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  • Class of 2017: Maximizing Intern/Co-op Conversion

    October 25, 2017 | By NACE Staff

    A female intern smiles.

    TAGS: best practices, internships, nace insights, co_ops

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    Students’ satisfaction with their internship or co-op experience—or lack thereof—has a significant effect on their likelihood of accepting an offer of full-time employment with the same employer, according to results of NACE’s Class of 2017 Student Survey.

    More than three-quarters of students who said they were “extremely satisfied” with their internship/co-op experience indicated they were likely to accept a full-time offer from their employer. (See Figure 1.) The likelihood of accepting an offer tends to drop as the student’s satisfaction wanes.

    Employers can enhance the conversion potential by addressing common “pain points” among interns and co-ops. The most common complaint among students dissatisfied with their most recent (or only) experience was that there was a lack of meaningful work duties (81 percent); trailing that was a lack of focus on their personal development (59.1 percent). These findings are consistent with those gleaned from the classes of 2015 and 2016.

    Other common complaints included that they did not learn anything useful (51.8 percent); that they disliked the work environment or corporate culture (43.8 percent); and that the wages were insufficient or unfair (36.5 percent). These grievances, in part, reflect students’ strong preference for an employer that fosters their personal growth.

    With this in mind, how can you provide a valuable and “extremely satisfying” experience for your interns, while progressing toward conversion?

    • Make converting your interns/co-ops for full-time positions a priority—Start with conversion as your ultimate goal, and build your program around that. You’ve invested in them; converting them to full-time hires is important.
    • Focus on hiring interns/co-ops that you feel would be successful full-time employees—Seek to hire candidates for internships/co-ops who fit your success profile. For example, you might look for candidates who have a passion or desire to work in your industry, who are succeeding academically in the critical disciplines from which you hire, and who have leadership experience and effective communication skills.
    • Get off on the right foot—Help interns/co-ops acclimate to your organization by holding an orientation, during which you share expectations, have them fill out necessary paperwork, and receive key job- and community-related information. Your orientation might span several days and blend team building, professional development, and technical skill training. Your organization might also showcase projects, activities, resource groups, and other ways for interns/co-ops to get involved.
    • Connect the interns/co-ops to your company throughout their time on site—Beyond orientation, offer various events, programs, and support during the student employee experience. Such offerings could include lunch-and-learns with the CEO and senior leadership, professional development workshops, social and service events to acclimate students to the community and their peers, department events, and buddy/mentor programs. In terms of the latter, match interns/co-ops with a recent hire who was in their shoes within the last 12 to 18 months, and can answer their questions and provide guidance. Meanwhile, a mentor might be a more experienced employee in the intern/co-op’s business unit who understands what the student is working on and provides feedback and guidance.
    • Give interns/co-ops meaningful work—NACE’s annual Student Survey has consistently found that the composition of students’ work duties has an enormous effect on how satisfied they are with their experience. Most notably, more time spent with analytical/problem-solving tasks seems to boost satisfaction, while more time spent with “non-essential” tasks has had the opposite effect. Meet student expectations by giving them real assignments that benefit the company. Doing so not only provides them with valuable experience and insight, but also allows you to see them in action.
    • Make sure you meet their needs—During their internships/co-ops, students are assessing the company as a potential first destination after graduation. To meet their expectations, survey students to get a pulse on your programming throughout the internship/co-op experience. You might also have a group of students serve on a committee to give feedback to your university relations team on programming and events. Empower this group to plan and execute events and activities to engage students throughout their experience.
    • Give and solicit feedback—Stay in touch with interns/co-op students regularly to understand how they’re doing and show how important they are to your organization. Provide feedback during the course of the internship/co-op and at its conclusion based on mentor and manager insight and observations as part of a formal performance assessment process. In addition, give interns/co-op students the opportunity to provide feedback about their experience so you can strengthen your program.
    • Maintain ties once they return to campus—When interns/co-op students return to campus, invite them to meet with recruiters at different campus events, such as career fairs and sponsored events. Also, invite them to participate in any social events or service projects at your organization’s locations near their campuses. The internship also is an excellent time for you to identify ambassadors who can engage with top talent, brand your company, and promote your summer internship program on campus.

    NACE’s Class of 2017 Student Survey was conducted from February 15 to April 30, 2017; more than 21,000 students at colleges and universities nationwide took part, including 4,200 graduating seniors. Participating schools will find a complimentary copy of the report in MyNACE > Research Reports; an executive summary is available on NACEWeb.

    Figure 1: Likelihood of accepting a full-time offer from the internship/co-op employer by level of satisfaction with internship/co-op experience, 2015 – 2017

    Satisfaction Level 2017 2016 2015
    Extremely satisfied 75.2% 71.9% 76.8%
    Very satisfied 46.5% 47.8% 51.7%
    Somewhat satisfied 21.7% 17.9% 29.3%
    Not very satisfied 6.3% 8.1% 12.5%
    Not at all satisfied 7.4% 10.2% 13.6%
    Source: Class of 2017 Student Survey Report, National Association of Colleges and Employers