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Summer Internships 2018: How to Establish a Valuable Experience to Fuel Future Talent Pools
Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018

Springtime signifies the start of nicer weather and new things to come, especially for college students who are finishing up the academic year and transitioning into the mindset of summer internships. For many employers, the hiring process for interns has been completed, and it is now time to gather the logistics of the program to ensure a successful summer. With job openings on the rise across all industries, it’s not too early to start thinking about how summer interns can transition into excellent candidates for future positions.

The candidate experience for entry level talent starts now, so stay proactive by establishing a valuable internship that leads to a memorable impression of your organization in four steps:

Step 1: Start Preparing for a Successful Summer

There are a few questions to keep top of mind when planning for a strategic internship program:

  • What do the first few days look like? The right onboarding can establish a memorable first impression on eager interns. With smaller tasks and helpful resources automatically sent through an onboarding tool ahead of time, you have more time to focus on acclimating them to one another and the organization as a whole during their first days in the building.
  • What is the role managers will play? Ensure each intern’s manager is aligned with overall goals of the program and can communicate that to their team prior to day one. Management should be on the same page when it comes to intern objectives, milestones and how success is going to be measured through performance appraisals to create a consistent experience.
  • How is your culture incorporated into the program? At the end of the day it’s important to remember that interns are students who are volunteering their summer to work for an employer of choice, so add in a little bit of fun and show off your company culture along the way. Pre-plan a calendar of events for interns to participate in throughout the summer such as volunteering, company meetings or socials outside of day-to-day tasks.

Step 2: Assign the Right Mentors

Employees with mentors are twice as likely to stay with a company more than five years, so why not take that methodology and apply it to interns early on? Mentors can establish a clear path for an individual to follow and share advice based off of experience, hosting regular one-on-one sessions in addition to formal performance reviews to establish a candid environment for feedback and questions about the internship experience overall.

It may seem like the obvious choice is to select a mentor with a heavy workload to avoid a shortage of work for the intern, however it is crucial to validate that the mentor chosen has the bandwidth to invest in the intern’s development and serves as a great role model. In thinking about future positions, assign a power group of mentors who possess the skills you would want in an ideal candidate. Communicating ways to strengthen skills throughout the internship can help a mentor shape future employees and show that the organization is truly invested in the students it hires.

Step 3: Establish Opportunities to Grow Cross-Functionally

The most valuable internships allow students to be treated as full-time employees with a feeling of purpose and contribution to their team. It’s especially important during a summer internship to prepare opportunities for interns to present their work cross-functionally to many different stakeholders or work with other teams to learn how each area of the business operates. Managers in different departments who collaborate often can use this as an opportunity to incorporate cross-functional projects and gauge how interns interact with others in the organization.

With 81 percent of college seniors willing to accept a full-time job in a field unrelated to their college major, it can be very beneficial to expose interns to other areas of the business. They may even discover a career path they are extremely passionate about because of it, and become a great candidate for a future opening that they would have never otherwise applied to. After all, work experience is valued by 76 percent of entry-level recruiters over a candidate’s college major.

Step 4: Leave the Door Open

The way students are sent off at the end of the summer can be a make or break moment as they head back to school and start to think about if they would return as an intern next summer, or even where they would like to begin their career if they are seniors. One tactic many organizations will take is conducting exit interviews with each intern to discuss career paths, lessons learned and any feedback on the program to drive planning in the following years. That feedback can prove to be extremely valuable to keeping the program fresh and evolving.

When interns are left with a positive impression of working for your company, it is much easier to recruit them for a full-time position or lean on them as a great reference to future candidates. Individuals that had a great experience with a company are more than twice as likely to recommend the organization to others. Stay connected with interns throughout the school year with a strong candidate relationship management (CRM) tool to automatically share personalized corporate updates and communicate available job openings to maintain interest among prospective students. Staying top of mind will show your organization is interested and competitive.

To continue the conversation about maintaining engagement with interns following the summer, take a look at The Summer Send-Off: How to Offboard Your Interns and Stay in Touch.