During the first in a series of three upcoming Executives Club events exploring issues related to workforce, business leaders met last week to share best practices in utilizing internship programs as an effort to source qualified employees.

Laura Sivertsen, Manager of North America Staffing and Recruiting with Deere & Company, Erik Hahn, Lead Process Metallurgist with Alcoa, and Jose Sanchez, Recruiter with Group O discussed their corporate strategies for filling their workforce pipeline through internship recruitment.

We captured the insights shared during the panel discussion, and hope these tips will help your business start or refine an intern program to supplement your workforce needs. 

What is your process for recruiting and vetting interns?

We have a university strategy and have selected which schools we work with for specific majors. We recruit through career fairs, interview on site, and then invite them in for a formal interview. Interns get hired through the same interview and screening process as full-time employees.

Interns want meaningful experiences and organizations need to meet their business goals. How do you decide what interns should address?

We meet months ahead of time to brainstorm projects that interns may be able to do. Ideally, we are looking for projects that can be completed within 2 months and design the internship so they can work with as many divisions and people as possible.

During an internship program, both parties are trying to sell themselves. The intern wants to get a job after graduation, and the company wants to be recognized as one that young talent can see themselves working. An internship should represent your company brand well.

One benefit of having interns is they have a fresh perspective and can provide valuable feedback on your business operations. Do you have systems in place that allow interns to give feedback?

We sometimes use a reverse-mentoring set up in which interns will meet with senior leaders about things they’re seeing or “word on the street.” We’ve also tested new technology on interns before we roll it out broadly.

What performance metrics do you use for your interns?

We evaluate interns like full-time employees; based on their functional skillset and how they interact with other employees. This is essentially a 2-3 month job interview.

Final thoughts:

Oftentimes the duty of supervising interns will be delegated to someone with little to no management experience, and it should be the opposite. Interns require extra help and guidance, and they should have the benefit of an experienced manager who can take the time to work with them.

Understand why you want an intern. It shouldn’t be just to do busy work, and likewise your intern shouldn’t be assigned to a manager who is too busy to train.

Up Next 

On Friday, May 6,  Rich Caturano, National Leader of Culture, Diversity, and Inclusion, RSM will discuss recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, and on June 3, Bettendorf Principal Jimmy Casas will share his tips for preparing your business for the incoming Generation Z. Register today for the May and June Executives Club events.

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