Designing an Intern Program

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Last week we covered why hiring an intern and starting an internship program could be very beneficial for you, your team, and your company. The benefits of hiring an intern have definitely evolved far past having someone to do coffee runs for the department.

“Interns and educational partnerships are the future,” says AppleOne Educational & Career Partnerships Manager Rose Ceccarelli. “Adding an alumni or current student to a company roster brings current knowledge, innovative tactics and a new perspective. Education is power and businesses are turning to local colleges for growth in areas such as diversity, specific skill sets, practical knowledge, and statewide initiatives. Together, we can be the bridge between educational institutions and the workforce.”

Here are several best practices to successfully attract, nurture, and manage interns so everyone gets the most 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 that have 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. No time to look? Your AppleOne Hiring Advisor would be happy to help you find internship applicants who will most likely thrive in your company.

Appeal to Interns’ ‘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 1,000 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 while working for you, or mentorship opportunities that give them hands-on experience while being a valued part of a professional team.

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 downtime 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 who 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.

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.

The key thing to remember is that the better the experience you provide for your interns, the more value you will obtain from them in return.

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