Q&A with Rachel Croce, HR Generalist at Atrion Networking Corp.

Rachel Croce, HR Generalist at Atrion Networking Corp. offers her expertise on internships in this Q&A.

Q. What is the best reason you host interns at your organization?

As a Rhode Island based company, Atrion is passionate about giving back to the community.  One way we do this is by investing in our internship program, which takes Junior or Senior standing college students and brings them into our corporate environment, where we blend real-world learning experiences with classroom knowledge through hands-on application.  We believe that the mentorship, guidance, and professional challenges of our program help to develop strong candidates whether they enter the workforce or to become a permanent part of the Atrion team.  We are honored to take highly motivated intern students and provide them with some of their first corporate learning experiences.  It is an incredible feeling when we have an intern that has either accepted a full-time opportunity with us or another organization that can utilize their hard work and skill set.  Being a part of helping new professionals grow and progress in their careers is the best possible reason to host and mentor interns.  Hosting interns is a great tool to bolster the local economy and to help break down the barrier new graduates face as they are looking to break into full-time careers when they previously have had limited to no previous work experience in that particular field. 

Q. What is the most challenging part of structuring an internship program?

Beginning an internship program can truly be a daunting task for any organization, but there are some simple questions to ask yourself to set you and your future intern up for success:

  • Do you have a qualified intern supervisor available to take on a student?
  • What specific projects, tasks and responsibilities will this intern be handling?
  • What types of skills are necessary to successfully do this job?
  • How many hours a week does the intern supervisor have to mentor and guide the student?

 A lot of time and energy goes into the preliminary steps of building a new internship role at our organization. Supervisors are vetted by our People Services (HR) team to discover if an intern role would be a good fit for their department. We build job descriptions with the managers, devise structured project work and most importantly carve out significant time for the supervisors to mentor and guide interns within their position. Following that we begin the recruiting and interviewing process to select the best qualified students for our openings. Once a student is placed in an internship role the supervisor then works with them to uncover their goals and objectives for the internship experience and then works to tailor their time with us to accomplish them and expand their business knowledge. With the right fit, students tend to excel in our exciting, dynamic and challenging environment, where hard-working and driven individuals are given the opportunity to take on new responsibilities and achieve a great level of success in a short amount of time.

Q. Do you have a favorite intern? What about that person stuck out to you?

We’ve had too many incredible interns to list just one!  We’ve been very fortunate to host highly motivated and talented college students within our program. Considering we’ve had so many exceptional intern students at Atrion, instead of just mentioning one, we decided to list some of the underlying qualities that have made them successful:

  • Professional – in dress, demeanor, timeliness and in all forms of communication
  • High Initiative – being a go-getter, excelling at their current tasks and always looking for more ways to get involved
  • Risk Taker – someone who is willing to jump into any project, meeting or scenario
  • Going Above and Beyond – with projects, clients and co-workers, not simply crossing things off their list, but taking the time to complete the task to the best of their ability and giving 110%
  • Creativity – again, fulfilling a task to the best of their ability and putting their own personal spin on it… we’re always looking for a new and better way to do things!
  • Ultimate Client Experience – providing excellent customer service, internally and externally, no exceptions
  • Goal Oriented – having clear objectives and outcomes that you want to achieve and learn within your internship experience and executing on them during your time here.

 Q. What are 5 words you would use to best describe interns?

Eager, intelligent, creative, open-minded, talented

 Q. How do you use internships as a recruiting tool?

We believe that by mentoring and providing guidance for every intern in the workplace, both personally and professionally, that it will result in future Atrionites. There is no better way to find out if a candidate will be a great fit for a full-time opportunity, than by seeing their work ethic, talent and excitement for the organization than through an internship experience.  In the industry it’s often referred to as “try before you buy” approach and it doesn’t just work one-directionally. The interns have an opportunity to test drive our organization while getting to know our values, processes and people in a semester-long internship experience before considering full-time opportunities. We are growing and expanding rapidly so there are constantly new roles and challenges popping up for creative and resourceful business-minded individuals to tackle. Overall our internship program has been a consistent recruiting tool that has brought many talented individuals into our organization.

 

5 things employers should know about hiring interns

Hiring interns is a great way to diversify your workforce, get an influx of new ideas, and play a role in advancing the education of a hard-worker, but there are a few things every employer must know before they decide an internship program is the right choice. Let’s take a look at five of the most essential things to know.

1. Interns Are Not Free Labor

It’s not uncommon for companies to misunderstand the role of an intern, and to not realize that if you’re not paying an intern, then you are legally required to provide an educational experience for them. There are specific guidelines that must be followed. For example, an intern cannot take the place of a regular employee and must work under close supervision of the existing staff. The experience must benefit the intern, and it must be clear up front that they’re entitled to an educational experience – but no pay.

2. Interns Aren’t There Just to Get Your Coffee

Remember that interns are there to learn. Getting coffee and lunch for the office could certainly be a valuable learning experience, after all, many entry-level jobs they may get would require doing just that, but it shouldn’t be the entirety of their experience. They’re there to learn an array of valuable skills that could benefit them once they join the workforce full time.

3. Paid Interns Should Be Treated as Regular Employees in a Number of Ways

Some companies do provide payment to their interns. Remember that if you choose to do so, then your interns should have the benefits that come along with being paid employees. Look at the employee rights in your state to discover what rights a paid intern has.

4. Interns May Not Fit the Mold You Think

When many companies think of interns, they think of college students with little to no work experience. In reality, this isn’t always the case. Some interns are unemployed adults who are looking to gain experience in a new field, or women entering the workforce after staying at home with their children for many years. As you cast the net for interns, and think about how interns can fit into your business, don’t just think about the stereotypical college interns. You may find an intern with a wealth of professional experience who can add more than you imagined to your workplace.

5. Hiring Interns is a Great Way to Get a Unique Perspective

There are many advantages to working with interns, but one of the big ones is their unique perspective on your business. While the primary purpose of their internship is to learn about your industry and business, don’t be so focused on teaching that you forget you may have a thing or two to learn. For example, when a company’s been working on a particular project for a year or more, they may be so focused on the research and time they have already put into it that they forget to look at other perspectives. An intern may not have a ton of professional experience in your field, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a valuable resource that helps instill new energy and ideas into your company.

As you can see, there’s a lot to learn about hiring interns. The good news is that the information you need is available to you and once you begin the process you’ll likely find that the benefits far outweigh the learning curve. Start searching for your intern at www.bridge.jobs today by opening a free account. 

How to pick the right intern: best interview questions

If you have a position to fill that you feel would be best suited to an intern there are a few things you might want to consider before you start interviewing interns. An intern can be a major asset to your business and you in turn can be an asset to their future employment choices. 

Hiring the right person can be difficult. However, you can cut down the choices of hiring someone that is not the right fit for your business by conducting a successful interview. You may have a list of questions that you ask at every interview. Adding these intern specific interview questions may just help your business choose the right intern and save you valuable time when interviewing interns.

Q. Why do you think this internship fits in with what you are studying?

This can kill two birds with one stone. You can get a good idea of what exactly the intern is studying, and if they are enjoying what they are studying. You will also find out if the applicant put any research into your company and the position you are offering. On top of this, you will get a good grasp on how the applicant can express themselves and communicate ideas.

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Q. What knowledge do you have relating to our business’s industry?

If an intern can answer this question and relate it to information they have learned about the industry’s strengths, trends, and weaknesses, then they are a step ahead and are showing that they have a desire to really jump in and learn more.

Q. How have you worked to advance your skills outside of school?

This question is a good indicator at a person’s work ethic and personality. If the applicant has been content to just sit in class and not gain any “real world” experience, then they may not be a good fit for your company. Look for an applicant that can provide you with specific examples, including how they went about gaining the experience and what additional skills they now possess due to this experience.

Q. What are your future goals?

Asking this question will give you a good idea as to whether the candidate is serious in expanding their knowledge and gaining experience for their future pursuits. Finding an applicant whose goals mesh with the experience you can give them will help both your business and the candidates future success.

Q. What kind of personalities do you get along best with?

Judging a future candidates interpersonal skills is just as important as knowing they are motivated to work hard.  You need a person that is going to either fit seamlessly in with your current staff, or improve the morale in the office. If a candidate can give you an honest answer you will have a good idea of who they will work well with and who you may want to avoid pairing them with.

 

It is important to keep in mind when you are interviewing interns what your main purpose for hiring an intern is. If you are looking for someone that will make a contribution to your company and could possibly become a potential full-time employee in the future, then asking the right questions can help your business hire an intern that will make a positive impact in the workplace.

Learning: The Number One Rule of Internships

Many businesses have taken advantage of internship programs with great success. Interns have an influx of new ideas and a fresh, energetic attitude. However, many companies don’t realize that while there are many aspects of an internship, there is just one ultimate goal for both parties: learning.

What to Expect From College Internship Programs – It’s Not All Busy Work

When you hire a full-time or part-time employee for pay, you can essentially ask them to do anything – provided it doesn’t go against the local laws in your area. However, the same is not true of an internship. Whether it’s paid or not, whether it counts as school credit or not, the purpose is not to get a free or cheap coffee runner, or to replace a current employee with one who doesn’t require pay. The ultimate and end goal is educating the intern – and getting a few benefits yourself as well!

Busy Work Isn’t Exempt – How Much is Too Much

That isn’t to say that you can’t use your intern for busy work like answering phones, filing, grabbing lunch, or other duties. After all, that’s part of the work experience too! A good rule of thumb is that no more than 20% of their time should be spent at these tasks, and that is a definite if they are unpaid. That could mean having them answer phones for several hours at a time, once a week, or breaking up those busy tasks ten or fifteen minutes at a time. However it works for you is fine, so long as you keep it under 20%.

What to Expect From College Internship Programs

Now you know what not to do, but how do you know what you should do? The first step is to clearly communicate to potential interns exactly what you’ll expect from them. Be open and honest and listen to their feedback, too. It’d be great to find an intern who could clearly articulate to you exactly what skills they’d hope to learn and how they’d learn best, but this may not be the case – especially when you’re dealing with someone who may or may not have had a professional position before.

Evaluations Benefit Everyone

One of the best ways to ensure your intern is getting the learning experience they need, and that they’re getting as much out of it as possible, is to have an evaluation in place. This could be done at the end of a month, or at the end of their internship. No matter how you structure it, it has several advantages. First, it gives the intern great experience at receiving constructive criticism. Evaluations are a part of any career, and having experience in them is a huge asset to a future employee.

Second, it gives the intern a great opportunity to learn more about their strengths and weaknesses. While many of us like to think we know what we excel at, and what we could use help with, it often takes an unbiased third party to really evaluate our pros and cons and to deliver that information in a way that’s useful to us. That’s exactly what an intern evaluation can do. To get the most out of the experience, be sure to set clear objectives at the beginning of an internship programs. The intern will have the chance to focus on the objectives that he or she will be evaluated on, and your company will have a clear focus for the evaluation. Image