It’s Not Too Late to Hire Summer Interns. Here’s the Secret to Recruiting Top Intern Talent

hiring summer interns

Take a minute and think about this famous thought experiment: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Now, think about your company culture through this lens. Driven and collaborative team members line your executive ranks like Bernie Sanders bumper stickers on a Prius. People generally enjoy coming to work. They even smile sometimes, and not just during lunch. As impressive as this is–no one can hear your company tree fall. Your company culture is on-point, but your employer branding doesn’t even exist for job-seekers.

Generation Z expects company culture perks like workplace flexibility as much as they expect basic healthcare coverage. Job postings are a series of must-have bullet points–but they don’t connect your brand to your next generation of hires. Let’s take a look at why “it’s too late to hire good summer interns” is a recruiting myth, as well as what it takes to highlight your brand engagement.

hiring summer interns

When Are Students Looking for Summer Internships?

Finding that first job out of college can be nearly impossible. We found that an astounding 86 percent of college seniors don’t have a job lined up after graduation.

Alternatively, many recent graduates turn to paid summer internships instead of heading straight for salaried roles–a smart strategy for graduates craving more experience and exposure to different company cultures. May and June are the last sweet spots to hire students scrambling to line up more work experience after graduation. Student engagement with employer opportunities at AfterCollege drops by nearly 10 percent in the summer months. This same engagement hovers steadily through the month of June.

May and June Are Little-Known Pockets for Big Student Engagement

May and June uphold awful recruiting reputations, known as the procrastinator’s time zone for finding a job. Ironically, that’s also what keeps these months filled with such great pools of talent.

Huge companies with renown brand names tend to recruit in January and February, locking down their next fleet of summer interns early. This traditional tactic works for many large competitive companies. But for the majority of business owners out there, waiting can pay off. Students are bogged down with huge course loads, coming up for air from midterms right around April and May. For this reason, many students put off the internship search until spring. During spring months, students can visualize where they’ll be living, what their summer class schedule looks like, and whether they will be working another hourly job. Since many colleges on the quarter system don’t start until September 21st, May is a perfect window to secure a late June to late September internship.

Not to mention, starting an internship four months after your January date of hire could be stretching it. Hiring a student in May or June, and then beginning their internship anywhere from 2-6 weeks out, is no longer simply last-minute. It’s also logical. Your team still has time to interview candidates, finalize your internship program, and give your intern adequate notice of their start date.

hiring summer interns

Hiring Summer Interns and Building Your Brand Voice (At the Same Time)

Coincidentally, one of the best ways to build your employer brand is by strengthening your candidate experience. Interns are not only part of a generation that cares much more about internal branding than generations before–they are also frequently promoted into entry-level roles after excelling within their internships. That’s why it’s crucial your intern hiring process is in line with your core brand principles.

Employer branding starts at your hires. It sounds like a no-brainer, but as a rule of thumb, only hire nice people. A candidate may have an amazing background, but if they are not the easiest to get along with, pass on them. It’s not worth the ripple effect within your organization, especially at the intern level where growth, attitude, and potential are paramount to success.

Companies like Limeade have made the “no jerks” hiring strategy semi-famous over the past few years. The best way to uphold your company brand is to hire people that will be advocates for your internal culture, your product, and your mindset. One toxic individual can bring down an entire team. Imagine managing an intern every day for three months who lacks enthusiasm. Hire candidates based on mindset, and then on academic qualifications. We all know the phrase “work smarter, not harder.” What about “work happier?” That’s the difference between internal branding of the past and internal branding of the present. Mood is now an integral part of every office, and you need to start hiring with that ideal in mind.

Building Communities, Even With Little-to-No Marketing Budget

Strengthening your candidate experience is one of the top ways to build branded communities. Here’s a few reminders to get you started.

  1. Give potential hires face-time. Forget email for a second. Bonding with your talent pool and having rich conversations with students that make it to the second round of interviews is an investment. These students may come work for you in the future. More importantly, they are part of a small group getting first-hand experience with your internal brand. Make this experience a positive one. Students won’t care if you have 100k followers on Facebook but your team can’t give them a simple “yes” or “no” a week after they interview with you. They will avoid your company like the plague, and urge their peers to do the same.
  2. Brand the Careers page on your company website, as well as job posting websites. Companies’ online presence is so often about their product and consumer brand. Don’t forget to add a tinge of your company culture to highlight your internal brand across all hiring portals. Job boards are where candidates go to get their first impression of your company’s inner workings and to learn about your organization. Cutting corners here means you’ll attract candidates that cut corners, too.

The last piece of community-building is crafting a brand voice within previously existing online communities. Social media can range far and wide, involving huge paid social campaigns and day-to-day management. Or, in the absence of a social media manager, you can forget the hard numbers and simply use social media as a tool to build communities, and your brand. Even mild social engagement means those who google your company can land on a page that introduces them to your company tone, social dialogue, and updates. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn don’t need to take three hours of your time each day. Spend minimal time on these websites to ensure your brand voice exists somewhere other than your Careers page.

With 61 percent of college students participating in a paid internship during college, you have a fantastic shot at hiring interns any time of year. The college talent pool is ready to be engaged, it’s just waiting for your brand voice. If you haven’t hired your summer interns yet, don’t panic. Start recruiting now. There’s plenty of talent to go around, especially if you’re positioning your branding with your next generation of hires in mind.


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