How to Design a Successful Internship Program - Part 2

Last week we talked about how to build a solid foundation for your internship program by defining goals and creating a structure. This week, we dive into how to find the right candidates and bring them on board so you can get one step closer to appreciating the advantages of a cost-effective and motivated group of candidates to help lead your business into the future.

Find the right candidates

A natural place to look for potential candidates is at your local college or university. If your local schools are specialized, this can also help you determine the best place to find prospects based on your needs. For example, students from an engineering school might be better suited for technical positions compared to those from an art school. It is important to work with each school to determine their requirements for internships. Some schools offer credits while others offer the program as a way to provide real-world experience to their students. Whatever the school’s policy, make sure you adhere to their guidelines. If you plan on using unpaid internships, make sure you adhere to the Department of Labor’s policies since there are restrictions on what an unpaid intern is allowed to work on.

Once you have a pool of qualified candidates, begin evaluating the resumes based on the specific skills, traits or training that you’re looking for.

When you’ve narrowed down your selection, conduct an in-person interview with each of the candidates. One idea for interviews is to ask each candidate to bring a project to present. This can be very insightful and help you determine their level of knowledge for the position you’re trying to fill. You can also gain a deeper understanding of their critical thinking skills, thought process and role within the project. Asking additional questions about the project will help students who may not have a lot of experience outside of the classroom answer confidently. Be sure to ask each candidate about their goals and what they are hoping to get out of the program. The most successful internship programs are ones that are mutually beneficial for the students and the company. When trying to decide between two potential candidates, look at who is the best all-around fit for your company. While it may seem like credentials are a top priority, you may find that it makes more sense to teach someone who brings passion and motivation to the workplace.

On-boarding your intern

Starting your intern off the right way is one of the most important aspects of your program. Let them know that you want them to be successful and create an open dialog with them so they know what to expect. Set the expectation that school is the first priority. Work with their schedule to determine the best days and times for them to be in the office. Be flexible around big projects or final exams – internships should be a great learning experience, not a stressful one.

Once they come on board, set milestones for the projects they will be working on. Give them experience interacting with people across the different business functions of your company and really involve them in the business so they feel connected and a part of the team. Schedule regular meetings to make sure expectations are being met during the course of the internship.

Get results

If you’ve set specific goals and structured your internship program accordingly, you will see the benefits of welcoming interns to your team. As the final part of the process, have your intern share the results of their internship with the entire company. This not only gives the intern the ability to share their success with the company, but also gives other departments a chance to learn about the project and see the value of the program.

Although starting an internship program can be daunting, thinking through the process will make implementation much easier and help you appreciate the vast benefits that can be gained from running a successful program. Some of our successes include:

  • The completion of documenting projects that are important to running our company.
  • Growth in our employee pool – we’ve hired several interns directly from our program.
  • Additional resources for completing key product initiatives.
  • Research projects for ‘big’ ideas that have led to significant developments within our products.

Starting an internship program for your business is a great way to help facilitate your success! By thinking through your program and taking it one step at a time, you will be closer to benefiting from the extra sets of hands – and fresh perspectives – that an internship program can deliver.