Brought to you by Benivo and LDP Connect, the discussion below (divided into three parts—you can read parts one here and three here) is an exploration of learnings from this past year that can make your internship program an even better source for candidates for your full-time program.
Join guest panelists Rebecca Cuff (Investment Management Development Program Director, Vanguard) and Jeff Serpas (Sr. Director of Program Management, GE) as we talk about the intern pool, about what interns and managers expect from internships, and to what extent are those expectations are being met.
Tips to Improve Intern Conversion
Are there some things you can share on how you increase the odds of securing your top candidates from the intern pool? Is there anything in particular you might do to improve the chances of their accepting your offer? Potentially people that you may have identified very early on as being top candidates where you still got some time left the internship program to make an impact on their decision making process?
Jeff: We encourage our campus recruiting teams the folks who would have given them the offer on campus to stay engaged throughout the course of the summer. So most of our campus teams will at least have … virtual round tables with all of the current interns from their school.
And then upon completing a interviews, we make sure that those teams are also aware of who interviewed or who is getting an offer and we encourage them to reach out personally to those folks and encourage them to accept.
So we try to leverage our campus team. Since they’re not on campus and they have a little bit of downtime, we try to keep them engaged throughout the internship experience.
Rebecca: At Vanguard we take a very similar approach. It is a team approach, but I’m also paying attention during the summer to who that person’s building relationships with. If there’s a relationship that I can use to my advantage, say when it comes to the offer, and have that person to reach out and say ‘ Hey, we think you’re a great fit here. We’d love to see you here’ … I will leverage those personal relationships.
Rebecca, what percentage of your program comes out of your intern pool?
Rebecca: It varies by program. It can be as much as 90 percent.
Because our program is small, they become a tight group … So they pull each other along and bring up the people who were hired externally pretty quickly. From a business partner standpoint, there’s a certain level of comfort when you know the person and you know their caliber. But I don’t sense any disappointment from the people that we’ve hired externally.
Keeping Top Candidates ‘On The Hook’
One of the things that’s top of mind after intern offers have been made is how do we … make sure if they show up when their academic program is over. What sort of things do you do to engage with those interns as they finish up their degree program so that they’re as enthusiastic as they were back in the summer?
Rebecca: That’s another a team approach. You’ve invested a lot. But you don’t know if there is something else going on in their lives or somebody else is knocking on their door.
But generally, we hold on to people because they had a great experience. Beyond that, we have our employment marketing teams doing newsletters. We utilize buddies. And sometimes the program manager will nudge our internal team to make sure they’re connecting with them on a periodic basis. So some touch points might be formally scheduled; others are informal.
Going back to those great interns that you want to keep, there tends to be extra eyes on them. What’s the pulse? How is that person feeling?
Jeff: In the fall we’re probably handing out 800 or so offers to start with GE globally, and to Rebecca’s point, it’s really a global team approach.
There are teams and people who keep very close touch between offer and start and there are other folks who don’t. So last year we piloted a program with Benivo to help give everyone a common experience of feeling like GE cares about them even before they start. As Rebecca mentioned, they’re being courted by other companies and they’re still going to career fairs. So we want to do everything we can to make them not feel like GE has forgotten about them.
We saw a really good response from folks who were engaged in that process. They’re getting a monthly newsletter with content tailored to the business and the specific program that they’re joining. They’re getting a physical gift. And we’re offloading that to Benivo, so that I’m not worried about ‘did this particular hiring manager in this particular business in this particular country do XYZ.’ I know that it’s happening, and then anything that happens from that manager is above and beyond what the base foundation is.
So for us, it was more about standardizing at least a part of the experience so we know that everybody is receiving some love from GE.
How To Keep Candidates From ‘Ghosting’
Are there any red flags that you guys see in terms of trying to keep an accepted candidate warm while you’re waiting for graduation? Sometimes it’s just stuff happening behind the scenes and part of the problem is that you don’t see it. But any sort of indicators that you’ve learned over the years about people that are at risk of reneging?
Rebecca: Not responding to emails is the key indicator that something’s going on. That’s where I might leverage somebody who’s in the program who is there buddy and say, ‘Hey, reach out and find out what’s going on’ and so you can get an understanding of what’s happening, if we were using the wrong email address or if there’s truly some decision process happening with that person.
Jeff: I think thing Gen Z would call that ‘Ghosting.’
Rebecca: When they ghost you on LinkedIn, that’s a big indication!
No news is bad news in those particular cases. (laughter).
Do either of you offboard interns into non-program roles?
Jeff: Some businesses and some functions are looking for that more often. What we’ve done is tried to use the internship as a catch-all both for leadership programs as well as for direct hires. Because what we found is some folks don’t really know what a leadership program experience is, and so we use the internship to educate them not just on leadership program but on all opportunities that are available.
Hey, look, if you know what you already love to do and you aren’t super interested in the business and leadership side of things … But you want to stay technical or you want to really hone a craft, then maybe a direct hire position is a better fit.
So we have seen more interns hired into direct hire positions versus leadership programs. And that’s good for us.
Rebecca: We want former interns to be successful when they launch. And there’s going to be very high expectations at that point. So if we have someone in the Vanguard internship program and the conversation is ‘Look, this is not going to be a successful outcome for you. You can be strong and perform very well in another place.’
It’s kind of having that really honest in difficult conversation with them as you know they’re going through the program and you uncover that maybe this isn’t the best fit for them.
It’s obviously not an easy conversation … but the program itself has expectations from a performance standpoint.
Yeah, the expectations conversations that we’ve seen over the years have so much of an impact on the success of all of this stuff, on perception and everything.
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