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Student Internships: How to Effectively Recruit Students

Here at Envol, we are VERY proud of our student internship program, and the ability to provide students with the opportunity to gain professional experience. As a small (but mighty) team, you might ask us, “why would you hire a student?”. To answer that question, we’ve broken down the benefits of student internships and how to recruit them effectively. 

Aside from giving students an opportunity to gain some real-life work experience, internships also let you see if this person is a good fit for your organization. Think of it as an extended 4-month interview. The best part is that you can cultivate the training abilities of current employees, and showcase your company to quality new graduates to fill your entry-level roles. 

In order to get the most out of your student interns, you’ll want to invest in establishing a student internship program. Want to know how? Let’s get started! 

Establish Your Goals

First, it’s crucial to know why you are hiring a student and how you aim to do so. The main questions you should ask yourself are: 

  1. What is the goal of this internship program? What do we want our interns to take away from this experience?
  2. What is the hiring timeline for this internship program? How long will our intern be working here for? 
  3. Who is our intern going to work with? What teams/departments will we organize them in? 
  4. What work will we provide our intern? Any projects they can assist in or lead? 

Once you answer these questions internally, you can seamlessly convey the information to candidates who are curious to know about the internship program at your organization. This program is not only an investment of time and money to your organization, but a huge investment to students who take time out of their daily schedules to search, apply, prepare, and work for you! 

Design Your Ideal Candidate

Another important part of hiring your dream intern is asking yourself “who the heck do we want?!”. There are many students in the market looking for experience. However, many might not fit with how you designed your internship program. This is why it is important to think about who you’re looking for. 

Ask yourself and your team the following questions: 

  1. What education should they have? Does it matter? 
  2. Should they already have experience in some skills/software? 
  3. What are their interests? Does it align with the company’s purpose and culture? 
  4. How long are they available to work for us? Are they able to work from our location?  
  5. What are some specific characteristics/skills we should look out for? 

When answering these questions, be realistic with yourself. If you’re able to spend time training, then you can focus less on experience and more on willingness to learn and cultural fit. Make sure you’re setting both yourself and your students up for success before even hiring them. 

Answering these questions will give your hiring team a much better insight on EXACTLY who they are looking for and can begin the searching journey! 

The Job Ad

Here comes the marketing! The job advertisement is a key part of attracting students. A job advertisement for interns should be different than your regular job advertisements.   

This job advertisement needs to be captivating right from the start, starting from the title! 

Avoid generic titles like “Intern” or “Student”. Instead, create a title that fits in with the department they will work in! For example, an HR Intern can have the title of “HR + Talent Coordinator Intern”. By doing this, the focus is more on what you’ll learn than what you need to be skilled at. It removes the intimidation factor and invites more students to apply 

Your job advertisement should also be easy on the eyes so that it is easy for students to read and absorb. 

Some useful tips:

  • Use short, simple sentences. 
  • Create sub-sections and space them out. Bold your subheadings. 
  • Organize your text into bullet points. 
Posting the Job Ad

The last key to a successful job advertisement is putting it in the right places, and by that, we mean job boards! 

There are tons of job boards to choose from, but in order to get the best of the best, we recommend posting on intern-specific sites such as University/College job boards, LinkedIn, and Indeed. These job boards have high traffic when it’s recruiting season, and it is easily accessible for students since it is one of the top search results when googling an intern position! 

The Interview Process

The interview is one of the most memorable takeaways from a candidate’s experience with an organization. That’s why it’s important to plan out a good interview process to make sure it is not too long or too short. 

Interviewing students should be enjoyable for both you and the candidate. Create some variety when you get to know your interns by choosing from phone interviews, interactive written applications, virtual interviews, and in-person interviews.  

With that being said, you should have a maximum of three interviews for student interns. The more interviews there are the more time and energy that is used up from your student.

Be as efficient as possible during your phone, virtual, and/or in-person interviews by: 

  1. Using simple questions that students can prepare well for. This lets them show off their best selves and feel comfortable (Why this company? Why this role? What do they want to learn?). 
  2. Don’t get too specific on asking about their direct skills, but ask about transferrable skills like communication, organization, and project management.  
  3. Asking the right questions from the start – what are their availabilities? salary expectations? career goals? 
  4. Schedule student interviews back-to-back to maintain consistency in your daily schedule and so that you can compare the qualifications of candidates with your team.
  5. Don’t ask too many questions! Figure out what questions are most important to you, and then add 1-4 additional questions of your choice. 

The entire process of applying and interviewing should not be too time-consuming. It is important to assume that candidates are busy!  

Phone interviews should take about 15-30 minutes. Virtual/in-person Interviews should take about 30 minutes – 1 hour. 

Next Steps

You found your intern – Congratulations! What are the next steps? 

Most interns are looking for jobs around the same time period. It can be competitive so make sure you act fast.  

Present your offer via e-mail or phone call. Follow up with their employment contract and be prepared to answer any questions they may have about it. Once that is done, it is time to conduct your company-specific orientation and onboarding process! Exciting stuff!  

Don’t Leave Them Hanging

After confirming the perfect candidate for your intern position, you’ll want to send out an update to the other candidates in the race. 

Believe us, we know declining candidate is never easy. However, it’s the organization’s responsibility to keep their candidates in the loop of their hiring process.

Sending an e-mail to decline a candidate is the appropriate approach in most cases, however, for candidates that succeeded to further stages in the hiring process, it is a good idea to give them a phone call and provide valuable feedback for the candidate to learn from. Who knows? You might see the same candidate in your system again with more to offer to your organization! 

Feedback

A good internship is an experience that always has the potential to be better. Both parties (the employer and the employee) should learn what went well and what didn’t go so great. It is crucial to ask for feedback from your interns and colleagues to see how successful your internship program is and how you can make it even better. 

Conclusion

Creating a successful student internship program will not only benefit the students you hire but your organization as well. Interns are extremely valuable to an organization because of their new ideas, their fresh set of eyes, and their unbreakable excitement to join the workforce. Once given the environment to do so, your interns can make some real magic in your organization! 

If you’re a start-up or small business looking for funding for student internship roles, check out Pocketed, a free and powerful grant matching platform designed to do all the heavy lifting for you. For more questions on how to recruit for a student internship program, email us at [email protected] and let us know how we can help! 

Check out one of our previous intern’s experience working with Envol here!