Internship Programs: One of the Best Ways to Recruit and Develop New Talent

Greater Mankato Growth is partnering with our member businesses and education partners to highlight the internship economy in Greater Mankato. This blog will feature stories from area interns and advice on how to create a great internship experience.

If you would like to feature an intern and their experience, or if you have advice to share with our members, please reach out to Ryan Vesey.

Blog written by Samantha Campa of Minnesota State University, Mankato, a Greater Mankato Growth Diamond Investor.


I talk to employers almost every day for my job as the Internships & External Partnerships Coordinator in the College of Business at Minnesota State University, Mankato. They contact me, eager to tap into the talent pool at the University to fill their staffing needs. With the current labor market in the greater Mankato region, finding new ways to build a talent pipeline is top of mind.

Internship programs provide one of the best ways to recruit and develop new talent. Hiring an intern is a low-cost, low-risk way to test out a new employee before adding them to the team permanently. It’s also your chance to show off your company culture and all that you have to offer. Ideally, your intern(s) will have a great experience in their internship and accept a full-time offer upon graduation.

According to National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) data “interns who were satisfied with their internship experience were 5.08 times more likely to accept an off¬er from their internship employer.”

But if internships aren’t done well, they can also deter students from accepting a full-time offer when they graduate. And students talk to each other, sharing both the good and the bad about their internships.

The older style of unpaid and menial internships just isn’t serving students or employers anymore. If converting interns to permanent, full-time employees is your goal, you need to deliver an internship experience that makes your intern want to stay. But how do you do that?

The following best practices are based on data from NACE and my experience working with students as they reflect on their internship experiences and contemplate their first post-college career steps.

Start with a Great Position Description
Write a clear and honest position description for the internship so interns know what to expect. Include a list of duties or describe the major project they’ll be tackling. Don’t forget key things like a competitive pay rate, start and end date, work location (in-person, hybrid, remote), and any perks. These things will entice more high-quality applicants, and more applicants means you can find the best fit.

Get Buy-In from the Team
One of the common complaints I hear from interns is that they felt they were shoved in a cubicle, and no one talked to them. These interns are anything but eager to keep working at that company. At a bare minimum, the person supervising the intern should be excited to have them on staff. Ideally, everyone the intern may interact with should buy into the concept of having an intern join the team. Take it one step further by encouraging company leaders/ executives to interact directly with interns – this is always a highlight for interns when it happens.

Onboard, Train, and Treat Like an Employee
Onboard your intern like you would an employee. Train on duties & technology, explain office culture, introduce to colleagues, & show them around your space. Provide all the tools needed to complete their work such as computer, software, a company email address, etc. Then make them feel welcome by inviting interns to meetings & other workplace activities throughout their internship.

Provide Meaningful Work
Most of my students already have work experience (retail, food service, childcare, farm chores, etc.); what they really want from an internship is work experience that is related to their future career goals. An internship that consists of filing, making copies, or getting coffee for the rest of the team is not one that makes interns want to stay. If those tasks are necessary, limit them to 20% or less of their time. The majority of their hours should be spent doing meaningful work that allows interns to build and practice skills needed for the full-time roles you hope they’ll eventually step into.

Be Available
Offer frequent check-ins so interns can ask questions and get timely feedback. Consider providing a mentor in addition to a supervisor to increase availability. Generation Z craves coaching and feedback. They are eager to do a good job, learn, and grow, but they might check out without regular access to their supervisor or a mentor.

End the Internship Well
Ask your interns to give a presentation on their work and experience at the end of their internship. This is great public-speaking practice, an opportunity to reflect on their experience, and a chance for you to gather suggestions for future improvements.Extend an offer for after graduation, another internship next summer, or part-time work while they’re in school. Even if you can’t make an offer now, keep in touch. Invite them to join you at career fairs on their campus, invite them to company activities, or simply call or email occasionally to check in. And make sure to send them off with company-branded swag to wear/use on campus (free marketing!).

When you follow these tips and deliver exceptional experiences for your interns, they want to join your team permanently, and they become compelling promoters of your company to classmates and faculty!

For more information or help connecting with business students at Minnesota State University, Mankato, contact Samantha Campa.

More information can be found here.