How employers can keep in touch with interns long after they’re gone

Bringing back high-performing interns may cut out unnecessary recruitment work, one consultant says.
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· 4 min read

Summer internship programs may be wrapping up, but that doesn’t mean HR is off the hook.

Interns are an important talent pool: 94% of US-based employers surveyed in April by staffing company Express Employment Professionals said they plan to offer summer 2022 interns either full- or part-time work.

Like any employee, interns want to know that they’re valued members of the team—even if they’re heading back to school in the fall. For those employers whose summer interns still have a year (or two) until graduation, the challenge becomes maintaining the positive employee experience so that they will want to come back.

What an intern wants. Most recruiters don’t keep in touch with former interns, Adam Robinson, cofounder and CEO of recruitment company Hireology, told HR Brew. He believes employers who let this talent pool fall by the wayside are likely missing out on job candidates who might be a good fit for their company. “Most companies aren’t thinking about that as a medium-to-long-term talent acquisition strategy. They’re just trying to fill what’s open today.”

Staying in touch isn’t just a good talent-acquisition strategy—it’s what makes interns feel valued. Ishita Jamar, a senior at American University who just completed a summer internship with PR firm Edelman, said she’s starting to think about her post-grad job prospects. Managers from her previous three internships, she said, have not kept in touch. “I have had one or two times where someone from a prior internship had asked me if I wanted to come back for another internship opportunity or if I wanted to join them at a different firm, but other than that, I’ve kind of been like, ‘It’s all on me.’”

Jamar said post-internship outreach (or lack thereof) has shaped the way she views the companies she’s interned for. “If I post on LinkedIn, [former colleagues] make sure to congratulate me on an opportunity,” she told HR Brew, “which is something that does mean a lot to me.” While Jamar doesn’t expect employers to reach out, she explained that these seemingly small gestures on LinkedIn and even Instagram make her feel supported.

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During her last week at Edelman, Jamar said, the firm’s HR team hosted a final webinar, encouraging interns to connect with soon-to-be-former colleagues and teaching them how to appropriately network. This offboarding process, she said, was a big differentiator.

Think like a marketer. Robinson said that the job of a recruiter is more like a “sales and marketing function,” rather than an administrative function, and to act that way with former interns. For example, he suggested that recruiters ask themselves how to “build a community with interns that have worked for us so that we have first shot at hiring them when they graduate or are looking for full-time employment.”

He said this comes down to intentional communication; let interns know they’re welcome back and try to stay top of their mind once they’re gone. He recommended recruiters keep a database of former interns’ names, contact information, and graduation dates, and regularly share targeted content (like newsletters) to stay on their radar.

Every email should have a specific call to action, such as a simple way to get in touch with talent acquisition or a one-click-apply button for relevant jobs. He said that reaching out to former interns, even a few times a year, will put an organization at a hiring advantage because most companies don’t adequately keep in touch with former employees.

Tyler Woei-A-Sack, a senior network design engineer at Verizon who manages interns every summer, told HR Brew that Verizon’s HR team encourages individual managers to stay in contact with promising employees. “I think it’s more on the manager [to say], ‘if you ever need to reach out, please call or text.’” Since Verizon’s internship program is open to high school students, maintaining prolonged relationships, he said, is important to ensuring they return as college students and grads.

Think of interns as professional pen pals.—KP

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @Kris10Parisi on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Kristen for her number on Signal.

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