According to a survey conducted in 2017, more than 62% of college graduates in the US reported doing an internship sometime during their studies. This was substantially higher than in previous years when in 2008 it was only 50% and in 1992 only 17% reported participating in any type of internship. The image of the intern we’ve learned to know from Hollywood films, being sent to bring coffee, spending hours on end next to the Xerox machine and waiting on their managers hand and foot, is long gone. Today, not only do students use internships as a way to gain valuable experience for their resume and to jumpstart their career, but companies actually recruit interns as a way to pursue them for full-time employment in the future.
Recruiting Summer Interns in STEM
In recent years, the US has seen a rapid decline in unemployment, as low as 3.9% at the beginning of 2019 — the lowest it’s been since the 1960s. Some of the methods employed by companies to attract and retain top talent are by offering creative compensation and benefits packages and reskilling current employees. However, when the competition is so high for every candidate, the best way to reach them is before they finish their formal education, with interns recruitment.
This is especially true for STEM students (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Predictions say that until 2027 there will be an increase of 13% in STEM-related jobs, compared to only 9% in non-STEM. However, the same predictions state that US universities will only manage to generate 29% of grads required to fill these jobs. By recruiting interns in STEM as early as their first year of studies, you could create long-lasting relationships, ensuring that top talent will later join your company when they graduate.
Tips for Recruiting Interns
Whether you’re looking to snag the best talent while they are still in college, want to cover maternity leave, fill in for employees on vacation, or need additional temporary staff to pick up the slack — when you recruit interns you should look at it as any regular hiring process. There are, however, a few differences when it comes to interns recruitment.
Job Description and Posting
First and foremost, you should define the role of the intern. Even if they are mainly hired to pick up extra workload, you want to make sure they gain value out of the internship and learn as much as possible about the field of work, otherwise, there’s nothing in there for the student. Make sure to include all of the knowledge they are expected to gain, the skills they’ll learn, and any special projects they may work on, in the job description — this will be the main motivator to apply. Don’t forget to mention if the internship is paid or not.
As for posting the role, aim at student job boards such as After College, Way up and Internships, or specific college careers pages. You can also attend career days in the universities and approach the department heads directly if you are looking for a specific field. Don’t forget social media, as most Millennials and GenZ occupy that space.
Interviews and Testing
As these students have substantially less experience than your average candidate, you may want to include other criteria when interviewing them. Things such as their hobbies and interests should come into account, their career goals, extracurricular activities, and GPA. Additionally, you should not skip the testing stage, as you would with any other candidate. When you hire interns, you want to make sure they are qualified for the position, whether it’s with a language proficiency test, a software skills test, role-playing or simulations. As they don’t have any previous experience, this will be a good indicator of how well they fit the role. You can also ask for references from their professors.
As interns have less experience in the workforce, they may need some more attention during the first few weeks of employment. Therefore, the onboarding is just as important when recruiting summer interns, as finding the right talent — to make sure they stay on for the entire duration of the internship. Make sure to welcome them on the first day, show them around and introduce them to the different team members. If you are hiring several interns, conduct an orientation, with all of the company regulations and procedures. Assigning a mentor to the intern will help them get acclimated easily, and will also help you evaluate them more efficiently.
The Additional Benefits of Recruiting Interns
When you hire interns, you get the chance to invest in young talent at a relatively low cost and build them up as future employees in your company. You can also think of the internship as a prolonged interviewing process, where you evaluate the potential of the candidate in many different areas and assess if they fit your company culture. However, recruiting interns is not just about acquiring new talent.
With the internship process, you can learn a lot about your company. The intern brings a fresh perspective into your organization, that of a young person with no bias, and often they can shine a light on things that may not work correctly and need improvement. They may also come in with a sense of creativity and new ideas. Furthermore, training the interns will force your team to learn leadership skills. Finally, interns who had a good experience will go on and talk about your company, thus helping you boost your company brand.