Timetable for Recruiting Interns

Throughout an organization’s recruiting lifecycle, it’s likely that recruiters will have a variety of hiring needs, from short-term temporary roles to full-time permanent opportunities. These short-term roles could be for just a few months to help on a special project or during an organization’s busy season.

Internships are a great program to consider for these types of short-term opportunities. In fact, hiring students into internship positions has grown in popularity over the years. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 65% of bachelor’s degree candidates took part in an internship or cooperative education assignment in 2015 – the highest level since they started documenting participation in 2007. With about 7 million degrees projected to be conferred for 2016/2017, the rate of internship participation is likely going to be higher than ever.

What Does This Mean for Recruiters?

There is a vast applicant pool available to capitalize on to fill internship positions throughout your organization. Although it may seem easy to hire with so many available students in the labor market, the competition for top talent is fierce, so companies are wise to plan well in advance to fill their intern positions.

How to Get Started With Your Internship Recruitment

Many medium-to-large companies have an intern coordinator or an entire department to manage their programs, while smaller companies may assign a single employee to support intern recruitment on an as-needed basis. Regardless of who is responsible for managing your internship program, all need to prepare well in advance of program offerings.

Intern Preparation Steps:

  • Identify intern needs: Determine which departments require extra assistance and how busy they will be. This will help with determining the final number of interns to hire for.
  • Determine internship type: Do you want to offer a paid, unpaid, or a course credit internship? Be careful here, because if you want to offer an unpaid internship, there are special criteria that need to be met from a legal perspective.
  • Create intern job descriptions: Take the time to write compelling job descriptions that will capture students’ interest.
  • Assign internal roles: Identify and train supervisors and evaluators who will be responsible for interns.
  • Decide on pay and benefits for interns: Determine whether you will offer compensation and/or benefits and perks to interns.
  • Identify target schools: Select the campuses you will recruit from for your intern program. Work with the career centers on campus to ensure you follow proper protocols and timelines for intern recruitment.
  • Post intern roles: Submit intern postings to the target schools of your choice, and also post on your website. Make sure you are clear regarding application deadlines and what students need to include, such as transcripts, cover letters and resumes.

Be Aware of Summer Intern Recruitment Timelines

Summer internships generally begin in June and end in August, but recruitment can start as early as the beginning of the school year. Organizations know that in order to secure the best and brightest students, they need to act fast. Missing the early recruitment cycles on campus may result in missing out on exceptional students who have already been hired by another company. Check with the colleges from which you hope to recruit for their specific guidelines and exceptions. Most companies post their summer internship opportunities in late fall or winter – some as early as October – and keep the application process open for at least 30 days. Typically, summer positions are filled by May for a June start. To make the intern job posting process quick and painless, consider utilizing a recruitment tool such as Symplicity Recruit that will enable recruiters to post a position to all target schools in one simple step.

Plan to notify students, either through career coordinators or your website, when you will begin to accept applications and when your posting closes. If you’re working with a school that allows intern applications to open in October, you won’t want to be the last employer who participates. Have your website ready and communications in place up to a month before the opening date to allow the school to share as much information with as many students as possible.

Consider an Internship Credit Program

For credit-earning interns who gain a course credit through work experience in lieu of classroom time, recruitment begins long before the first day of class. You may need to plan well in advance to take part in these programs. Depending on the requirements a school places on employers, it can take months before you can be considered for this type of program.

To begin, contact the campus career development office at the school you are looking to recruit from to determine if they offer internships for credit during the term. If they do, they will advise what information they need from you to authorize your company for accreditation purposes. They can also outline a timeframe for posting openings, as well as when to expect placement. As with other internships, be sure to prepare and consider the following:

  • A job description of the work being performed.
  • A work schedule of the days/hours the student will be required to work.
  • Assign an appropriate supervisor to communicate with on an ongoing basis and perform evaluations.
  • Be flexible in working around exam schedules and other course requirements.

Recruit Interns Using an Open Applications Process

In 2016, the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that over 52% of employers sourced interns from an open application process. An open application process involves keeping a posting up year-round on your career site for an intern role that you are likely to regularly hire for. This way, applicants can review the ad and apply at any time. When recruiters are ready to hire, they can simply source from the batch of applications that have come in for the open application throughout the year.

Some roles may have special requirements; for example, design students may be asked to provide a portfolio of their work. Make sure to ask for these special requirements to help assess applicants. Employers may also ask for recommendation letters from professors in the appropriate field of study. Post opening and closing dates for application acceptance so students won’t send them before you’re ready or continue sending them after you’ve made a hiring decision. You can also work with career development offices to notify students when the process has opened and warn when it will close.

Host and Attend Campus Recruitment Events to Attract Interns

Depending on your needs, you may want to generate excitement and buzz about your internship program by attending campus recruitment events. Examples of these events include career fairs, meet and greets with management, or sessions with recent intern-to-employee conversions. Check for availability to recruit interns on campus with any schools of interest, and look into what other types of events these schools allow or have done in the past. Consider making classroom presentations or sponsoring and attending a campus-wide event. For business students, you could host a case competition. For developers, you could host a hackathon. Be sure to partner with career services on campus to coordinate all of your events to ensure you follow appropriate protocols and timelines.

Know Your Internship Interview Timelines 

Intern recruitment can start anywhere from 6 months to one year before an intern actually starts working for your organization. Be sure to stay informed about the timelines you are working with at each campus you recruit from. When it comes to the interview process, there may be multiple rounds, with first and second round interviews spaced a week apart.

Many schools even suggest guidelines for when offers can be made following the interview process, some as early as a week after. Plan to allow a minimum of 5 business days for students to respond to a verbal or written offer.

How to Convert Interns Into Entry-Level Employees

While many companies hire entry-level candidates with relevant education, a newcomer to the field with any experience is a plus. Internships provide employers the ability to see how a new hire will perform the work, how they’ll fit in with the team, and what non-academic qualities, such as enthusiasm and work ethic, they bring to the mix. Taking the time to assess candidates for full-time employment suitability through internship positions has been proven to pay off for employers. Using this strategy of hiring full-time employees from an intern pool, as opposed to starting from scratch, can save employers $15,000 per person in hiring costs.

Creating an intern program plan is an investment in time and resources, but the payoff can be great. With a bit of pre-planning and a commitment to providing real-life work opportunities for candidates, employers can reap the benefits of pre-screening potential full-time hires, while students gain valuable hands-on experience they can add to their resumes. Internship programs are a win-win solution for all parties involved.


Business Insider. (2011). 13 Depressing Facts About Internships In America. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/intern-nation-2011-7?op=1/#out-75-of-students-at-4-year-schools-undertake-at-least-one-internship-this-percentage-has-doubled-since-the-early-1980s-1

Crain, A. (2016, November 1). Exploring the Implications of Unpaid Internships. Retrieved from https://www.naceweb.org/job-market/internships/exploring-the-implications-of-unpaid-internships/

NACE Staff. (2016, October 26). Sourcing Interns: Open Applications, Career Center Contacts. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org/talent-acquisition/internships/sourcing-interns-open-applications-career-center-contacts/

National Center For Education Statistics. (2017). Degrees conferred by degree-granting institutions, by level of degree and sex of student: Selected years, 1869-70 through 2016-17. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_258.asp

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