Whether the skillset you are looking for is rare or you simply aren’t getting the volume of applicants you would like, finding the right talent for the job can be challenging for HR professionals. Internship programmes can potentially give businesses access to a future pool of talent.

But how best can HR professionals transition skilled, young graduates from interns to permanent members of the team?

Cultivate relationships

Treating interns as valuable team members is a sure-fire way of embedding them quickly into the company.

The importance of this is not lost on Hooi Kok Mun, Senior Partner, National Audit Practice Leader, Grant Thornton: “We always provide a supportive environment to our interns and their senior will evaluate their work performance so that they can suggest their area for improvement. They also will experience the real case study within a team so that they can learn and grow together.”

Cadre, a small accountancy firm in Cardiff, hired its first intern in the summer. Tax Director Jamie Williams hopes in the future the programme will help it identify and recruit talented graduates at the end of the experience.

“The internship programme will give us an opportunity to actually understand whether that person would be a good fit for the company and if they would actually enjoy working at the firm,” he explains. “If, after the summer, we like the way they work and they get on with the team, that would probably lead to an offer of employment.”

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Take a strategic approach

Baker Hughes has established a three-pronged strategy to maintain positive relationships with interns. Firstly, Nelly Poh, Global Finance Organization (GFO) Learning & Development Lead, explains that a university bootcamp has been set up: “It’s a two-day ‘get to know Baker Hughes’ event. Students also get to participate in case studies and do a presentation before senior leaders of the Finance organisation”.

Secondly, the firm has created a “university ambassador programme that builds a regular engagement with universities.” Thirdly, Baker Hughes makes sure that there are champions in the global finance organisation designed to “target universities for continuous engagements.”

There are significant benefits to maintaining relationships with interns. As Hooi says, “while internships can be beneficial for both the firm and students in the short term, we also convert interns into entry-level employees”.

Encourage real-world contributions

At the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says a graduate programme has been established to offer former interns and other qualified applicants “a unique opportunity to contribute to UNDP’s mandate”, HR specialist at the UNDP’s Global Shared Service Centre (GSSC) Kris Oestvang says. The intern/organisation relationship can undoubtedly be bolstered by the intern being made to feel they are part of a larger plan. At the UNDP, graduate trainees take part in a two-year assignment with one of the UN’s country, regional or headquarter offices.

Trainees are able to gain direct exposure to UNDP's work with an onus placed on two streams: ‘programme and policy’ and ‘corporate operations.’ In the former, they “contribute to UNDP’s programmes and project activities.” The latter stream enables trainees to “contribute to management services that support effective implementation of UNDP programmes, or work in the area of organisational policies, processes, and oversight”.

How can you successfully recruit top intern talent?

Attend university events

Having a presence at university events is usually a great place to start. If your organisation is running a stall, start building buzz by promoting through your channels a few months in advance. Speak on a topic of interest. Be prepared with branded materials from your organisation, and be able to answer any questions they might have.

Do you have any recent university hires currently in your organisation? Bring them to the event, along with your best brand ambassadors to show students the type of people they could be working with and what they’ve managed to accomplish with your organisation. Demonstrate how a career with you will benefit them.

Connect with the right university clubs and student groups. For example, if you’re wanting to increase your technically-skilled talent pipeline, connect with a computer science group to see if you can introduce your brand and network with prospective candidates.  

Have a strong online presence

University events are great, but according to Sanjeev Agrawal reporting for Harvard Business Review, you need to go where students are: online.

“Students are online all the time. Invest in a visually appealing, content-rich site where students can go to and learn about your company. If you can, [personalise] the site to showcase the right alums, intern experiences, and the basic messages you want to deliver to potential hires. Done right, a good “brand page” can have the same effect as a great conversation at a career fair — it’s the story of your mission, your culture and why they should join you.”

Establish your brand on social media and be authentic. Keep in mind “most online communities don’t like being marketed to, so be authentic, add value to users, and be cautious of blatant self-promotion.”

Include a designated internship or graduate program segment to your careers website with an easy-to-use application portal for interested students to apply. 

Join Online communities

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Gain access to more than 50,000 candidates from more than 80 countries, representing more than 30 different industries and career fields.

Internships can be game-changing for your talent pipeline. These programs give you first access to new talent entering the workforce before your competitors, each party can determine if they will make a good cultural fit, and interns can learn new skills and bring fresh perspectives to your organisation, and become brand ambassadors and referral sources.

Does your organisation offer internships or graduate training programs? Leave us a comment.