Internships: A Valuable A Valuable Recruitment Tool

By Messmer, Max | The National Public Accountant, December 1999 | Go to article overview

Internships: A Valuable A Valuable Recruitment Tool


Messmer, Max, The National Public Accountant


A growing number of managers is recognizing the value of internship programs in helping a student or recent graduate gain practical work experience. Internships can be particularly useful recruitment tools in the accounting industry, where there is strong competition for top talent. Such programs allow college students to explore their interests and better develop their accounting skills, while enabling you to evaluate prospective new hires.

Although they take time and resources to develop and maintain, internship programs offer tremendous benefits. Bringing in an eager student can be a great morale booster, infusing your firm with the enthusiasm of someone just beginning his or her career. At the same time, your firm will have the chance to assess future graduates of surrounding universities while you supervise their work. Internships can give you a competitive edge in being able to attract and retain the best and the brightest entry-level candidates in your field.

Forming Outside Partnerships

Any internship program depends on community alliances to thrive. Therefore, forming working relationships with local universities and accounting associations will prove invaluable as you begin developing your program and searching for prospective interns.

Begin by contacting the directors of career placement at area colleges and introducing yourself to the chairs of accounting departments. Offer to provide guest lecturers from your firm, and apprise the university representatives of the goals you've set for your internship program. College officials have a wealth of knowledge to share on how to fashion a program that will best serve both your firm and their participating students.

Career fairs and industry conferences are also good networking opportunities that allow you to get the word out about your firm. Consider speaking at these gatherings to raise your company's profile. There are also numerous Internet databases where you can post internship openings, including the Tripod National Internship Directory (www.tripod.com).

Understand Your Objectives

Internships should be approached with the same level of careful thought and planning that you would bring to any job opening in your firm. Sit down with members of your staff and brainstorm the roles interns will play. With whom will they be working? What responsibilities will they assume? Develop ideas for ways to make your internships similar to designing assignments for a temporary employee--with opportunities to develop specific skills, build a network of professional contacts and gain exposure to different areas of accounting. Other questions you should consider include: What qualifications are you looking for (e.g., high grade point average, referrals from professors, related jobs or course work)? What, if any, compensation will you offer? Will area colleges offer course credit for these positions?

As you work through these issues, keep in mind that your firm is likely one of many in the area offering students this type of opportunity. Your internship will be competing with other companies' programs. Consider adding value to your program by offering career counseling or special workshops. In addition, compensating your interns well can give you the edge you need to attract the best candidates.

A Source of Wisdom

Mentoring is at the heart of any strong internship program. In a survey commissioned by Robert Half International, 94 percent of executives polled believe having a mentor is important for professionals beginning their careers.

You should not expect inexperienced workers to hit the ground running--it takes support and guidance. To get them started and help them integrate quickly with the rest of your staff, you will need to assign one or two of your employees as mentors or supervisors. …

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