Transitioning from study to employment can be extremely difficult for many young workers, especially during times dominated by financial crises. A large percentage of companies try to transition out of these difficult times by increasing production and sales without adding new employees. This method creates higher margins, because although production increases, fixed costs—among other things—remain constant. Considering the needs of both sides, I came to realize that internships are a great compromise. If organized well, these few months of work give employers the possibility to test a person’s potential and are also a business world gateway for a student fresh from graduation.
Job interviews are over-rated and often aren’t enough to get a good understanding of the person sitting in front of you. Internships, on the other hand, require a person to get involved in the work environment. Very often, we hear of new methods for interviewers to escape from asking the standard questions that everybody already rehearses. Although these new methods bring out qualities of the candidate that would otherwise remain unknown, they often highlight personal qualities and not the ability to perform a job. Internships, on the contrary, require a person to actively cooperate with the rest of the office to drive results. In this amount of time, anybody will reveal not only personal qualities but also the ability (or inability) to perform the job and fit into the working environment.
You should consider internships as a transitioning time during which people settle into the new mindset required of any job. Many new employees fresh out of school don’t know all the general rules of a working environment. They have a deep theoretical knowledge of their job title but lack knowledge of their job’s requirements. This means that when they are asked to perform an action that any other employee might be familiar with, they might be at a loss or perform below average. In many cases, they also lack the responsiveness or reactiveness that is appreciated when handling a job. Experience, in all instances, makes a person richer, but it takes time. Internships are a limited period—usually no longer than six months—but that is already a big difference time-wise if compared to the average probationary period. In this longer amount of time, there will be more occasions in which the candidate will show you how he or she can improve and learn from practical situations. His/her potential will emerge, and you will be able to give a fair evaluation of the candidate.
Ideally, this will produce positive results if the company structures the internship well by creating the right environment. During the six months, the candidate should learn how to perform the job within the company. Therefore, it is fundamental that prior to his or her arrival, the company organizes not only the working space but also the jobs to be assigned and the person to oversee him/her. The initial extra hours to organize the work will pay off in the six months of virtually free working hours from the intern; it is a small investment compared to what you could potentially acquire in terms of talent and help. Rather than taking advantage of the intern just for copies and coffee cups, look for a real talent. By actually putting a prospect on the job, you will understand if you really need another person in the office, if he or she is what you where looking for, and if this can make a positive difference within your company. If things were to turn bad, you still would have received help, and the intern would have work experience to add to his or her resume. If you think about it, it could be a win-win situation.
Hiring new people and ensuring that they are the right fit for both your work environment and work objectives can be a little tricky. Hiring new people with little or no experience at all is even riskier, and many companies refuse to hire unless the candidate is already familiar with the job. Internships might not solve all of your human resources problems, but they will surely facilitate some aspects of it. So I encourage you to take advantage of this formula and use internships to welcome newcomers. Remember never to judge a book by its cover, because after you open it, you could be surprised by what you find inside.
written by Noemi Clark-Piva, CEO @ Athena Parthenos srl