There’s a big, fat disconnect in the hiring business. It’s the chicken and the egg. Employers want employees with experience. But there are a slew of kids emerging from high school and college asking “How can I get experience if you won’t hire me?” The answer, for both parties, is internships. Internships let you build your own rock star.
I know, I know, hiring interns takes work. First you have to go through the hiring process, then you have to not only teach them the job, but basically train them to function in your environment. Somebody on your team will have to devote a portion of every day to overseeing their activities—that is if you’re doing a real internship and not one of those “Make-the-coffee-and-open-the-mail” internships the Department of Labor is fond of prosecuting. Then there’s the great likelihood that interns will make mistakes, because that’s what people do when they’re learning. So those are the downsides of interns.
But here’s the upside: if you pick people who are otherwise good employees, who work hard, learn fast, play well with others and show initiative, you can probably get the inexperienced ones for a lot less than you can hire an experienced employee. You’ve probably heard the adage: cheap, fast, good…pick two. If you want to hire an employee who has so much experience they can do it yesterday with their eyes closed, you’re going to have to pay for that. But if you don’t want to dole out big bucks and you’re willing to be patient while someone learns, you might just build your own rock star.
How to build your own rock star
Let’s say you hire someone who really needs experience in the industry they’re graduating into. If you hire them, and you’re a good company with a good culture, you can groom them to approach the work, the customers, and the work environment the way you want to, uncontaminated by their previous experiences. And if they enjoy working for you, your cheap, inexperienced intern might just turn out, after graduation (and a raise) to be one of your best employees. Enculturation is a powerful thing. They’ll learn business the way you want it done. They’ll start from the get-go with the values and behaviors you consider most important, because you trained them. A lot of loyalty can be fostered when you give somebody a chance and continue to provide them an opportunity to grow.
Hiring interns can be considerably less difficult than hiring other employees, too, because many students are backed by high school and university internship programs who share oversight responsibility for the student. If you’re a good source for career training for their students, they’ll happily feed you the best candidates.
Hiring interns isn’t for people who are seriously risk averse. If that describes you, you’re better off with experienced people. Nor is it for those who haven’t the patience for the learning process. If that describes you, you’ll probably wind up with a frustrated ex-intern who spreads negative information about your company. And you won’t be too happy with the experience either. But if you’re willing to invest in someone’s success—which is a good policy for an organizational leader anyway—interns can be a great way to go.
We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.
One Response to “Internships Let You Build Your Own Rock Star”
Caroline, great post and very practical advice. I think your advice is particularly relevant in light of intense competition for talent who can perform not only in the initial role, but have the potential for even higher levels of performance. While there is a significant time investment in ramping up most internship programs, when done properly, the benefits far exceed the initial investment. Thank you!