Friday, January 28, 2011

Need Personnel on a Budget? Hire College Interns

It is not just corporate America that benefits from interns. It is often harder for small and medium businesses to find new talent because these smaller entities do not have the recruiting budget or staff to send people to various college campuses. Rarely do smaller businesses typically have the cache to attract up and comers. However, companies can both augment their recruiting efforts and reduce their staffing costs by pursuing college interns.

The number of companies that offer internships is significantly smaller than those that offer full-time positions. In tandem, the number of available internship positions is markedly less than the number of available full-time positions. I remember this very well from my days at Wharton. For the summer of 1997 the investment banks recruited for one-fifth to one-seventh the number of internships as they did full-time positions. It was a similar situation at consulting firms. So small and medium businesses that provided a great summer internship experience had a chance at attracting talent that may not have otherwise considered them for a full-time position. And once a company gets the intern in the door, the likelihood of the intern joining full-time upon graduation (assuming the company appreciated the intern’s performance and makes the offer) is very high.

A company does not need to put a formal program in place to hire a college intern or two. Either the human resource employee or the hiring manager or both just need to ensure that they clearly layout the following: what the company expects the interns to accomplish during the time they are there; what their role and responsibilities are; who they report to; and who they should approach for assistance. (Sometimes who they work for differs from who provides assistance.) The hiring manager or human resources person must discuss this with the interns either before their start date or on their first day of work. Therefore, if the intern(s) skill set or interests distinctly differ from the company’s expectations, the company may be able to partially modify the intern(s) assignment(s). It is important that the employer gets a great performance out of the interns now... AND make a favorable impression. And most companies have a long list of items that need to get done so the modification should be relatively painless. Of course, discussing the internship scope during the interview or as soon as an offer is made will enable your company to adapt BEFORE you put everything into play.

Most internships are paid. Engineering interns make the most. But even engineering interns’ wage expenses are still significantly lower than a full-time engineer in a similar role. And remember, you don't provide healthcare and other benefits to college interns. The best way to locate interns is to post the position at the applicable career placement centers at colleges and universities you would like to recruit from. Need help with finance or accounting tasks? Hire a finance intern from a local business program. Need help with construction sales? Hire an architect or engineer from a local architectural or civil or mechanical engineering program.

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