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Walking the Walk: Hiring Our Intern

Taylor Davis

Well, we did it! After months of creating materials and resources to provide to business owners to support internship creation as a creative talent pipeline, we took the plunge and created our own opportunity.

We Hired an Intern!

To get started, meet Jasmine Amo. Jasmine is a senior BBA Finance major at Midwestern State University and will be graduating in December 2020. She has joined our team as our Economic Development Intern and has hit the ground running. During her time with us, she’ll be assisting our Talent Partnership efforts by working on projects like mentor matching for the Circuit, researching information for our upcoming relocation guide, analyzing workforce and post-covid recovery trend data and so much more.

When asked “why this internship,” she stated, “I chose to apply for this internship because I take an interest in city systems and forums. I was a novice to the knowledge, expertise, and depth that is required for businesses located within the city of Wichita Falls to prosper, and am incredibly fortunate, to say the least, to have been chosen to enhance my understanding of such programs alongside this amazing team. I hope to one day apply the skills and processes I have gleaned from the experts I shadow and work alongside every day, to future programs and endeavors I embark on.”

As you can see, we have the right person on our team! Now that we’re seeing the fruits of our process, we can accurately reflect on our pathway of getting there and how our “actual” compared to the recommendations in our Internship Employer Guide.

 

Developing an Internship

Step 1: Evaluate Internal Fit

The conversation around implementing an internship program started with an honest look at workload. Is there enough to go around? The answer was simple, a resounding YES!

From there, it’s determining internal fit. As in, do we have, or can we develop the infrastructure to support an intern? This includes office space, parking, technology, leadership, and compensation. Luckily, this was another YES for us.

It was determined that our intern would focus on supporting projects under the Talent Partnership umbrella. We discussed office space and technology requirements. We determined what a suitable pay range would be for an intern with the caliber of skills we were looking for using the formula provided on page eight in the guide We established a baseline for what an internship program could look like.

 

Step 2: Outline Internship Opportunity

Here we move from the theoretical to the actual and the hard work begins.

Knowing that our intern would be working on Talent Partnership projects, we were able to determine what hard and soft skills, level of education, and duration of internship we needed to be successful and see a return on investment. We landed on a traditional, short-term internship with a 2- or 4-year degree requirement.

Now we know our target.

 

Step 3: Creating and Advertising the Internship

Did you know there is a secret formula for writing a job description? When done correctly, it results in more quality applicants applying for the role.

First step, we have to write the job description for the internship. The first part is easy, what should it be called? Even then, we changed the name a few times before landing on Economic Development Intern.

Now, what will they be doing? Needing to provide a general description of the nature of the role and the qualities we’re looking for. We began thinking about our Talent Partnership projects and how an intern may be able to get plugged in. Add in descriptive language about skills, attitude and voila!

Next, describe your organization. Don’t know where to start? Copy and paste your “about us” section on your website. That was our jumping off point. You can also include information about mission/vision, company culture or working conditions. Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V, done.

The next section restates the second in bullet point form and uses more technical language. We began jotting down projects to be completed and worked backward to determine what steps we’d take and software we’d use to get through those projects. Googling sample job descriptions may have played an important role, too. Of course, you can’t forget, “All other reasonable tasks as assigned.” It’s the cherry on top.

Now onto qualifications. Knowing that we’re looking for a college student or recent graduate, as well as what projects they will be working on made things easier. We included education level, ideal experiences, some information about requested personal skills and the desire for a current or recent graduate.

The last few parts are standard for an internship description. What’s the duration, compensation, and application deadline? How does an interested person apply? The whole nine. Pro tip: include all information previously mentioned, even if you have to be vague. Not including some of these details can result in a lower number of qualified candidates in your pool.

Finish it out and an equal opportunity statement and you’re done! Now to get to posting. If you’re looking for a student, post to local colleges and universities. If you’re looking to cast a wide net, post to state-wide or even nation-wide sites. Don’t forget your local resources (*cough* the Chamber *cough*). The world is your oyster. For our opportunity, we posted to the Wichita Falls Chamber job board, Texas Internship Challenge, Vernon College’s platform CareerCoach and Midwestern State University’s platform MustangsHire by Handshake.

 

Step 4: Interview and Hire an Intern

Outside of making an offer, the interview process is one of the most exciting for me! Something I frequently say is that your resume gets your through the door, but your personality gets you the job. I love to see people come to life during an interview. Get you an intern that is passionate about what you’re doing. Trust me, it’s easy to distinguish in the interview process.

To set up interviews, I prefer calling the number on their resume to set up a date and time; It’s a great first introduction to your candidate and can tell you a lot about them. If  For candidates that we were not interested in immediately pursuing in first-round interviews, we would thank them via email for their interest and let them know that we would be in touch if we wanted to bring them in for an interview. This is a good way to keep your options open if you need to open another round of interviews.

In preparation for our interviews, I went through the sample interview questions providing in the guide and highlighted which I thought were the most applicable. I spaced them out in a word document and made clean copies for each interview to be sure we were asking uniform questions during each interview.

After our interviews, it was time to extend an offer to our favorite candidate. Welcome, Jasmine! This may be obvious, but I find its best practice to hold off on sending rejections until after you have an accepted offer.

 

Step 5: Onboard and Train the Intern

Prior to hiring our intern, we created our intern employee handbook, which is a modified version of our standard employee handbook. Our intern employee handbook features one key difference, though: an onboarding checklist. This checklist has made the onboarding process much easier because it ensures that you’re not forgetting to share any critical information that an intern needs to know. Her first day also consisted of staff introductions, tour of the facility and setting up her workspace.

For the Chamber, we also schedule 30-minute meetings within the first week for each new hire to sit with each employee to receive an overview of their role in our office. This is a great way to help our new hires understand the vast projects and programs that exist at our organization.

The last key piece for on onboarding process is time. For Jasmine, I had her shadow my meetings, projects, software and encouraged an open dialogue for two to three weeks until she had a clear understanding of my role and how she’ll be incorporated into it.

After this background was established, Jasmine was ready to tackle her own projects (and has exceeded expectations).

 

Step 6: Monitor, Evaluate and Provide Feedback

Nothing here to report back just yet. Jasmine’s mid-internship evaluation is scheduled, and we will be using the evaluation form developed for our internal intern employee handbook.

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So how did our intern employer guide stand up to actual program creation? Pretty well, but I may be biased! Steps 1 through 3, for us, happened simultaneously. The longest process was Step 5, but realistically everything can take as long or as short as you need.

Hiring our intern has sparked some ideas for updates to our internship employer guide, so stay tuned for some updates, like a sample evaluation form and timeline for implementation.

More progress is to come! Thanks for coming on this journey with us. Now it’s your turn to hire an intern. Ready to get started? Refer to our free Employer Guide to take your step-by-step through the development process. Have questions? Email Taylor Davis, the Wichita Falls Talent Partnership Director, at Taylor@WichitaFallsChamber.com.

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What are the different types of interns?

  • High School Students
  • Undergraduate Students
  • Graduate Students
  • Returning Workforce
  • Active Duty, Veterans, Military Spouses

What are the different types of internships?

  • Internship
  • Co-Op
  • Returnship
  • Externship
  • Fellowship
  • Apprenticeship

Why should I hire an intern?

  • Flexibility
  • Leadership and professional development opportunities for employees
  • Increase employee retention
  • New ideas and perspectives
  • Connection to educators and community
  • Save money when compared to hiring a part-time or full-time employee

What considerations should I make before establishing an internship?

  • Will the intern be governed by an institution, such as Midwestern State University or Vernon College?
  • Should your program be registered with the U.S. Department of Labor?
  • What is the scope of work that the intern will be completing?
  • Does your industry or organization require skills not typically provided in a classroom setting?
  • Do you have difficulty recruiting and retaining quality employees?
  • Can your organization or employees benefit from the help of an intern?

Who should lead my internship program?

A well-rounded team of internal and community stakeholders.

 

Read How To: Create Goals and Policies for an Internship Program

Read How-To: Choose Leadership During Internship Program Development

Read Do You Need to Pay Your Intern?

Read Internship Considerations

Read Types of Interns Part 1

Read Types of Interns Part 2

Read Reasons to Hire an Intern

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