Magazine article Management Review

Power Internships

Magazine article Management Review

Power Internships

Article excerpt

Internships. The very word conjures up images of the boss's son photocopying and faxing documents in an obscure back office. But today, hundreds of top corporations of all sizes are using structured, power internship programs to recruit the best college-age talent while gaining a valuable asset for the company.

"These days it's just too late to recruit seniors off college campuses," said Charles Storey, CEO and president of Inroads, a minority recruitment agency based in Nashville, Tenn. The best students in highly skilled fields such as engineering, computers and finance are using summer internship opportunities to find a future employer and hone their expertise.

According to a Lindquist/Endicott report, in 1993, 17 percent of all new hires were interns. By 1994, that number jumped to 26 percent. Victor R. Lindquist, former dean of placement at Northwestern University and currently the executive director of the Career Management Research Institute in Oakbrook, Ill., thinks "there is every indication to believe that [the percentage] is increasing:

Companies are relying on these internship programs to find the best talent. "The industry trend is early identification of students," said Marty Hanson, college relations manager at 3M and director of 3M's internship program. Companies as diverse as Intel and Union Carbide aim to hire 70 percent of their new full-time college hires from the ranks of their interns. Five years ago, 15 percent of 3M's new college hires were interns. This year, 30 percent of 3M's new college hires interned there.

Internships offer a mutually beneficial experience for companies and students. Companies assess a potential full-time employee for an entire summer to make sure that the company and student are an appropriate match. Hanson believes that internships "give both the company and the student a trial run." If the company hires an intern, then there is less chance of early turnover because both the intern and the company know what they are going to get. "People want a much better sense of hiring on the front end" to avoid lost recruitment and training dollars" Storey said.

"A student who has been on an internship and comes to work for much more likely to stay with your organization. [Former interns are] also more loyal to organizations," Lindquist said. Nancy Chambers, a former intern and now assistant editor at Working Woman magazine, agrees, "This is still my first job. I started here. I've been here longer than half the staff. I feel a lot of loyalty because they've taught me everything I know"

It also costs employers less money to hire an intern than to hire a full-time employee. Samer Hamadeh, co-author of The Princeton Review Student Access Guide to America's Top Internships and The Princeton Review Student Access Guide: The Internship Bible, estimates that successful intern hires cut the cost of hiring in half.

Once hired, former interns do not need the training and adjustment period that most new college hires require. A former intern is also a "known quantity" and an employer can channel the new hire into a position that will best suit the company and employee. "I had learned their processes and how their computers were set up. I had already become indispensable," Chambers said.

Word of Mouth

Internship programs also fulfill a secondary public relations/recruiting role because the top students go back to college and tell their friends and career counselors that a particular company is a good place to work. "Our students also serve as goodwill ambassadors," said Rochelle Richardson, summer internship program manager at Lucent Technologies, formerly the systems and technology company of AT&T. "Interns are probably our best recruiters," Hanson at 3M chimed in.

More and more students from across the United States and the world are seeking internship opportunities to increase their marketability after college. …

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