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As businesses search for the best candidates, it’s not just interns looking to impress prospective companies. Businesses must similarly appeal to applicants by offering an experience that stands out from the competition (Fabrice Michaudeau/Getty Images/Hemera)
As businesses search for the best candidates, it’s not just interns looking to impress prospective companies. Businesses must similarly appeal to applicants by offering an experience that stands out from the competition (Fabrice Michaudeau/Getty Images/Hemera)

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Three ways to improve your company's internship program Add to ...

This week alone I’ve received more than 20 e-mails inquiring about internship opportunities this summer. With university and college programs nearing the end of the term, students are seeking opportunities to put their skills and education into practice. Yes, internship season has officially begun.

As businesses search for the best candidates, it’s not just interns looking to impress prospective companies. Businesses must similarly appeal to applicants by offering an experience that stands out from the competition. A recent survey by Glassdoor found that, while financial compensation is important, other factors – career growth, location, commute, company culture and values – play an equally important role.

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So if you want to attract the year’s top candidates, here are three things to consider:

1. Embrace all things digital. Millenials are also known as ‘digital natives;’ in other words, technology has been integrated into their lives since birth and they expect their work environments to be similarly connected.

Companies that recognize that this generation depends on social media for news, trends and best practices are the ones that will attract the very best. A study conducted by Johnson Controls found that millenials’ knowledge of digital platforms can lead to improved processing, efficiency and motivation within organizations.

The dated notion that social media is a waste of time hinders employers from tapping into the potential that today’s interns can bring to an organization. But this doesn’t mean that community management and social media strategy should be dumped on interns simply because they have smart phones and a thousand or so Twitter followers. But leveraging this new-age skill set, and being open to their ideas, can benefit intern and company alike.

2. Buddy up. From the first interview to seating arrangements and meeting invites, integrating your intern into the team from the beginning will increase their productivity and commitment to your business objectives. And one of the best ways to do this is to give them a buddy; someone junior in the organization who knows the ropes.

As highlighted by Glassdoor’s survey, corporate culture is a huge draw for interns, and something they can probably detect from the moment they walk in the door. Enuring that your corporate culture is communicated to potential interns during the interview process will help you determine whether they’re the right fit for your team.

Involving buddies in the interview process not only lets them help to gauge the potential intern’s fit, but can provide relevant context about what it’s like to work for the company.

When you’ve found the right candidate, a buddy can help measure how well the intern is doing, and can offer a fresh perspective on how the internship process works within the organization. Let communication be a two-way street; no business should ever turn down feedback from its team members.

3. Value every level. The debate on paid internships has been a hot one for some time. Although internships are a great learning experience and often part of a program’s curriculum, paying them for their time, dedication and hard work is something I believe is important.

Employees at all levels perform better when they feel valued and financial compensation is part of showing their value within the organization. Strategically speaking, hiring interns is an investment; by investing the proper time and money into this process, your business will see the results.

Internships can be an invaluable learning experience for new grads and employers alike, but it takes a conscious effort from both parties to make it successful. If you’re looking to attract the right talent, you need to offer the right experience. Ask yourself this: Would you want to intern at your company? If not, it might be time to re-evaluate your strategy.

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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