02/22/2018 // TALENT TRENDS

For many college students and entry-level job seekers, internships are the first step to break into the workforce and gain the experience needed for career advancement. Regardless of the size of an organization, a successful internship program can be a huge asset to any talent acquisition team. When your company invests in an intern program, you are also building a talent pipeline of highly qualified individuals with a built-in knowledge of your organization. However, ensuring that it is actively managed can often be the most challenging part. Like any other aspect of your talent acquisition strategy, it takes careful planning and constant effort to ensure the program is producing the results—and future employees—you want. Focus your efforts on the following five elements and you’ll be on the right track to attracting, recruiting and retaining the future leaders of your organization.

Missing: An established campus recruiting strategy

College campuses are the perfect launching pad for your organization’s internship recruiting program. Most companies’ college recruiting efforts begin and end with the campus career fair. However, this is only one component to a comprehensive campus recruiting strategy. It’s important to reach students early in their college careers, which can be accomplished by building a strong recruitment brand to stand out from the competition. In addition to attending career fairs, show students a glimpse into your organization’s culture. This could include hosting on-site campus events, such as sporting event tailgates, guest presentations or passing out water and snacks during freshman move-in. The unique approach will differentiate your company from the competitors, and will build a positive recruitment brand reputation that students will remember when it’s time to start applying for internships.

Learn more about the importance of investing in an internship program in, From Intern to Employee: How to Invest in Next Gen Talent.

Missing: An official onboarding process

You wouldn’t extend a job offer to a new hire and then not speak to her until she shows up for their first day, so don’t do that to interns either. Set the foundation for successful relationships by maintaining the same level of communication as you would with full-time new hires. Since internship offers are generally extended in the fall and winter, but the actual internship typically doesn’t begin until May, take advantage of the interim time and introduce the new interns to your company’s culture. Send them the company newsletter so they can keep up with events, or have department leaders record short welcome videos that can be sent to an incoming intern class. Doing so will help make them feel included in the company culture from the beginning. It’s also helpful to connect incoming interns with past interns so they can learn first-hand what the experience will be like. This will help assuage any fears the interns might have, and allow them to begin networking before the formal internship process begins.

Missing: Social and professional development

The internship experience is about more than checking off daily tasks. Interns are there to learn the business, and that involves forming relationships with peers and managers. It’s important to provide the opportunities for interns to build those skills. Whether your team facilitates weekly lunches, or plans an intern evening outing at a local sporting event, provide the opportunity for interns to get to know one another on a more personal level—especially if they will become future colleagues. It’s also necessary to make sure intern managers are not giving interns a list of tasks and then expecting them to work independently all day, every day. Partner with managers in different departments to let interns sit in on meetings when appropriate, and to work with other employees across the company. This will give the interns a better understanding of how the organization runs as a whole, and could also spark their interest in working in a different area of the company.

Missing: Evaluation process

An internship can only be a true learning experience if constructive feedback is provided on a regular basis. Not only will this give you the opportunity to correct mistakes early on, but it will make the learning experience more collaborative and make the intern feel like they have an active role in their career. These check-ins don’t have to be formal, but interns should be expected to report on a project’s status, participate and evaluate their strengths, discuss areas needing growth and development and get insight on what work lies ahead of them.

The final evaluation should be more formal. Since an important part of an internship is to build a talent pipeline, it’s important to establish criteria on which to rate performance. Interns should also be informed from the onset that their performance in the program will help determine their eligibility for a future job offer.

Missing: Consistency

A productive internship program requires constant care and attention. In order to warrant the time and effort your team puts forth attracting, recruiting and training interns, you need to remain committed to your annual strategy to help ensure a consistently strong intern class. Make sure to implement these components into your formal strategy, so that the process—and the positive results—stay consistent from year to year.

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