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True or False: With the above in mind, an organization can simply wait until students are wrapping up their spring semesters in order to find the summer interns they need. If you want the best outcomes for your company and experiences for the interns, the answer is absolutely False.

When hiring for full-time positions, do you just accept who might be available at a given time without evaluating the duties of the person in that role, casting a wide net for applicants, conducting a thorough interview process and preparing for the newcomer’s arrival? Of course not. The same holds true for internships.

In general, employers should begin the recruiting process four to six months in advance of the intern’s start date. Why? You should be bringing interns on board to help complete meaningful projects for your business – not to sit at the corner cubicle, run errands and learn the ins and outs of that stubborn copy machine. Interns are vital contributors to companies of all types and sizes, but only if the work is properly planned and the best individual(s) for the job is selected.

Not only do you want strong results for your organization, but meaningful experiences for interns that will aid them in their career decision-making process – whether that is with your company or elsewhere. That should be at or near the top of the list for anyone offering internship opportunities.

What do you need to do during that four- to six-month period?

• Determine internal needs

• Post the internships on Indiana INTERNnet and through other marketing avenues

• Pre-screen potential hires

• Conduct in-depth interviews

• Complete the hires approximately one month before the start date, allowing time for the interns to properly prepare for the new role

Theresa Peterson-Bajgrowicz helps lead human resources efforts for Group Dekko, headquartered in Garrett. The company has 1,500 associates at 11 facilities in three states and Mexico. It manufactures a broad variety of products for clients in a wide range of industries.

Peterson-Bajgrowicz admits the company was fortunate a year ago when it reinstated its summer internship program with 12 hires. Immediate assistance from Indiana INTERNnet and the Graduate Retention Program in Fort Wayne allowed Group Dekko to play catch-up despite a late start. A number of strong initiatives while interns were on the job allowed it to execute a successful program.
For 2012, more planning has been put into place. An October reminder during budget time prompted managers to begin thinking about their internship needs. An internal plan was put together in December with managers required to fill out applications (listing specific intern projects and time estimates for completion) by mid-January. Job descriptions and posting of available positions began in early February.

Training sessions for both managers and mentors are part of the preparation period. Managers receive coaching about the types of questions to ask during pre-screens and interviews. Mentors learn more about their important role in assisting the interns with on-the-job needs and career guidance.

In 2012, Peterson-Bajgrowicz hopes to conduct in-person interviews with many of the final candidates for the 18 available internship positions around the spring break period. Due to the late start a year earlier, all interviews were completed over the phone and, she admits, they varied in quality. The goal is to have interns selected by early April as some will be joining the company as soon as early May.

“It takes somebody to own the process and the program; otherwise, it is just another task,” says Peterson-Bajgrowicz. “It’s an involved process, to determine what our needs are and to make sure the interns have meaningful experiences.”
Start early. Treat it like any other important business function. Bring talented, enthusiastic young people on board who are the best fits for your organization. Reap the rewards – for both the company and the interns as many could become your future employees.
Additional information is available in The Indiana Employer’s Guide to Internships and from Indiana INTERNnet at www.indianaintern.net.

Janet Boston is executive director of Indiana INTERNnet.

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