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College Interns: An Often-Overlooked Talent Resource

As a tight job market continues to present challenges for human resources professionals scrambling to fill key positions, college interns present a viable option for recruiting fresh skilled talent. Historically interns have served in the position of a student who works in an organization in order to gain work experience or satisfy requirements for a qualification. Today, internships have developed from an unpaid asset for busy work to valuable, paid additions to a team with significant career development potential. Interns can provide an influx of efficiency, productivity, and fresh ideas to established workflows. They are often energetic and eager to learn bringing value their employer due to their flexibility and willingness to serve in varied functions. When largely considering the ability to grow talent bases, human resource professionals should consider adding internship programs.

Today, hiring often becomes reactionary. Back-logs of work in need of completion build up, daily conference calls and meetings began to ebb away at productive time and in a short time frame, critical labor shortages develop in professional roles. However, what is often perceived as busy work to a tenured, highly skilled staff member may provide skill development opportunity and valuable professional experience for an intern at a wage cost consistent with the actual work performed. This creates opportunity for the more seasoned professional to focus on higher level skills like innovation and strategy to drive organizational growth. Internship programs can be designed to create collaborative environments where interns serve to facilitate labor support while still affording opportunities to share fresh ideas and feedback. Additionally, as the organization continues to grow, interns can become a source of knowledgeable full-time talent. According to NACE Research’s 2014 Internship & Co-op Survey employers made full-time offers to almost 65% of their interns, with 80% accepting those offers ultimately, saving time and money on recruiting efforts for skilled talent.


Hiring interns affords mentor opportunities

Developing internship programs creates natural mentoring opportunities, furthering the development of managerial team members and often increasing overall job satisfaction. Even staff in non-leadership roles are afforded mentoring opportunities in aiding youthful staff in transitioning into their often first professional position. Interns can also present a resource for organizations with staff nearing retirement age. Partnering the transitioning professional with a qualified intern as they near the end of their career can provide valuable support and stability. As current employees’ mentor and supervise interns, they’ll gain valuable leadership skills. This can be great training for an employee who will eventually occupy a management position. Supervising interns is often less stressful than supervising already established employees as an expectation of teaching is already set. In day-to-day work life, things get busy, and it is natural to forget to engage with teammates. This can lead to knowledge silos and inefficient processes. When employees begin to engage with each other, deficiencies can be found in a process. Mentoring increases engagement as there is an expectation of questioning to gain increased understanding. A fresh set of eyes has the potential to bring innovation and promote continuous improvement. Increased engagement can help companies evolve as well as drive more cohesive teams.

Interns can bring fresh perspective and vision

In considering the positive organizational culture opportunity of hiring interns, think of a professional sports team. Bringing in a new player with less experience, or a different background can bring a team together as players adjust their roles to accommodate the new teammate. According to College students are usually up to date on trends, social media tools, and how to attract a younger consumer base. By bringing an intern onto your team, you are adding fresh perspective and new skill sets. Tenured existing staff can experience skill stagnation. They become accustomed to thinking and acting in a specific way and may only view the work they perform through those lenses. Interns often bring fresh prospective because they came of age in a different world. Their unique views may result from societal and familial experiences, prior work history, or their unique access to media and use of technology. Many organizations are focused on creating greater diversity to drive cultural development and increase innovation. Most successful teams are the result of bringing together the varied experiences of their team members and creating an environment of collaboration. “The intern can provide valuable input on how the company is currently doing things and how they can change things to suit the business and the customers’ needs

Interns minimize employment risk

Typically, interns start by performing more administrative tasks to open time in a full-time professional’s schedule for more strategic initiatives. Since most intern positions are either part-time or temporary in nature, internships afford the option to evaluate a new hire’s fit in the organization prior to committing to a full-time permanent hire. Think of the internship as a trial period that allows both you and the intern to decide whether your company is the right match for them. If the intern proves to be a great match for the organization and exhibits proven value to the team, an offer of a full-time permanent position can then be extended. Internship programs generally do not require a large financial investment, making them a viable option for organizations who are looking to expand their pools of qualified candidates while still managing escalating hiring and training costs.

How to recruit an intern

Identifying pools of developing talent for your newly developed internship program can be challenging. One of the best resources is posting open positions at a nearby college in the specific departments relevant to the positions you are wishing to fill. For example, if you are seeking to hire marketing interns, identify the marketing department head at your local college. Chances are this person will know several students seeking employment opportunities in the marketing field and can share your contact information with potential candidates. Or consider offering one of your executives as a guest speaker. Students are often drawn to professionals who have had success in their chosen field and will be eager to work for the organization the professional represents. Additionally, using social media outlets like LinkedIn, Handshake, Indeed, or even a platform like Instagram can be creative ways to expand your reach for the best candidate. Understanding what type of candidate, you want to hire is essential. Be specific in your offer and conduct research to understand your competition. Offering solid experience beyond just menial work at a marketable wage, will capture the attention of quality college students seeking internship opportunities.


Overall, internships serve an important role in developing a successful workforce. When young people are mentored properly, coupled with their interest and enthusiasm in their chosen field, internships help shape their career goals and direction. Your new intern may just grow and develop to become the future leader of your organization.

 If you would like AccuSource to provide a complimentary review of your current employment screening program, please contact us at

Angela Sendik

Angela Sendik

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