Spotlight for Recruiting and Employment Professionals, April 27, 2011
The fact that Burns & McDonnell’s president and chief executive officer, Greg Graves, was hired through the firm’s college recruiting program serves as motivation for those who recruit and hire new college graduates.
“We always keep in mind that we could be hiring our next CEO,” says Renée Gartelos, Burns & McDonnell’s recruitment manager. “We have always focused on finding top talent and our future leaders. We know how much of a positive impact college recruiting efforts can have on an organization.”
Gartelos cites the firm’s internship program—which has been in existence for nearly three decades—as its best tool for identifying and bringing in students with high potential. Burns & McDonnell’s work to build a top-notch internship program has paid off as, over the past five years, the firm’s intern conversion rate is 85 percent.
“We try to be proactive rather than reactive in our approach,” Gartelos says. “One thing we’ve done for a long time is extend full-time job offers to interns at the end of the summer, based on anticipated hiring needs. Doing so has contributed to a great conversion rate.”
Burns & McDonnell also tries to stay on the leading edge of trends. For example, in recent years, it began providing intern housing to attract talent to its various locations all over the country.
“If an intern is not a permanent resident of the area, he or she would be eligible for housing,” Gartelos explains. “We make all of the arrangements and the housing is furnished. We’ve seen companies providing intern housing become a more common practice in recent years.”
Burns & McDonnell believes this trend will continue as many companies that scaled back their college recruiting activities during the recession are ramping up their programs again.
Burns & McDonnell offers summer internships for students majoring in architectural, chemical, civil/structural, electrical, environmental and mechanical engineering; construction management; architecture; drafting; and environmental science.
“We seek students who are strong academically, have solid communication skills, work effectively in team settings, display a strong work ethic, possess strong analytical and problem-solving skills, and are involved on their campuses and surrounding communities,” Gartelos adds. “If they have previous work or internship experience, particularly in our areas of business, that’s a plus.”
In an effort to enhance their interns’ experience, Burns & McDonnell involves them in project activities early-on. This affords interns the opportunity to interact as active project participants, providing them with valuable hands-on professional experience.
Each intern is assigned a mentor who provides guidance and helps familiarize the intern with the firm’s corporate culture. Interns also participate in weekly lunch-and-learn sessions that expose them to each of Burns & McDonnell’s business units and ongoing projects. In addition, all interns have access to the company’s executive leadership (including Graves) through networking events and activities.
Other features of Burns & McDonnell’s internship program are end-of-summer presentations by senior interns, a group community service project that allows them to give back to the community, and social events, such as bowling nights and BBQs.
Throughout the summer, interns are constantly being assessed. There is a formal performance review that is conducted by their managers mid-summer to provide performance feedback.
When interns return to campus, Burns & McDonnell continues to engage them through campus recruitment efforts. For example, interns might talk about their experiences with the firm during information sessions or plan events on behalf of Burns & McDonnell with targeted student organizations.
Recruiters, mentors, and managers will call or e-mail interns, and recruiters visiting campus will treat interns to lunch or dinner, providing for one-on-one interaction and strengthening the connection between intern and firm.
“Ultimately, the goal of our internship program and the basis for our continued success is our ability to identify the best of the best early in their careers,” say Gartelos. “We keep them engaged long after their internship is complete—we aim to provide them with all the information they need when evaluating their prospective job opportunities and demonstrate that Burns & McDonnell is a great place to build a career.”