Grow your own new hires: Develop an outstanding internship program

Grow your own new hires
Develop an outstanding internship program

Don’t overlook your summer intern program as an excellent source for job applicants. Many organizations recruit summer interns each year, train them and then hire them as positions open up. The interns, already trained and acclimated, provide a tested talent pool. In effect, the intern has already undergone a trial period of sorts. Both the employer and the intern have already had an opportunity to see if the employment situation will be a good fit.

The organizations that have the greatest success with their intern programs are those that treat interns as potential full-time employees rather than part-time “extras.” They make a point to recruit for interns, interview them as they would employees, and provide them coaching and support to enhance their skills.Here are some strategies sure to bring success:

  • Provide interns real, hands-on experience, not busywork. Expect them to contribute substantially to short- and long-term projects. You want interns contributing to the departmental daily tasks so that they can receive close supervision and coaching, but it’s a good idea to also provide a special project. For example, you might give them a chance to research and develop a program that you haven’t had time for, such as creating a public relations program. That way, you can observe their project management skills as well as their initiative.
  • Give them their own workstation or office. You wouldn’t expect an employee to move from desk to desk, would you? Before your intern comes aboard, establish a space that he or she can report to every day. Make certain that there is a computer and a phone that works at the intern’s desk.
  • Make them a part of your culture. Include interns in your organization’s meetings and parties. If you offer financial incentives, set up your program so that interns can participate. If you build a groundbreaking intern program, word will spread that your organization is the place to get a head start on a desirable career. Students are attracted to workplaces where their contributions can make the greatest impact. They thrive in settings where they are able to build their expertise and take ownership of their own projects.
  • Keep your mind open. Most people consider interns to be college undergraduate students. But have you ever considered a high school internship program? One company, frustrated by the high turnover in its customer-service call center, decided to recruit high school interns—sophomores through seniors, ages 16 and up—to see how they would do in that environment. The students were naturals. They were easy to train, adaptable and loyal. Many of the students stayed on with the company.

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