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7 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Intern Recruiting Methods

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

applicant shaking the hand of a recruiter

The reality is 65% of entry-level hires will change jobs in the first 12 months of starting their career. Regardless of whether the employer decides to make a change or the candidate drives the change themself, there’s a deeper problem at play. The biggest reason for job change cited by employees? A difference in expected vs actual company culture, specifically a misalignment in expectations between what a company presented in an interview versus what the company actually was like inside. Company culture is how your organization works on the inside. It’s the daily conversations between employees, the support offered by managers, the training and development opportunities available, and so much more.

Even multiple rounds of interviews, one-day job shadows, and well-produced social media posts cannot share the true employee experience. Sharing company culture through real experiences can only be learned on the inside. A focus on entry-level talent brings a unique set of problems - and in turn, solutions - to improving retention. Data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers details real experience in an organization through an internship leads to improved retention metrics at both the 1-year and 5-year metrics. Your internship program is the direct on-ramp into your organization. Use this experience to bring the right candidates into your organization. It starts with strong top-of-funnel recruiting for your internship program.

A quick note: Depending on the goals of your organization - filling open positions to keep up with business growth, driving equity and diversity across your organization, supporting projects, etc. - your organization should have a defined goal for your early talent program. Improvement strategies for your internship program should be included in the goals across your organization. It’s not as simple as turning on “candidate pipeline on demand” (no relation to Internship on Demand). It will take work. Here are 7 methods to improve your company’s internship recruiting process.

1. Increase top-of-funnel recruiting by expanding your brand’s recruiting reach

More top-of-funnel candidates applying to open roles means more chances at finding the right fit, right? Not quite. This can be an expensive task if your organization, like most, is already strapped for time dealing with projects, new initiatives, and other responsibilities. You don’t want simply more candidates, it’s more qualified candidates that you want. Simply adding more universities to your career fair tour means more time on the road, more resumes to review, and more interviews to conduct. This also might not help when other companies in your region are already your competition for top talent.

Of the top organizations that students know, is your organization one of the top brands in our candidate’s “consideration set”? When a candidate thinks of the companies in their industry and their region, if your company isn’t near top of the list, you’re outside the consideration set. Engaging in virtual career fairs, experiential recruiting, or even sponsoring college classes like a senior design project can get more eyes on your brand while limiting the upfront time from your hiring managers. According to data, the top two platforms where college students search for job opportunities are job sites like LinkedIn or Handshake (44%) and a company’s website (41%). If your brand doesn’t stand on a job site or your company site isn’t in your candidate’s “consideration set” the odds are not in your favor.

2. Consider non-degreed candidates

Degrees are not a predictor of success in a real job. Based on recent research from Harvard Business School and Accenture analyzing “middle-skill” jobs (which require no four-year degree, but some education or training beyond high school), they found no boosts in productivity when those jobs were done by college graduates. This suggests that true skills, career agility, and employer-employee fit on the job are better predictors of success within a role. Black Americans, indigenous populations, and Hispanic or Latinx-identifying Americans are 7-15% less likely to hold a bachelor’s degree than the national average in 2021 (65%). A disproven insistence on college degree credentials blocks employers’ access to a diversified, highly capable talent pool, and doubles the impact on an already marginalized population.

The reason most organizations rely on college degrees as a shorthand for job readiness is that it's easier than bringing someone into your organization, training them up, giving them a chance to sink or swim, then having to let them go. Considering industries like tech, where demand for workers far outpaces the supply, a shift in hiring consideration could not only support hiring needs but bring an impactful boost to the diversity of a company’s workforce. An organization will need to build unique vetting and support tools for this new population, but if done correctly the results can be hugely valuable.

3. Take a skills-first approach to your job descriptions.

The hiring challenges of the early 2020s have been a challenge across nearly every industry. This isn’t just a symptom of the global pandemic. In 2012, IBM faced a similar talent shortage for key roles across their organization. At the time only 10% of their job postings were available to someone without a college degree. It was the current CEO at the time, Ginni Rometty, who overhauled the company’s approach to be SkillsFirst in an attempt to broaden its available talent pool.

HR teams reevaluated job descriptions alongside business units throughout the company to find the knowledge and expertise needed for specific roles. The teams studied all open positions, identified the requisite skills for the role, and then rewrote job descriptions, emphasizing specific abilities over general credentials traditionally assumed to only be possessed by those with college degrees. For example, a cybersecurity job post listing the experience and degrees required would be rewritten listing the core capabilities needed to do the job, such as being able to develop hypotheses and apply programming languages. If this skills-based hiring approach is reflected in the interview process, hiring managers can develop questions specifically focused on finding the best for your organization.

4. Build alternative “on-ramps” into your organization

job ads on newspapers

The only path into your company shouldn’t be full-time job postings only.

Technical developments have been changing talent attraction tools for the last 50 years. What were originally newspaper job postings became LinkedIn posts. Entry-level jobs were filled through internships. Apprenticeships fizzled for many careers and are now making a comeback. The same idea that companies with complex products should avoid relying on one linear supply chain to avoid slowdowns or complete stoppages if one supplier is delayed should apply to how organizations recruit talent into their organization.

We at Internship on Demand are strong believers that access to professional experience should be fair and easy to find for job seekers everywhere. From work-based learning in the classroom, to job shadows, pre-internships, apprenticeships, and co-ops, the options for a candidate to build skills and learn about a company can seem almost endless. Each of these paths offers a valuable experience for the candidate and the company to determine if the right match exists. These different on-ramps also include a different commitment from the employer. Depending on the viability of your employees and HR team, one approach, or a combination of a few might be best. If you’re looking to explore a pre-internship, get in touch with our team.

5. Align your internship with your full-time hiring cycle

Getting your internship requisition, full-time hiring, and the recruiting timeline aligned can be a tough challenge with the number of schools you recruit from, the almost ever-present barrage of hiring workshops and job postings, and when your team needs work done. In a perfect world, you can align full-time job requisitions and open positions with the close of your internship program. This gives your company the best opportunities to give offers to the top candidates in your program. And they take that offer and stay with your company instead of looking elsewhere.

The number of candidates that slip through the cracks because of poor planning can drive thousands of dollars in unrealized spend. Investing in a high-quality candidate during an internship or co-op and letting them walk away without an offer because of poor timing is a recipe for losing that candidate to your competition. When you identify a top candidate early in the recruiting process - either in the internship or ahead of that - you can align full-time job postings with the end of the internship so candidates know they have a role to come back to the next year. This is incredibly common in the accounting industry where summer experience programs are hiring interns and full-time roles sometimes 1-2 years in advance in an attempt to maintain top talent.

6. Show your commitment to your early talent hires

Entry-level employees, especially younger generations, are looking into their future employers deeper than ever before. With the amount of information available at our fingertips, a candidate can now do just as much research on an employer as the employer does on their candidates. Websites like LinkedIn, Handshake, and Glassdoor offer a look into the company culture and beyond. Connections or peers at a company also offer a deeper perspective on the company for those who want the full picture. Your current employees, past candidates, and former interns all have a story to share about your brand.

All new employees, especially minority students or those without four-year degrees, need to see that an organization is investing in workers like them. Having proof of your company’s investment in talent can bolster confidence and connection for your employees. This can actualize in several ways. Having senior leaders who share experiences or a similar background as your hires can speak to the company culture. Of course, this means your organizational leadership should be diverse and match the diversity of your incoming talent.

Hiring a sizeable cohort also reinforces to the company at large that your new hiring approach is integral, not superfluous. One or two “token” hires to test the waters on a new approach are likely to languish if they don’t seamlessly fit into an organizational culture where their value is recognized. A robust cohort can precipitate changes to the entire company culture itself. Deep planning to align specific areas in your organization ensures this hiring class can make meaningful changes in your organization. If you’re considering hiring a cohort of diverse candidates, do your organization, and the candidates a favor by budgeting and planning for a minimum of 5-25 hires depending on the size of your organization.

7. Include “soft skills” in your consideration

Soft skills are just as important as technical skills when it comes to building your skills-first hiring approach. In fact, we do our best to refer to traditional “soft skills” as “foundational skills” becuase of how impactful these skills really are. Communication, teamwork work ethic, and general problem-solving skills make up 3 of the top 6 most in-demand skills (all soft skills) according to the National Associate of College and Employers 2023 survey of in-demand skills as ranked by employers.

data of attributes employers seek on candidate's resume

In fact, a majority of employers cite a fundamental soft skill gap in their early talent hires coming from higher ed institutions. This leads to unnecessary training time on skills not directly connected to producing value-driving work for the organization. With so much emphasis on these skills as needed in the job, it’s a surprise that foundational skills typically show up lower on job descriptions below degree needs or technical skill needs.

Ultimately, a skills-first approach will yield the greatest benefit if organizations extend it beyond hiring and make it core to how they think about cultivating and retaining talent. Finding the right candidate to match your company culture and identifying the right soft skills that build career agility, means candidates can change jobs once inside the organization. This avoids time spent recruiting and retraining a new employee.


The best way to truly know if the right match exists between candidate and employee is to test drive the relationship. Candidates can reduce the 61% reported mismatch between the outward company view and the internal experience by offering low-risk onramps to bring in new, more diverse populations than they’ve traditionally accessed. Those candidates who don’t have the credentials or the network to leverage into full-time jobs can be just as effective in their role if given the chance.

Maintaining a skills-based approach for your open roles - including soft skills - can mean your company hires the right person regardless of their background. Having a sustainable cohort-based approach means hires join with a group of peers. This boosts employee engagement, retention, and can change the culture of your organization from the ground up. This isn’t an easy fix. It requires planning, time, and commitment from everyone across your organization. If you’re looking for a partner, consider chatting with our team at Internship on Demand.

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