How to Convert Interns into Full-Time Employees, as told by Entelo's Loni Spratt

June 6, 2016 at 8:00 AM Kathleen de Lara

blog-header-internship.jpgNo matter when you plan on recruiting interns, prepping for this fresh, vibrant talent pool is a timeless strategy in training people you could potentially hire. Interns are usually students or recent graduates looking to gain more experience in a certain industry or field. Not to mention interns will likely fall under the millennial class (adults between the ages of 18 and 34), who now make up the largest percentage of the U.S. workforce. Your next full-time employee may likely be the intern you hired for the summer.

For recruiters, an internship program can be a prime opportunity to show off company culture and employer brand, get people excited about what you're building, and to grow a diverse org. For managers, this means gaining an extra team member (or a few), tackling those projects you've been putting off, and giving employees exposure to management experience. 

Hiring your first intern can be confusing – deciding which teams to hire for, how to compensate, getting executive buy-in. We spoke with Entelo's Loni Spratt, who developed the student program at her previous company, to learn the tricks for building one designed to hire. 

Kat: Hey Loni, great to have you on another Entelo webinar. It's been a while! Tell us – what have you been up to?

Loni: I'm very excited about this webinar! I've been busy recruiting for my own team and preparing for some upcoming speaking engagements. I presented at Gainsight Pulse in May, Greenhouse Open last week and will be speaking at Wonder Women Tech and PIHRA's HR Talent & Technology. 

Well I'm glad we were able to lock you down for our event! That's awesome. This webinar comes just in time for graduation season. Can you share a bit about your experience hiring interns?

I may be the head of Entelo's customer success team now, but I also have experience managing an intern team. That was my first management role earlier in my career when I worked for a boutique entertainment talent management firm in Los Angeles. I built the intern program from scratch and managed the interns directly. I'm also currently working on building an intern program for my team at Entelo.

The biggest challenges for me when I did this the first time around was having limited access to resources and tools. There weren't a lot of useful ways to find interns years ago as there are now. I remember posting Craigslist ads and hoping someone great applied. These days, you have sites like Looksharp and The Muse to help you with the heavy lifting. 

How do you think many of today's companies are missing out on this rich talent pool? 

I've learned three key lessons managing an internship program.

  1. Take time to plan and really figure out what you really want. So many people make the mistake of hiring people, going with the flow, and passively giving interns projects to work on, which ends up wasting time and energy without any reward.

  2. Set up an effective onboarding and off-boarding process for your interns. This helps set and manage everyone's expectations and gives interns a great experience to share with their classmates, meaning you can build a strong employer brand and get a head start on building pipeline for future internship programs.

  3. Delegate. Creating intern programs are a lot of work and most people don't do them because they think they are too time-consuming with little reward. Planning and delegating make it a lot easier to manage. Companies are underutilizing this talent pool because many of them are simply not doing these programs and others are not doing them properly. Some companies make their interns assistants and so they're shredding paper, making coffee, and running office errands all day. This is not effective for anyone. In these cases, interns are undervalued, they're not learning anything, and the company is not leveraging the skills and talents for higher value projects. Don't forget that's also a huge dent on the impression a company's now made on someone who could've been a potential employee. That's a lose-lose situation and a waste of time. I enjoy creating win-win scenarios that give the biggest ROI to the company and the biggest ROT (return on time) for the intern. 

Ready for the full story on how you can start building your own internship program? Join us for the webinar!

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