• Five Tips for Effective Intern Performance Reviews

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
    June 12, 2013

    One way for students to receive the maximum educational value from their experiential assignments is to have their internship supervisors provide regular, constructive feedback. Following are some tips for conducting effective intern performance reviews:

    1. Gain a clear understanding of how the written evaluations of an intern’s performance that you provide to university officials are used—Internship supervisors should request necessary clarification of evaluation procedures. Given the time pressures experienced by supervisors and the revolving nature of interns entering and exiting an organization, timely and effective correspondence between university officials and supervisors is at risk.
    2. Have one-on-one conversations with interns to discuss the written evaluations provided to universities at the end of internships—An oral review of the written evaluation can provide interns with several benefits, including preparation for performance review sessions with future employers, meaningful self-reflection on the significance of the work-learning experience, and focused dialogue with a professional in the field about the student’s readiness for a particular career path or position. Most importantly, in-depth discussions centered upon established performance standards could enhance the likelihood that students would leave the internship with a more realistic understanding of their professional performance. For the employer, the discussions could reveal students’ perceptions of the internship experience that could lead to program enhancements.
    3. Work with universities to develop approaches to effectively communicate constructive criticism to interns on problematic topics—Supervisors may encounter topics that are difficult to discuss, particularly issues related to dress, personal appearance, and professionalism. However, withholding this feedback to avoid the discomfort of the situation can diminish the interns’ learning opportunity. Compile these strategies to share with supervisors—especially those who are new to the mentor role—as best practices.
    4. Review existing feedback guidelines and evaluation criteria/forms—Trait-based evaluations may not generate feedback that can prepare individuals for actual role performance. Traits are easy to identify, but there can be a weak link between personal traits and actual job behavior. Feedback that focuses on who a person is does not necessarily change what a person does. Reviews of guidelines and criteria/forms can help you determine if there is an appropriate balance of measurements addressing traits, behaviors, and results.
    5. Collaborate to overcome obstacles—The greatest challenge facing intern supervisors is perhaps the toughest one to resolve: limited time to teach and mentor interns. Supervisors often have a remarkable level of concern for student learning and growth, but are frustrated with their ability to dedicate time and attention to the mentoring role. While there is no quick fix to the time obstacle, a collaborative approach among intern employers, supervisors, and university officials in managing and strengthening internship programs to ensure student learning and development is important.