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The End Of An Internship Is Not The End — Engage To Convert

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

Are you struggling to retain your interns after their program is up? You’re not alone. On average, US businesses convert only 56% of their interns to full-time following their internship program. When you include the costs to recruit, train, pay, and manage an intern, this low conversion rate equates to $12 billion (with a b!) walking out the door at the end of the summer.

Companies that keep up engagement with their interns after the program ends are surprisingly few and far between.

Imagine being an intern at an awesome company one summer. You leave that summer feeling energized, excited to have the opportunity to go back for a full time role in the next year or two. However, the fall career fair arrives, recruiters are swarming, and all these potentially amazing opportunities are waiting at your front doorstep. It could be so easy to reach out and grab one of these…

Make sure you stay on top of the intern-to-employee hiring cycle! The journey to a committed full time employee may start with the internship, but it’s going to continue by keeping in touch with your interns to make sure you don’t lose them to another fancier job offer.

What Do You Need To Know Before An Intern Leaves?

If your company is not yet in a position to make a full time offer to the intern but would like to in the future, make sure that is known by the time offboarding comes around. When your intern is performing their exit survey, you should make sure these questions are included:

  • How would you describe the company culture? As an intern is going to be on the younger side of your organization’s people, they may have some alternate views or understandings of what your culture is like. It’s important to keep an open ear to your interns because they’ll be kinds of people who comprise your early talent pipeline.

What were you looking for in an internship? How did that compare to what you received? This will not only help improve the quality of your internship, but you can tailor messaging to this intern in the future to accommodate more of the needs that they were looking for.

  • What are the best ways to keep in contact with you? Start off on the right foot and make sure whatever channel of communication you have with your interns will have the least friction possible.

  • What are the next steps you’d like to take for your career? Try to dig for honest answers here. Making sure that they actually want to come back will help you refine your efforts, preventing you from wasting time on less interested students.

Last but not least, make sure you understand who your top tier of interns are, matching both their interest in returning and their quality performance during the summer. You’ll want to keep them at top of mind as you develop your engagement and retention strategy.

What should you do to keep in touch with your interns?


Adding all interns that have gone through your program to a newsletter is a great way to maintain a level of engagement at scale. Including new job openings, community involvement, and career wins submitted by other interns can be a great way to showcase the people-centric nature of your organization. Keeping the newsletter quarterly or biannually can help strike a balance between staying top of mind for interns while getting the most value out of the work it takes to construct the newsletters.

Swag Boxes

Keeping mementos of your company in the lives of potential employees is a strong way to maintain and grow brand loyalty with potential new hires. In sales prospecting, swag can net a 26% increase in response rate and 2.42x increase in opportunity value. To keep your best interns thinking about and repping your brand, sending them a care package of company merchandise or other goodies will show that you are thinking of them. Especially right before a career fair while they are contemplating their career options,

Alumni Networking Group

Another easy way to include all former interns is through an alumni networking group you could host on Slack or on LinkedIn. In 2021, “boomerang employees,” employees who return after leaving a company, accounted for 4.5% of all new hires. With full-fledged employees, they can provide significant value by coming back to your company, bringing back with them outside experience and their newfound network. Combining your employee alumni with former interns can lead to a deep bench of possible connections, mentorship relationships, and open discussion to help the people related to your organization get where they want to be.

Invite Them To The Career Fair Booth

If they’ve had a stellar experience during their internship, your former intern could be a perfect candidate for being a living testimonial. The next time you’re out on a career fair circuit, it might be fun to invite a former intern to your booth when you visit their university. It provides an opportunity to catch up in real life, gives your former intern a piece of ownership, and helps to buy-in potentially great new interns by implementing peer to peer recruiting strategies.

A Personalized Note

Sometimes, simple is best. Checking in with the interns you know you want to come back to work for you can be a powerful way to continue the interpersonal relationship. One of the leading reasons employees leave is because of a bad manager. Starting early is an excellent way to develop a strong relationship that leas to high retention and satisfaction throughout the working relationship. Something as easy as a 15 minute call to catch up can suffice, and can go a long way in showing the care that your company has for its people.


Struggling to hang on to early talent, despite your best efforts? Check out the benefits of pre-internships, which will recharge your early talent pipeline with pre-vetted, upskilled, bought-in candidates. Visit Internship on Demand to learn more!

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