Smart companies know that the benefits of hiring an intern go far beyond having someone to do coffee runs for the department. Interns can be field-tested potential hires who already know your culture, and will require minimal on-boarding and training. If well-chosen and mentored, they can be excellent investments towards your company’s growth and succession planning. In addition, happy interns are great ambassadors. They can help you attract and build a robust candidate pool – a great benefit particularly when the talent market is tight. Here are several best practices to successfully attract, nurture and manage interns so everyone gets the best out of the internship:
- Be Where They Are. The quickest and most efficient way to scout for potential interns is to go online and reach out to your network. If your company has a social media presence, it could be as easy as posting internship positions on sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. You can also let local high schools, trade schools, colleges and universities know you have internship positions open. Working with schools with internship programs can be a big help in simplifying and streamlining your search for the right fits, since they have career counselors who can match students’ strengths, abilities and majors with your company needs. Internship sites such as college.monster.com, YouTern, InternMatch.com, internships.com and Internjobs are also good resources, with many allowing companies to post on college job boards at no cost.
- Appeal to Their ‘WIFM’. As with most decisions, people are bound to go with whichever they get more out of – “What’s In It For Me?” (WIFM). While not all companies can offer the prestige of an internship at a Fortune 1000 firm, you can still have much to offer. Use your job description to highlight the awesome, important and even cool stuff the intern will be working on, in addition to typical internship tasks. Talk about key transferable and marketable skills they can pick up working for you, or mentorship opportunities that give them hands-on experience while being a valued part of a professional team.
- Narrow Down Your Choices. It’s very likely that you will have several candidates vying for internship with your company. While it is important to take the time to interview them in-depth to be in the position to decide who would be the best fit, it can be time-consuming. To get a head start, prepare pre-interview information and post-interview ‘homework’ that you can provide to all candidate interns. For the pre-interview, provide them with your web and social media pages, or send them information about your company to save time from repeating the entire ‘company story’ for each interviewee. After the interview you can give the ‘finalists’ follow-up work. It might be doing some research, creating a PowerPoint presentation, or any assignment similar to actual intern task. Candidates who are not that interested or driven will likely not respond, and you will have a uniform basis for comparing which candidates excel in completing the task.
- Set One Major, Long-Term Goal. In addition to all the smaller day-to-day tasks that you plan to assign to your intern, give them a project that they can truly sink their teeth into during their internship. It doesn’t have to be a critical project, but it should ideally be something they can own and even include on their resume. It can be an internal marketing campaign or contest, a social media project, or setting up a process that enhances efficiency, morale or streamlines cost. Giving an intern a significant project means they won’t be idling during downtimes when you might be too busy to assign them tasks. It also gives them an opportunity to feel motivated by a mission where they are leading the charge.
- Assign an Intern Performance Manager. To ensure that both the intern and the company gets the most out of the internship, assign an employee to mentor and manage the intern. The mentor will work with the intern so that performance and goals are clearly set and met, possibly with the help of a performance management checklist that is reviewed periodically. The mentor will also serve as the gatekeeper manages the intern’s time, making sure he or she is working on things he or she will learn from (where possible), and ensuring that he or she is not overloaded with too many assignments or other ‘little’ tasks from other employees.
The key thing to remember is that the better the experience you provide to your interns, the more value you will obtain from them in return.