We’re officially halfway through the summer, and interns at companies large and small are ramped up and have hit the ground running. For undergraduate and graduate students worldwide, the summer intern experience is a truly valuable one in their early career development. They seek to gain real-life workplace knowledge, establish connections, and line up full-time employment opportunities. For companies, summer internship programs are a chance to recruit top talent in a highly competitive marketplace.
In today’s increasingly globalized world, the demand for top talent has never been fiercer. The expectation, of course, is that your summer interns will have a tremendously positive experience, such that when your offer letter comes through, they respond with an enthusiastic “Yes!” The last thing you want to see is talent that you’ve identified, onboarded, and devoted significant time and resources to, go to work for the guy across the street. How, then, do you get your interns to accept your offer?
Here are a few tips to ensure that your hard-won summer staff goes on to become productive members of your team, and not your competitor’s:
1) Offer them a unique experience
The best way to differentiate yourself from the competition is to truly offer something different. What is it that your firm does – or can do – that other competitive firms can’t? Do you have a unique location, workplace, amenities, or other “perks” they won’t find elsewhere? Can you provide access to people or places that are typically “off limits?” Is there a career path that is truly special at your organization? If so, these attributes should be clearly communicated from the get-go, and reinforced throughout the summer internship program so that they hits home with your soon-to-be candidates.
2) Don’t just entertain – have a meaningful impact
Many professional firms – especially in the law and finance fields – offer robust summer associate programs, complete with full-time recruiting and programming staff. These summer programs are famous for being highly selective and intensive, but also for how lavishly they treat their interns. In addition to salaries rivaling those of full-time staff, the interns are wined & dined nightly: fancy meals, baseball games, concerts, Broadway shows, team building events, happy hours and more. The goal is to help ensure that they enjoy their internship experience and remember it fondly. However, if you truly want to leave an impression on your summer staff, make sure that those eight to twelve weeks are as meaningful and impactful as possible. Use the time to not just entertain them, but to help them deep relationships with your full-time staff and forge bonds with each other. What can you do to create truly lasting, memorable moments? Can you arrange a lunch with the CEO? How about give them the chance to weigh in on a truly important decision, vital to the firm’s future? Think about giving them an opportunity that will leave them thinking, “Wow – I can’t believe I got to do THAT!”. That is gold.
3) Think creatively about compensation
Money – though a highly motivating factor – isn’t the only form of compensation, especially for high-performing summer interns. How else can you reward them? Can you offer unique career development opportunities, such as onsite training or tuition reimbursement? Does your company have any partnerships with other outside institutions that your interns can utilize? What kind of exclusive networking or mentorship options can you present to your interns, which will entice them to want to become full-time employees at YOUR firm?
4) Show them that you prioritize their career development
I’d mentioned above that many firms treat their summer interns like royalty, however once they come aboard as full-time employees they are just as often treated like serfs – toiling away at all hours, and generally pretty miserable. If you want your summer interns to care enough about your firm to trust their careers in your hands, then you should show that you trust your firm in their hands as well. Let them know that they will be more than just cogs in a wheel; that you have a genuine interest in their career development, and that you want them to be a vital part of what goes on within your organization. This can be as simple as asking them for an experience or skill development “wish list” at the start of their internship, and doing whatever it takes to make that possible – both during their summer with you, as well as after their full-time employment begins.
5) Be realistic – every intern won’t accept your offer
While many summer interns would make excellent full-time employees, it’s important to remember that you won’t be able to retain all of them. Whether they receive a more attractive offer elsewhere, or they discover after the summer that it’s just not the right “fit,” it’s inevitable that some of your interns will not be accepting your offer letter. This is perfectly acceptable, and in many ways a good thing for you, as it ensures you only hire people who really want to be working with you. The above tips aren’t a guarantee that your best recruits will say “yes” to your offer – however, they can definitely help improve the odds.
This is a guest post from David Jacobson, CEO and founder of TrivWorks, a corporate team building company specializing in trivia events. He has over ten years of experience producing group bonding and entertainment programs for summer interns at Fortune 500 companies nationwide.