August 1999

The New Interns


According to Bob Filipczak’s “The New Interns” (Training, April 1999), the roles and importance of interns in contemporary organizations are quickly changing. The shortage of prospective employees in our field has heightened our need for developing strong internship programs within our own organizations. Some managers wrongly view interns as a quick fix to their labor shortages, but the greatest benefit to hiring interns is that former interns typically make up one-third of all new employees hired directly from college.

Filipczak refers to the process of hiring and training interns as the “try-before-you-buy” technique. Try-before-you-buy is beneficial to both parties; the interns will discover if they like a company or profession before being hired as a full time employee, thus saving the company significant amounts of money otherwise invested in the training of new graduates only to discover that they are not a good fit for one another. Hiring a former intern instead of recruiting recent graduates can save a company as much as 50 percent for each new hire in the first year.

Tips to getting the most from your interns include:

  • assign them to work with managers with good people skills rather than trying to find them the best projects
  • add structure to the learning process by arranging weekly critique sessions with their mentor
  • have the mentor and intern develop a learning plan together very early in the internship
  • let students intern early during their college years so that they have more opportunities to intern with you again and develop a stronger relationship with your organization