Q. When I told our interns that they were under dressing for work, they blamed the hot summer weather for their scanty outfits. What should I do?

July 27, 2010 at 11:29 am Leave a comment

by the Intern Coach

A. It’s true that this is the hottest summer in recorded US weather history, but that doesn’t excuse their inappropriate appearance. The Baltimore Sun recently published an article about your problem. Here are a few tips from that piece: 

  • You’re not alone. In Washington, DC, where they’ve never quite forgotten Monica Lewinsky, a name has evolved for the scantily-clad summer staff:  “skinterns.”  A vice president of human resources, who hires 80 interns a year, says she “nips the problem in the bud with an up-front discussion about standards and expectations.” It’s not that they come in and look sloppy, but they’re showing up in bar clothes. She wants them to represent the company name with integrity and professionalism.
  • In a recent episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” called “The Bare Midriff,” Larry David is disgruntled that his new secretary is wearing a shirt that exposes her tummy. When he confronts her, she says she’s proud of her body and wants to flaunt it. His reply:  “You can flaunt two-thirds of the day outside the office and then you have one-third non-flaunt,” her tells her. “Why not take a break in the flaunt?”
  • One HR Director sends female employees/interns home to change if their dress is inappropriate. Another option is to keep a supply of t-shirts readily available, so an intern can cover up, presenting a more modest appearance. If an intern receives several warnings and still doesn’t arrive in proper office attire, the internship for that student is terminated, according to the HR Director.
  • You could also call the students’ career centers and discuss the issue with the staff. Then, a staff member could reinforce to the intern that wearing booty shorts, cleavage-baring tops, or see-through skirts to the office is inappropriate, regardless of the temperature. You could suggest that the school follow the lead of many universities and offer a one-credit elective course on professional skills for business, clarifying dress issues.
  • Emphasize to your interns that you want them to put their best foot forward when they meet clients and customers because they reflect your company. Rather than scold the interns, offer them a list of acceptable clothing standards for the company. Remind them to take a better-safe-than-sorry approach, erring on the conservative side. They may even thank you.

Entry filed under: intern management. Tags: , , , , , .

Q. When there are issues with an intern’s performance, how should I handle the intern’s request for a reference? Q. I’m confused by all the news articles focusing on the legal issues regarding internships. How can I find out what our company can do or not do in accordance with the law?

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This blog is dedicated to employers with a focus on how to hire and manage interns effectively. We will have a variety of experts who will share helpful ideas, tips and more. We invite you to comment, ask questions and share your experiences. You are also welcome to submit written contributions to this blog.

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