Finding Quality Interns: The Key To a Brighter Tomorrow

Finding Quality Interns: The Key To a Brighter Tomorrow

The key to any successful business is developing and retaining top talent. For any business large or small, bringing in fresh eyes and creative personalities can spark life into an organization. One of the easiest ways to do this is through a strong internship program, allowing employers to increase staff and ideas but at a lower price and without long term commitments.  However, finding quality interns is not as easy as it may sound. Creating a mutually beneficial program and acquiring top talent will take time and effort.

The Program

To receive the greatest benefit and value, it is best to create a well-structured program that has clarity and effective communication channels before you make your first hire.  The first step is assigning a direct intern manager, who is responsible for ensuring the internship is mutually beneficial. This provides clarity and structure for both the interns and upper level managers.  Students don’t want to run coffee and file papers all day, and organizations should want more than a personal assistant The greatest source of learning comes from a mentor relationship. Working with interns on a one-to-one basis is the best way to develop talent and mold them into the perfect employee for your company.  Tasking interns with real world projects or putting them on a team of employees will provide intrinsic motivation as they can see the progress and value they can bring to the organization.

In addition to assignments, it is also very important to be flexible with time. Managing time and attendance of interns is necessary to ensure that both parties are on the same page when it comes to hour spent in the office.  Quality interns are likely high-achieving students who place a lot of value on their schoolwork. This may make a typical 9-5 internship commitment unrealistic.  Situations vary case by case, but just an applicants inability to commit to 30 “traditional” hours should not rule them out.  It would be shame to miss out on the perfect intern for your organization over small conflicts with their college course schedule.

Lastly, make sure you keep a record of all of the projects and assignments that an intern completes during their time at the office. Making a tangible portfolio for your interns can also be very beneficial for both parties. Interns will be able to showcase all of the work they have done throughout the course of the program. Organizations can use the portfolio to keep track of the impact the interns has made during their time at the organization. If an intern decides to move on from the company after the program has come to an end, the portfolio can then serve as evidence of the integrity and quality of the internship program moving forward.

The People

You may have created the greatest internship program imaginable, but without the right people, it means nothing.  The most important figure is the program manager. This should not be an entry level worker or extra paperwork for another employee.  Students want someone who allows them to learn from people who have grown and succeeded in the organization.  With a strong leader in place, you must now find the talent. Ideally, you are located near a college or university that are abundant with students looking for experience.  One of the first steps should be finding industry relevant clubs and organizations on campus, such as the business fraternities or public speaking clubs. These organizations are usually full of students who are eager to find an internship that allows them to gain quality experience.

When you find an applicant pool, it is important to treat the interview and hire process as you would a full time employee.  Make sure to keep in mind that their resumes may not be fully developed and the greater focus should on their work ethic, motivation, and character.  After you have established the program manager and hired your first intern, or team of interns,  it is important to develop a relationship with free flowing ideas. It is important to keep in mind that this may be a student’s first glance at the professional world and you’re setting the precedent.

The Challenges

There are many challenges associated with interns that must be overcome, such as pay.  This may be the toughest consideration when bringing interns onboard. If your organization is well known with a developed internship program, then top talent may be willing to work for free. In most cases, attracting quality interns will involve some kind of compensation. Establishing relationships with local universities when developing your internship program is a great way to get quality interns in exchange for college credits. Another option would be to pay quality interns an hourly wage which correlated to the kind of work and amount of responsibility they receive throughout the program.

Every organization will experience different challenges and each requires a unique response. Developing a great program and finding quality interns will be challenging, but your organization will see great benefits in the long run. Hiring interns can completely change an organization or an office dynamic.  Don’t be locked in the past, lead your organization confidently into the business world of tomorrow with the students of today.

This DATIS Blog was written by Kevin Cassidy, DATIS, on June 19th, 2014 and may not be re-posted without permission.

Written by Kevin D. Cassidy