HR should be more innovative when it comes to recruiting interns

With companies coming under increasing pressure to make the correct hiring decisions and recruit the best candidates for any available role, HR heads have to be at the very top of their game.

Outsourcing has always been available of course, but has rarely offered a professional way of providing companies with interns. All too often, the recruitment of interns has, for many businesses, been a rushed decision, often for the person who bangs on their door the loudest, or who has the right contact. But when got right, interns can be a valuable help to many companies while giving graduates the opportunity to receive training, prove themselves and carve out a role that did not previously exist.

Compounding this, for many companies, hiring an inexperienced graduate is perceived to be too great a risk, particularly in a job market where there is no shortage of prospective employees with a year or two of work under their belt.

Introducing an initial internship period, where the company is able, both to train up the graduate, and observe them in the workplace, mitigates the risk associated with inexperience. When combined with a new and full recruitment solution, which takes into account the specific requirements of graduate hires, internships are proving to be a logical stepping stone between study and work for both employee and employer.

I spotted this gap in the intern market when previously working in a traditional recruitment agency. It was obvious that there was the need for a similar merit based system that looked at interns as any other job role would be considered, i.e. not who had the best ‘in’ or who bid for a placement at auction, and not because staff made a quick decision in order to clear the CVs off their desks. Companies and recruitment agencies alike should be focused on getting the best graduates into the most suitable roles, not just getting any ‘adequate’ candidate into a role in order to clear their desks. This situation is starting to improve given the emergence of dedicated agencies such as Inspiring Interns, but it is a relatively new business model and one which is still not used by the majority of firms looking to hire interns.

When companies do make the effort to hire the right intern, they often end up benefitting from it. Often these graduates become indispensable to the company carving out a role for themselves which did not previously exist and ensuring they are retained as a permanent recruit. It is a win-win situation for both the company, who now has a trained and knowledgeable employee, and the graduate, who has secured their elusive first job.

So how do companies find the right intern? I am a firm believer that recruiting graduates, particularly into internships, requires greater focus on personality and attitude than usually required for candidates with more professional experience. To that end, companies should be relying less on written CVs and focusing more on either meeting candidates or requesting video CVs and applications. Recruitment agencies generally have been slow to utilise technology and still rely all too often on online forms and wordy CVs. This doesn’t measure personality or how a candidate will fit in to a company culture, and it also tends to put far too much focus on academia.

The benefits of these personality-focused, innovative methods have been far reaching. For recruiters involved in the graduate market, the advent of this new technology has allowed the long overdue shake-up of the very tired ‘milkround’ system. Smaller firms that were once unable to match the marketing firepower of the blue chips can now access university students and graduates with relative ease and with minimal risk, ensuring that the estimated 96% of university leavers who do not go onto major graduate schemes are far more aware of their options.

There have been many premature pronouncements of ‘death of recruitment’ as the digital, joined-up world we now live in allows people to find and contact individuals more easily. Not only does this belittle the skills of recruiters and resourcers in matching skill-sets and personalities with organisations but also ignores the fact that the best agencies are adapting and evolving to ensure their service remains relevant in the age of web 2.0. Recruiters who utilise this new technology, for example to conduct highly-targeted searches or by providing video CVs of their candidates, will remain relevant to companies looking for new staff.

In today’s climate, more recruitment firms should be looking for novel ways to edge ahead of the competition and find innovative solutions for clients. Using these methods to find interns pays dividends.

By : Ben Rosen

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