How To Turn Interns Into Full Time Employees

Justin Simms
Jul 30, 2019 · 4 min read
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For most college students, prestigious summer internships are the barometer of success in school, with the competitive recruitment process providing copious levels of stress and anxiety. Due to the link between internships and receiving a full-time offer after school, it makes perfect sense why such importance is placed upon these ten-week forays into the workforce. While only a select few work 90-plus hours per week, all interns work hard to leave their superiors with a good impression of their work ethic and capabilities. I have witnessed and frankly, have fallen victim to the internship craze; working as an intern for Hibob, an HR technology startup, I have begun to see the company-side importance of internships. In this article, I detail my thoughts on how companies can convert interns into employees, speaking from an intern’s point of view.

There are a myriad of articles and crash-courses online providing advice on how to leverage a summer internship into a full-time job. Interestingly, there is not much literature on how companies can design internship programs to convert interns into entry-level employees. While Fortune 500 conglomerates and other corporate behemoths always pique student-interest, lesser-known companies struggle to find, attract, and convert talented summer interns. Below, find the best practices for any company, no matter the size or prestige, to transition summer interns to regular workers.

Structured Programs

Many Fortune-500 companies retain over 80% of their interns as entry-level hires, demonstrating the successful design of their internship programs. While the financial success of these companies evidently plays a role in converting interns to full-time hires, their exorbitantly high retention rate can be attributed to structured programs focusing on professional development, meaningful experiences, and effective training options. As Forbes magazine explains, “A business doesn’t create full-time star employees by chance, but by the precise application of programs that help the intern recognize his or her talent and how to best apply it to the job.” In a student intern’s eyes, the ideal summer internship allows them to gain tangible skills and professional experience, while simultaneously cultivating industry-specific talents; the companies that annually boast high return rates are assuredly providing these opportunities.

Be Transparent and Inclusive

There are industry-tested best practices in terms of designing internship programs. René Shimada Siegel, CEO of Connext, explains that interns should be viewed as the future of their industry — and treated as such. Instead of focusing exclusively on specific projects, she recommends to “include them in customer and internal meetings…” and to “let them brainstorm on big projects…to provide context on brand, messaging and culture.” By exposing interns to macro issues and projects, they exhibit more professional development and feel as if they are making a tangible impact on important company issues.

Mentor Them!

Another critical component of an internship experience is a mentorship program. By pairing interns with industry veterans, your organization is fostering invaluable professional development and networking opportunities. Often times, these experiences are the perfect complement to formalized training and development programming, increasing the chances interns will develop into candidates worthy of receiving return offers. Often overlooked, mentorship programs are the ideal opportunity to sell a candidate on your company’s unique and vibrant workplace culture. Ensure mentors introduce their mentees to other employees and invite them to company social events, immersing them in the company — both professionally and socially.

Set KPIs

Interns crave substantial projects that directly impact the company and its clients; instead of making coffee or being relegated to administrative duties, ensure your interns have meaningful work by creating a system of structured performance goals and deliverables. Involve interns on conference calls and encourage them to utilize their fresh perspective while solving complex issues. According to Christina Owens, program manager at Vanguard, their internship program “mirrors a full-time opportunity” and the summer internship is treated as an extended interview. By quenching interns’ thirst for real professional experience, you simultaneously enable their development, increasing the likelihood they develop into productive full-time employees for your organization.

As an economics major, my education is revolved around maximizing revenue and minimizing costs, essentially optimizing firms’ efficiencies. Converting summer interns into full-time workers is a manifestation of my classes, as it cuts cost and maximizes future revenue. Internships serve as extended interviews, allowing employers to assess a student’s work ethic, skills, and potential before making a sizable financial commitment to a full-time hire. Making an internal hire allows companies to avoid tangible expenses and the opportunity costs associated with the recruitment process. Most importantly, summer interns who accept full-time offers have a certain level of enthusiasm towards their company, combined with the requisite skills to succeed. Interns represent the future of our world, industry, and society; by applying the aforementioned tips to your internship program, you will be on your way to converting student interns to full-time hires, best positioning your organization for current and sustained prosperity.

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