How to get Top Talent from your Internship Program

Companies all want top quality talent. This notion has developed from a commonly held opinion into a bona fide fact.

Every company wants to have their own Larry Page or Steve Wozniak, someone who is able to help revolutionize the world through their company. Hong Kong boasts an impressive population of about 7.31 million and with a total labor force of about 3.91 million, finding top talent might sound easy enough. But in reality, finding top talent in this day and age is becoming increasingly difficult.

You may be asking yourself, where can I find top talent? Well that’s simple, you go right to the source – universities. Universities all across the world are churning out thousands of top quality intellectuals and it is in the best interest of your company to take advantage of that. Each year, colleges and universities award over 1.8 million bachelor’s degrees and that is just in the United States alone. Many of you may think that acquiring top talent is all about hiring top university students. This is where you are wrong. Acquiring top talent isn’t just about hiring a bunch of smart university graduates, it is about hiring the right ones. You need people who are not only talented but also well suited to your company. To do that, your company should have a well thought out internship program that can nurture and develop future potential employees.

Building your Internship Program

Just like any product or service a company provides, an internship program should adhere to the same product/market fit guidelines. In this case, your product is the internship program and the market is the talent pool of university students. When building your internship program make sure you’re not doing so for the sake of it. Create one that generates value for both your company and your interns. Internships are a two-way street. In order to get the best from the interns, the employers must give their best as well. Doing so will not only increase the rapport between the company and its interns but also maximizes efficiency and productivity.

In order to create that value, both the needs of the company and the needs of the interns must be met. According to a survey of university students about internships, the most important thing that interns want is mentorship. In addition, the top three most desired takeaways from an internship program are work experience, networking and industry exposure. As a university student myself, I agree that the most important thing that I want my employer to provide is mentorship. Without proper and adequate mentorship, an intern can feel (and be) more like a liability than an asset.

Mentorship isn’t babysitting your intern and watching every move he or she makes, it is about providing guidance and feedback when your intern needs it. An intern isn’t a replacement for an employee, but they do represent an extra set of eyes and hands there to learn and provide new perspectives to improve existing company strategies. As such, they will need some training and tutelage in order to understand the company’s day-to-day operations. With that knowledge, interns tend to challenge the “don’t fix it, if it’s not broken” mentality and can see better ways to improve efficiency that managers sometime overlook. Without proper mentorship the internship will not be beneficial for either party.

Tasks that Matter

Standing by the product/market fit mentality, an intern’s duties should be goal driven. Having an intern sit around, getting coffee and making photocopies all day will create a negative stigma around your company for the intern. With today’s technology, news spreads fast and your company could be on the “Do Not Intern” list! Give interns tasks that matter (we can tell the difference). Assign them a supervisor that they can report to, learn and receive feedback. As mentioned above, work experience is highly sought after by interns and getting coffee and making photocopies won’t necessarily give the interns any real world knowledge or experience. Going one step further and assigning assignments that can build on previous knowledge or tasks, can help an intern better understand exactly how everything works and the steps it takes to finish a project or task. I the course of doing meaningful work, they will naturally gain work experience and industry exposure – killing two birds with one stone!

Interns can be invaluable to a company. Top talent is hard to find, but when you look for it at the source, and develop, mould and train them, you’ve got a tried and tested potential future employee that knows exactly how the company works, what the company culture is and is fully capable of producing top quality work. By giving meaningful and beneficial internships, interns themselves will tend to spread the word to their peers, friends, and family and, lo and behold, you’ve got a ready made pipeline of sought-after talent interested in working for you. Interns are like rough diamonds, take a little effort to polish them and you could end up with a real gem.

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