I recently wrote a blog post, Interns: Ambassadors or Assassins for Your Employment Brand?, where I explored five steps to turn interns into true ambassadors for your brand.
Coincidentally, earlier this week I came across another blog post, CIO’s Disruptive Technology Secret Weapon: College Interns, written by Heller Search Associates, that made me want to revisit this topic. In this post, they interviewed Prasanna Gopalakrishnan, EVP, Chief Digital and Information Officer at Boston Private about their team’s innovative approach to using internships as a future hiring tool. Here are my top three takeaways, with wisdom from Prasanna:
- Harness the power of many. When assigning projects to your interns, look for opportunities for collaboration and give them space to work together. “We brought the interns together for ten weeks and co-located them in an innovation lab where they could collaborate, bounce ideas off one another, and share what they were learning.” This approach enables interns to feed off of each others’ knowledge and energy, but also creates a more meaningful team bonding experience over the course of their internship.
- Treat them like they’re already employees. Giving your interns a behind the scenes look at how the company actually operates gives their work a sense of purpose, and allows them to really feel like a part of your business. Gopalakrishnan said that the Boston Private interns had the opportunity to sit in on high level strategic meetings, and even had facetime with her on a regular basis: “[W]e have a digital roadmap update meeting every Friday, and a lot of people are invited. [The interns] came to all of those meetings… I [also] met with the interns every other day for a half hour to give them guidance and make sure they were fully engaged.” Showing your interns that they’re valued gives a strong impression that will carry forward when they’re looking for a place to land post-graduation. After all, if you made time for them when they were “only an intern,” they can probably expect a great experience as an employee.
- Don’t focus too hard on any one “type” of intern. “Honestly we just wanted good, smart interns. We didn’t judge too much by which school they went to. More importantly, we wanted them to be curious and passionate, with good communication skills.” Gopalakrishnan shared that to create a well-rounded team, they also selected 50% men and 50% women. This approach succeeded in part because they started with a strong job description. “When you post these summer internship jobs, you have to be clear about what they will be working on, because college students these days have a lot of opportunities … Our job description clearly articulated what they would be doing and as a result, we were able to connect with the right students. “
Gopalakrishnan finishes the interview saying: “Creating an innovative mindset and bringing new talent and nurturing them within your organization is a tough job. It is a journey that you never quite complete.” I couldn’t agree more. And it’s worth the investment!
If you’re interested in more interviews by Heller Search Associates, you can subscribe to The Heller Report.