The War for Talent: Mutually Beneficial Internship Programs
Growing businesses are looking to hire talent that is sharp, motivated and can easily fit into existing company culture. It’s the matter of finding that talent that can cost companies a lot of money. Consider the resources invested in the initial search, the offer period, the on-boarding time and the “trial run,” which usually lasts three months. If after all that, a candidate is a perfect fit — wonderful, onwards! — but many times it’s not and both the company and new employee are frustrated it didn’t work out.
In order to avoid all that drama, I’ve included a look into what worked for our company, from finding the right candidate, to making sure they felt as comfortable jumping into an intern program as we did, and the benefits of this program that continue to pay off. The basis of the program is a mutually-beneficial approach to hiring that has worked out for both my company and the interns we hire.
The program was inspired by my dual role: I’m currently the CMO and corporate strategy officer at Reduxio and I’m also a professor at the Hult International School of Business in Boston. It’s because of this, Reduxio is able to host hackathons at Hult where we not only mine for great marketing ideas, but we also recruit for the best talent. As professor, I’m able to work one on one with potential intern candidates that I meet at Hult campuses globally and see them in action before we offer and they accept a position at Reduxio.
This also allows Reduxio executives to see students, all potential interns, at work and offers both parties a chance to see how working together may play out in the future and to see if we click not only on a technological level but also a cultural one. In the past, we’ve hired interns this way, and it helps Reduxio feel more comfortable offering a position to someone who’s already familiar with the technology and can start making an impact from day one.
We’ve used multiple iterations of a hackathon and hosted three separate events. Last year was a very systematic sequence that started with hackathon, then a challenge based on winning ideas in the hackathon, then internships, then freelance work, then offers.
In addition, as a professor, I can see how students and potential future Reduxio interns perform in my class, which is very hands-on. Last year, for example, we consulted to 24 start-ups and this year my students are building real digital products. I also see how they perform outside the classroom at public innovation events that I am a part of, like:
- The MIT VR hackathon (I helped facilitate world’s largest VR / AR hackathon)
- StartupNext- Techstars seed stage startup accelerator that I lead in Boston
- Regional Hult Prize competition, where I coach and lead hackathons in SF and Boston
- Hult Business Challenge / Hult Impact challenge entrepreneurship tracks where I serve as lead mentor
Reduxio has had 35 student interns and hired five students full time so far — from multiple Hult school sites. We look to the hackathons we host to pull from the best and brightest minds (as do big tech companies like Google and Amazon) — no matter what country they come from — and we plan to continue using this model for future new hires. I feel passionate about continuing this practice at Reduxio, even through the current political push to hinder immigrants from obtaining work and study visas.
So far, the program has been mutually beneficial. One of the students we’ve hired full time is Eyal Worthalter and he impressed us for a few reasons. While at Hult, Eyal was to our “GrowthHack” Hackathon and attended. He impressed us with his team submission, which was chosen as a winner in his Challenge track. The submission revolved around a marketing strategy to build trust with customers through combining product demo and notions of gamification and we actually implemented his team’s idea at Reduxio. Eyal then approached me about extending his working relationship and we offered him an internship at Reduxio. Eyal set the bar high for future interns as he was motivated, talented and smart and clearly a leader and the hackathon was an excellent way for us to see Eyal in action and for him to learn about our company, technology and how we operate before signing on for a formal internship.
The moral of this story is that if you want an intern program that really pays off — go with something unique and true to your company culture. It may seem easy to write a job description and post it, but the end result is not guaranteed. If you approach hiring as seriously as product development, you’ll be surprised at how much more you get back. You’ll get happier and more motivated employees that not only work hard, but do so before day one on the job and fit seamlessly into your company culture to the point where you can banish the “trial period” and welcome them on full time in no time.