How To Build A Summer Internship Program That Attracts Full-Time Talent

How To Build A Summer Internship Program That Attracts Full-Time Talent

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Summer is an opportune time for companies to attract future full-time talent. Summer internship programs are obviously beneficial to students and graduates, but they also give employers a chance to retain top talent once their internships have ended.

Many industry leaders develop internship programs that are designed to entice potential entry-level hires into a talent pipeline, thereby helping their companies become known as employers of choice. So if you’re looking to do the same, you’ll need to differentiate your internship program from those of your competitors.

To help, 15 members of Forbes Communication Council shared their best tips for attracting future employees via an internship program.

1. Highlight What The Eventual Role Will Look Like

Transparency is everything. When promoting an internship, highlight what the eventual or hypothetical role will look like—starting salary, job description, advancement opportunities and so on—and what the traditional path to achieving a job offer looks like. This helps prospects clearly understand the potential opportunities and creates excitement about working at your organization versus somewhere else. – Gyles Uhlenhopp, Perrill

2. Develop Clear And Meaningful Assignments

Too many companies equate “intern” with “cheap labor,” when the reality is that a successful internship program is a lot of work. Differentiated programs are well-thought-out and provide clear and meaningful assignments and a high degree of mentoring and engagement. With the limited time frame, it is key to have a clearly defined project and a plan for how you are going to support the intern through the process. – Laurie Hood, Mobilewalla

3. Establish Goals From The Start

Create an internship experience that is beneficial to both the intern and the company. Establish goals at the beginning of the internship, compensate them fairly and empower the intern to run with projects. Give them cross-organizational training opportunities and provide a review at the end so that interns know their strengths and areas for growth. – Ami DeWille, Perform[cb]

4. Invite Interns To ‘Lunch And Learns’

Include interns in regular “lunch and learns” with leadership in different departments across the company. This gives the interns an opportunity to learn about everything the company does, meet people from across the company and network. It also allows interns to “see” themselves working in certain departments and cultivates excitement to stay on with the company full time. – Brittney Manchester, Catholic Charities of Oregon


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5. Show Interns How They Impact The Business

Make internships meaningful and show them how student contributions impact the business. Our intern expo provides a unique opportunity where interns present projects to leadership. The experience allows them to learn and apply new skills that are applicable to their career goals and offers visibility into daily operations. At the end of the day, their projects help solve real business problems too. – Marija Zivanovic-Smith, NCR Corporation

6. Think Of It As A Mentorship Program Instead

Instead of an internship, think of the program as a mentorship. Be a constant source of support and inspiration for your summer interns and show them why working at your company isn’t just professionally appealing but also a lot of fun. When people love what they do and who they get to do it with, they’ll want to stick around (hopefully) forever. – Melissa Kandel, little word studio

7. Give Them Work That Reflects The Potential Full-Time Role

Giving interns meaningful work that reflects what they would do while working full time is a great way to cultivate future talent. Don’t forget to pay them! – Erica Mau-Schank, Vibe Creative Marketing

8. Be Up Front And Honest With Candidates

Tell them what the potential is for full-time employment. Tell them what will trigger those decisions: If they generate new business or help achieve growth goals and they fit what you need, then “yes.” If they don’t hit those goals, then “no;” but you can still help them in terms of the experience they will gain and the reference that you will provide for them. – Corey Morris, Voltage

9. Give Them Access To Top Talent

Set up times for the intern to meet for coffee or work directly with those whom they would eventually report to if they were to come on full time. Giving them direct access to top talent is a great way to help interns to feel confident that they’re learning something and getting a great mentorship opportunity. It also allows your top talent to get a feel for the potential of the intern. – Victoria Zelefsky, The Menkiti Group

10. Assign Real Projects Within Core Business Functions

The biggest differentiator is giving interns real projects with deliverables that dovetail into other major programs. Integrate the intern into core business functions, understanding that it may take a bit more bandwidth, and partner them with a senior leader for mentorship. Being open and receptive to interns’ ideas has created award-winning and innovative work in our organization. – Kris Pugsley, ON Semiconductor

11. Use Them To Fill Organizational Gaps

Companies usually use summer internships for one of three reasons and in one of three ways: for employee engagement by hiring family members; for employee assistance by unloading menial tasks under the guise of providing corporate experience; or for employee recruitment by attracting younger candidates. Rarely are internships approached strategically to fill organizational gaps, but that must be the new normal for companies looking to attract and retain new skills and ideas. – Deetricha Younger, Deetricha Younger, LLC

12. State That You’re Looking For Long-Term Help

Making it clear that you are looking for long-term help is crucial when opening up internship positions to attract future full-time employees. Having an option to potentially extend their employment provides a good opportunity to attract a good fit for your business. – Christian Anderson, Lost Boy Entertainment Company

13. Start With Entry-Level Attributes In Mind

When setting up an internship program, it can be easy to have interns work on “nice-to-haves” and not mission-critical work. While this removes the burden of responsibility from you, it does nothing for the intern’s experience. Ensuring that they are working on critical work helps lay the foundation for them to transition into full-time, entry-level employees. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

14. Offer Incredible Value And Compensate Them

You need to offer each intern incredible value. You also need to treat them like real employees, not interns. This means you need to compensate them for their time. If your ultimate goal is to attract full-time talent, you need to create an environment where interns want to work for you full time after their internship. The best way to accomplish this is to treat them better than other programs do. – Brennen Creer, Mammoth Tech

15. Make Your Intentions Known

Lots of summer internships are intentionally vague for no good reason. Stand out with your honesty. Tell the applicants that the internship is a pathway to a potential hire, and don’t forget to mention the job perks, benefits and salary range. This way, you can bring in talent that’s ready to commit for the long term. – Amine Rahal, Regal Assets

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