurance policies to friends and relatives. CVS Health ranks as the next-worst company to intern for; the healthcare firm is only recommended by 57.27% of interns. 

A 2023 report by Glassdoor found that less than half (42%) of tech interns would recommend their company to a friend. That being said, there are some tech companies that stand out as much more likely to be recommended by interns. After Salesforce in top place comes Adobe (98.79% of interns would recommend), a firm 93% of employees report is a great place to work (compared to 57% at a typical U.S.-based company). Autodesk comes not far behind that (97.44% recommend).

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Impressed interns for Adobe reel off welcome company perks in their reviews, like stocked kitchens, chef-prepared lunches, games rooms and fitness reimbursements. A survey by Robin revealed that 85% of employees think work perks are just as important or more important to them than before 2020, when the global pandemic saw a seismic shift to hybrid and fully remote working setups. Perhaps introducing more work perks would see more tech interns recommending their firms to friends? 

Nationwide and Charles Schwab are among the best finance companies to intern for

Insurance company Nationwide ranks as the sector’s top company to intern for, recommended by 97.20% of interns on Glassdoor. Like top tech firm Salesforce, Nationwide was listed on Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For index in 2023, placing 21st. “The internship taught me business skills that I use in my everyday career now,” summarizes an intern. “[There’s a] big emphasis on career advancement.”

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In second place comes financial services company Charles Schwab (96.55% recommended by interns). Among other plus points mentioned by interns, like good pay and plentiful networking opportunities, one reviewer adds that “the work-life balance is ideal.” Interestingly, a YouGov survey found that Americans aged 18-24 — around the average age of full-time undergraduate students — were the least likely age group to think that a good work-life balance for employees is “very important.”

Garmin and Kroger are the best companies to intern for in retail

Garmin tops our list of the best companies to intern for in the retail industry, a firm recommended by the majority (96.84%) of interns on Glassdoor. In 2019, Forbes ranked Garmin fifth on its list of America’s Best Large Employers and in 2023, named it the second-best employer in Kansas (where the company is headquartered). On Glassdoor, engineering interns are among the most impressed reviewers, and it’s no wonder — Garmin offers the 12th-best engineering internship in the country.

Most recommended retail companies by US interns

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Supermarket chain Kroger ranks next (94.74% of interns recommend it). Comparing Kroger with its competitors, one pharmacy intern summarizes their experience: “Not as busy as Walgreens, more counseling time as opposed to CVS, very flexible schedule for pharmacy students.” An IT intern adds: “The company is on the leading edge of grocery technology.” An apt comment for a company committed to building more automated warehouses where robots pick and pack groceries

In the world of healthcare, Genentech and Medtronic leave outstanding impressions on interns

Genentech stands out as the best company to intern for in the healthcare sector, recommended by nearly all (98.50%) of its interns who have left reviews on Glassdoor. One such intern writes: “My manager was very tuned into my professional development and took an active interest in helping me prepare for my next job.” According to NACE, over half (57.6%) of interns in the 2021-22 period converted to full-time employment with the firms they interned for. 

Most recommended healthcare companies by US interns

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Minnesota-based medical device firm Medtronic also ranks highly for intern experience, recommended to a friend by 97.14% of its interns. Named the 12th-best place to work in the world by Fortune, interns past and present rave over the company’s positive learning environment, mentorship opportunities and perks, like free gym access and early finishes on Fridays. 

Northwell Health and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital are New York City’s best companies to intern for

Next, we honed in on reviews originating from major U.S. cities where particular companies operate and employ interns. Up first is New York, where — despite being the worst city in the country in which to start a career — it seems interns are having a great experience wherever they work. Our top 20 ranking below is entirely made up of companies where every or nearly every intern would recommend their experience to a friend.

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At the very top of the ranking are two companies that 100% of interns recommend: Northwell Health (New York state’s largest healthcare provider) and the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (one of the largest hospitals in the world). “Learned a lot of diverse technologies and skillsets working with [a] large range of engineers and analysts,” writes a software engineering intern for Northwell Health. “Exhausted but HAPPY … Exceptional faculty and resources,” gushes an intern for NewYork-Presbyterian.

Four companies share the title of the best firm to intern for in Los Angeles, with 100% of their interns recommending them to a friend: the University of Southern California, Riot Games, Apple and Deloitte. The latter was named one of the best workplaces in the world in 2022 and has one of the country’s top internship programs, according to an expert panel and public votes. 93% of employees at video game developer Riot Games say it’s a great place to work. 

Most recommended companies by LA interns

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Meanwhile, 2023 marked the first year in over a decade that Apple didn’t appear on Glassdoor’s 100 Best Places to Work List. Despite that, interns for the tech behemoth leave impressive reviews. One writes: “The internship was a great experience. We were introduced to the Apple culture, plus had executive speakers, and other fun activities. The company also provided housing.” 

Northwestern University and Discover are Chicago’s top companies to intern for

In Chicago, both Northwestern University and financial services company Discover boast 100% intern recommendation rates on Glassdoor. A design intern at Northwestern writes of their experience: “An incredible community of creative and passionate designers, students, researchers, and makers.” Meanwhile, Discover — named one of Fortune’s best places to work in financial services and insurance in 2023 — offers “lots of opportunities for real-world work as an intern,” according to one reviewer.

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Other companies operating and hiring in Chicago have near-perfect (99%) recommendation rates from interns, including United Airlines, Allstate and the University of Chicago. One impressive perk of working with United Airlines is the opportunity to travel; the company offers students unlimited standby travel and discounted plane tickets. “Pay is very generous for a student internship,” writes an intern. “And of course flight benefits are something that few employers can offer.”

Making the most of your internship

When it comes to landing a full-time position at the end of your internship, the odds are on your side: according to NACE, 57.6% of interns in the 2021-22 period later converted to employees. Here are our top tips on how you can make the best impression on your colleagues and make the most of your time as an intern…

  1. Be your best self — whatever task or project you’re given, it will make a lasting impression on colleagues if you carry it out thoughtfully and enthusiastically (even if it’s shredding paper). Think of ways you can streamline processes or improve efficiency to show initiative.
  2. Be proactive — if you’re short of things to do, ask your boss or colleagues if there are any tasks you can help with or projects down the line that you can start early. This demonstrates your willingness to pitch in and a forward-thinking mindset.
  3. Network, network, network — speaking of colleagues, get to know the people you’re working with and what they do at the company. Even if you don’t land a full-time role at the end of your internship, you might be able to turn to them for a glowing recommendation — LinkedIn is your friend here.
  4. Watch, learn and take notes — your colleagues won’t mind you taking notes to ensure you’re soaking up all the knowledge you can get. After all, that’s what internships are for. Ask questions and show your curiosity about your role and how the company works.
  5. Set goals (and meet them) — demonstrate your enthusiasm for your internship by setting yourself extra goals outside of any official ones you have with the company. It could be learning a new skill or getting to grips with important software.

Our methodology

For this research, we measured what percentage of interns said they would recommend the company they interned at to a friend via their Glassdoor review.

We started by compiling a seed list of the 10,000 most popular companies from Glassdoor that operate and/or hire in the United States. We filtered out companies with fewer than 1,000 employees and fewer than 500 reviews, resulting in a refined list of 4,404 companies. 

For each of these companies, we collected data on the number of reviews by interns who are based in the United States and whether or not they would recommend the company to a friend. We then conducted the same analysis on a city level for New York, Los Angeles and Chicago by focusing on reviews originating from those cities where the company operates and/ or employs interns who are based there.

For a company to be ranked according to U.S.-wide intern reviews, a company needed to have a minimum of 100 Glassdoor reviews by interns based in the United States. For a company to be ranked according to city-wide intern reviews, a company needed to have a minimum of 40 Glassdoor reviews by interns who were based in Chicago or Los Angeles and a minimum of 50 reviews by interns who were based in New York.

We separated tied rankings by ranking higher whichever company/s had the highest number of internship reviews.

The analysis of this data is correct as of October 2023.

Additional sources

  1. CCWT. (2021). National Survey of College Internships. ccwt.wisc.edu
  2. NACE. (2021). Internship & Co-op Survey Executive Summary. naceweb.org
  3. Salesforce. (2023). Salesforce Earns 14th Consecutive Spot on FORTUNE’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” List. salesforce.com
  4. Howington, J. (2022). Work-Life Balance or Better Pay? Two-Thirds Choose Balance. flexjobs.com
  5. Kiernan, J. (2023). 2023’s Best & Worst Places to Start a Career. wallethub.com
  6. U.S. News Best National University Rankings. (2023). Northwestern University. usnews.com
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