Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
Employers that work together with college career centers tend to have a much easier time achieving their intern hiring goals. However, to do so, employers must overcome common misconceptions, such as the belief that they can simply post their internship openings online to create a robust pool of candidates.
Through their work, Emmanuela Stanislaus and Mary Scott know that such a passive approach is ineffective for attracting top students who could be good matches.
“It’s perplexing because this suggests bypassing the career center,” says Stanislaus, Associate Director of the Engineering Center Career & Talent Development at Florida International University (FIU).
“However, our career centers have systems in place specifically to support employers’ efforts in meeting their intern hiring goals. This is a big benefit to employers.”
Among the potential negative impacts, organizations that simply post their internship openings and eschew high-touch engagement are ignoring the recruiting methods that students use and value most.
Research conducted by Scott, founder of Scott Resource Group, shows that the two top-ranked channels students report using to discover internship opportunities are employers attending their campus career fairs and the students themselves engaging with the career services office.
“Employer information sessions, self-directed online research [e.g. Google], and students who have previously interned are also highly regarded sources of information,” she continues.
“With the exception of using Google, each of these trusted channels are people-based. Posting jobs, especially if the portal is hosted by a third party, is simply not regarded as an ‘authentic’ channel because opportunities are typically not good matches and often play out as a dreaded ‘black hole’ platform.”
Misconceptions such as the viability of this passive approach can negatively affect intern hiring and employers’ relationships with college career services offices.
“Employers that bypass career services also tend to miss out in different ways,” Stanislaus says.
“For example, doing so impacts an employer’s brand on campus, which students carry into both the job market and into the marketplace. Especially in this age of career readiness, a lot of schools are looking to create synergies between career services and the academic side of the house.”
At FIU, for example, the Engineering Center’s Office of Career & Talent Development recently moved to a newly created division called Academic and Career Success.
“Here, we are collaborating with academic advisers and bringing in each academic unit to, among other tasks, create student success teams and share resources and information about internships and employers that are recruiting students for these opportunities,” Stanislaus says.
“We are helping the university community to talk the career language. Employers that don’t work with career services are not getting important exposure across campuses, especially among the students they are trying to reach.”
Scott points out that most employers sponsor internship programs to develop a talent source for full-time early career hires.
“It therefore makes sense to invest significant resources in intern recruitment to assure a pipeline of well-qualified candidates, rather than take a more passive ‘post and pray’ approach that can surface students who are not necessarily the best suited for full-time positions,” she says.
Scott and Stanislaus add that there are ways employers can adjust their approach to maximize their intern marketing, recruiting, and hiring efforts. One effective way is for them to be active, such as by offering to share their experience and expertise during internship panels, career fairs, information sessions, and mock interviews. Another way is to be consistent.
“We have worked with employers who share their recruiting and branding goals with us, and, together, we brainstorm and create a strategic plan for each semester,” Stanislaus says.
“This works because they are tuned in to the opportunities we have and can secure the times and locations for their on-campus events. They also can alert us to any issues or trends that arise in the market. Working together like this is mutually beneficial because as we are helping employers achieve their goals, they are helping us help our students.”
Scott says that students’ expectations about the candidate experience for internships have evolved.
“Employers that rely on job portals to identify potential interns are at a significant competitive disadvantage because most leading employers have upped their game,” she explains.
“Students easily differentiate between those employers that ‘invest’—which is their term of choice—in them and those that don’t. And that has a huge impact.”
Scott shares some cautionary insight from a student who recently commented on why employers need to provide high-quality experiences:
“Internships are make or break for recruiting on campus in the future,” the student says. “I recommended my company to my brightest peers, while I had friends speak poorly of their experience and drive down the quality of candidates applying to their firm.”
The experience that employers provide to their intern candidates—positive, negative, or neutral—starts during the earliest stages of the recruiting process and lasts well beyond the conclusion of the internship.