Unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 10 years. This is great news for our economy, but it gives employers new hiring challenges. When you’re ready to grow, you may find that the number of qualified applicants is not as large as it was a few years ago. One of the best (and often under-tapped) hiring resources is a strong internship program. However, interns are notoriously challenging to manage and often require hand-holding that company leaders don’t have time for. Striking the right balance between managing interns, seeing them progress, and ensuring they have a great experience takes a little finesse. Here are some tips to help your team keep their sanity and ensure your internship program positively contributes to your hiring strategy:
1. Determine How Many Interns You Can Handle
Don’t over saturate yourself with interns—if you take on too many, you’ll struggle to keep them busy. They’ll be bored and you’ll be quickly annoyed.
2. Highlight the Benefits of Your Program
Entice great candidates to apply by offering value and benefits that speak to them. This can be everything from college credit to hands on experience, help preparing for certifications, the ability to shadow experienced professionals, and even the potential to transition into a full-time role.
3. Partner with Universities
Find colleges and universities who have degree programs that align with your business. Seek out relationships with campus professionals who can help you gain access to students who might be interested. Participate in campus job fairs and advertise your program on career center websites.
4. Assign Interns Carefully
Interns need structure and handholding, so assigning one to an employee who is unusually busy or stressed isn’t a good idea. Pick employees who are patient, encouraging, and strong communicators. Ensure they’re on board with taking an intern, and that they understand what is expected of them.
5. Create Structure
A formal training process is a key part of a successful program. Creating checkpoints and goals helps your interns see the progress they’re making and it ensures they have a good experience.
6. Build Relationships
Nobody puts Baby in a corner! Your interns need to feel like an important part of your team. Include them in team meetings, problem-solving conversations, and other relevant activities. If you sequester interns in a back-office filing papers or answering phones for 8 hours a day, they’re not going to feel invested in the big picture and won’t feel as inclined to stick around.
7. Give Interns Real Work
Often seen as “cheap labor,” interns don’t want to do menial work. A little bit is ok, but an internship is supposed to be about learning and discovering what kind of career is a great fit. Anyone with a pulse can sort mail, get coffee, and answer the phones, but you wouldn’t hire just anyone to work in a serious entry-level role for you! Your interns want to do more—so let them. Sure, they’ll make mistakes, but that’s part of the learning process.
The bottom line is: internships are a great way to evaluate potential and to see who has the attitude and work ethic you’re looking for. You’ll be surprised at the level of potential interns will show and it will become easier for you to transition them into hard-to-fill roles at your company.