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How to Turn Boomerang Interns into High Performing Employees

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Erin Cushing
on June 20, 2016

It’s summertime, a season which ushers in a bevy of traditions, from backyard barbeques to the summer roadtrip. However, there is one summer institution that we’re excited to explore: the summer internship. College students looking to boost their resumes and gain insight into their potential careers flocking to businesses large and small, sacrificing a portion of their free time to test out the office life.

While internships are meant primarily as a learning opportunity from students, can organizations gain long term benefits from these programs? The short answer: yes. With the right recruiting mindset and talent management processes, these seasonal workers can become your next high-performing full-time employees. After all, according to a recent NACE survey, employers converted an average of 51.7% of their eligible interns into full time employees. That’s a spring of workers who are already familiar with your organization’s goals and processes that you can draw from. But what happens when the interns you’re most interested in just aren’t eligible for full-time work yet?

The answer should be: focus on recruiting them to return for another internship, and further train them to assume a larger role when they graduate. The numbers don’t lie; 90% of eligible returning interns from the NACE survey were offered full-time employment, as opposed to merely 43.5% of first-time interns. What’s even more telling is that over 90% of those returning interns who were offered a job accepted the offer. Interns who work with an organization more than once are more likely to have the skills, experience, and mindset that you’re looking for in your employees; after all, you’ve spent multiple occasions training this intern to act as an employee of your organization.     

So how can you develop an internship program that encourages repeat applicants that can turn into full time employees? Make sure you’re doing the following:

  1. Creating a project outline For a lot of organizations, interns can become catch-alls for ad hoc projects that crop up or that have been put off by current employees. However, this scattered approach to intern mangement won’t help you train interns to become better employees – or entice them to work for you again. Instead, create an intern project for the position before you speak with a single potential intern. This program should have learning opportunities, the potential for the intern to own something, and clear, definable goals so the intern and the manager in charge of the intern can measure success. This type of structure offers clear opportunities for an intern to learn, grow, add projects to their resume, and better adapt to the organization – potentially setting themselves up for success as a full time employee later.
  2. Taking intern recruiting seriously For many, hiring summer interns are just one more thing to cross off the list. Maybe you just slap a requisition together and blast it out over the local college’s job board and call it a day. This might net you some young temporary workers, but it won’t find you someone that your hiring organization can shape into a top performing employee. Instead, treat it like a regular requisition that needs to be filled. Use your current recruiting strategy to source and vet candidates. Remember, you’re not just hiring a seasonal worker; you might be hiring a long-tenured employee.

Take the entire intern hiring process seriously; with the right recruiting and talent management strategies, these young students are prepped to become your highest performing employees. It just takes a little time and some recruiting and management savvy.

When it comes to boomerangs, interns aren’t the only option. Boomerang employees are also valuable additions to an organization’s workforce. Learn why boomerang employees are so effective, and how you can better attract them in our ebook

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