How To Create A Successful Internship Program

Do you consider interns as a pipeline to full time employment? If not, it may be time to consider changing your mindset. With the average internship lasting 10-12 weeks, we encourage you to view your interns as potential full time employees who can make your company thrive.

Interns are a safer risk than new hires because you get around 12 weeks to assess their talent and determine if they’re a fit for your organization, with the added benefit of some great work projects being completed along the way.

Whether you have yet to start an internship program in your company or you have a steady flow of interns coming through your doors, here’s how to get the most out of your interns and cultivate young professionals who are ready to work for you full-time:

Take the time to coach, train, and immerse your interns in your company culture.

Our tips below will show you how to provide a successful internship experience that can lead to interns wanting to become full-time employees.

Before the internship…

  • Have work stations and technology ready to go. Let your interns hit the ground running as soon as they arrive. At least two weeks before their start date, make a list of all of the technology and supplies they’ll need, then order, compile, and set up everything–computers, desk space and chairs, software, phones, etc. There’s nothing more awkward (for both you and your interns) than having your interns stand by while you fumble with software updates. Plus, leading interns to their organized, ready-to-go work station can make them feel immediately welcomed and part of the team.
  • Set clear expectations. After you hire your interns, don’t stop communicating with them until they begin work. Set up a call or meeting before they start to discuss your expectations for attire, work hours, internet surfing, cell phone usage, etc. Interns do not always know the norm of business etiquette, especially since those norms often change from company to company. And they may have additional questions before they start, so a pre-internship meeting will help them get some questions out of the way so that they can get to work on their assignments on their first day.
  • Ask staff to volunteer to serve as coaches, points of contact, etc. Before your interns arrive, gather a list of employees who have agreed to help your interns thrive, including taking them out to lunch, answering questions, coaching them through challenges, and helping them navigate daily life in the company.
During the internship…
  • Present interns with a challenging business problem to solve by the end of their internship. You could create a master list of projects to be completed, or present them with one project at a time. Be sure to coach them through challenges as they arise, and to explain the tangible impacts that the completed projects will have on the company. Interns want to feel like they’re making a difference in people’s lives or the growth of a company. For example, if you have them create a community outreach program, explain how community outreach will engage employees and raise brand awareness, which supports productivity and profitability.
  • Introduce interns by sending an organization announcement. On Day 1, email everyone in your company with the names and brief backgrounds of your interns, and copy your interns on the email. Encourage your staff to stop by the interns’ work space and say hi, reply to the email with a welcome, etc.
  • Provide interns with a list of key people they can go to with questions. Schedule meetings with them so that your interns can feel comfortable approaching them in the future.
  • Make your interns part of the team. Invite them to meetings and ask for their perspective. Encourage them to talk. Make a point to schedule extra events, like happy hours, potluck lunches, brown bag workshops, volunteer activities, etc.
  • Assign a daily coach to each of your interns. The coach should be available to your interns every day to answer questions and invite them out to lunch for the opportunity to ask questions and obtain information in a more casual setting.
  • Schedule weekly meeting with your interns to assess their progress towards meeting objectives, coach them through challenges, and provide regular feedback about how well they’re meeting expectations. These meetings are a great opportunity for you to learn more about your interns’ career goals and determine how they might fit into your company full time.
After the internship…
  • Have interns present a final presentation and provide a final written report to share their learnings so you have their great work documented. Invite your team, including company leaders. When interns know that their internship will culminate in a presentation and report, i.e. tangible materials, they typically go into student mode and work hard towards completing them well.
  • Conduct an exit interview. Use this time to discuss your interns’ experiences, accomplishments, and possible interest in working for you in a full-time position one day. This is also a great opportunity to get honest feedback from your interns about how to provide a better internship experience in the future.
  • Give copies of work to interns. Interns are trying to build their portfolios. When they apply to their next internship or full-time job, hiring managers will want to see proof of their skills. Make sure that your interns have digital and (if needed) hard copies of work they’ve completed, such as their final presentation and report, written articles, a report of social media analytics, etc. Doing this at the end of their internship, when their work is still fresh, will prevent you from having to dig through files later when your interns will inevitably contact you for copies of their work.

Providing your intern with a positive, meaningful experience will ensure that your intern returns to school as an advocate for your company, which will drive top talent to apply. You may even find your next star employee along the way.

Interested in creating an internship program and recruiting stellar interns? We can help you with our Recruiting Services.