How to create a successful summer internship program
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
It is not too late to hire interns for the summer. Many organizations who have never hired an intern fear the worst: someone who needs hand-holding, is unreliable, and comes with an educational requirement.
However, with the right perspective and a few thoughtful steps, hiring a summer intern is not as burdensome as it seems, and it can be a great benefit to many organizations.
The easiest thing to do is to think of an intern as a seasonal employee. Create a clearly defined start and end date and reiterate those in the description.
Then, think of what work in the office could be addressed during that time. Internships are great as extra support during busy seasons; to address one-off projects; or to provide a way to explore ideas and options to which staff cannot allocate time.
By thinking of them as employees, we are better poised to give them meaningful work that helps their experiential learning while supporting business operations.
Once we know what we want an intern for, we can reach out to any of the local community or four-year colleges and either connect directly with the related subject departments or partner with the placement office. Schools are normally quite eager to put their students to work.
If we come to the conversation with a confirmed time period (e.g., summer) and clear ideas of what the intern would do, it becomes much easier for the school to get the right students in front of us.
Interns are also a fantastic way to leverage current relationships. Whether it is a family member of a board director or the daughter of our legal counsel, when we are first setting up an intern program it can be great to look within our network for referrals. While this practice can be criticized as a bit of pandering, it can provide a quick, easy and mutually beneficial way to establish a new intern program.
With partners sending us candidates to support our job description, the next step is to interview. Because it is such a short time period, it can be very beneficial to reiterate the basics and be as direct as possible.
In other words, tell the candidates the pay and hours, confirm the dates they can start and end, and review their understanding of the work to figure out whether they can do it. By keeping the interviews focused, they can be a lot shorter. Thus, the turnaround time for decision-making can be a lot faster.
Similarly, offer letters and orientation should be direct, clear and reiterate the same messages about the pay, hours, timeline, and job duties. By keeping it simple and consistent we can create streamlined hiring and onboarding processes.
The bottom line is, internships can provide an opportunity for students to continue their learning in a practical setting and an opportunity for employers to reap the benefit of blossoming talent with very little cost or commitment.
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