A well-thought-out internship program has helped differentiate our firm in the recruiting marketplace. Our firm had a history of using interns, but seven years ago we formalized a plan in our intern recruitment and placement process. We created a very good program for using at least one and usually as many as three, spring and summer interns in the audit department. We also have tax interns, but our pipeline into the audit department is particularly strong.
Narrow your focus. As part of our plan, we’ve made a strategic alignment with a few different colleges and universities. Our long-term goal is not only to build a reliable supply of interns, but also have the opportunity to work with candidates whom we many want to offer full-time jobs when they graduate. Our firm has offices in South Dakota and Wyoming, so we focus on colleges that attract students from this region who are more apt to want an internship with a local firm and to stay in the area after graduation. We work with both college professors and firm alumni to develop relationships with each school. By building a direct relationship with a few universities, we demonstrate our investment in their educational program and they are, in turn, willing to recommend our firm to their student body. We have become an employer of choice on campus by building our brand and by offering a competitive internship program that offers the chance to learn valuable skills. Due to our positive reputation on these campuses, we have been able to recruit interns who are at the top of their class because of the quality of our program. And not surprisingly, our interns have been some of our best hires.
Get the word out. We also spread the word about internship opportunities within our firm by holding firm events for prospective interns, giving presentations at Beta Alpha Psi clubs at schools and taking part in our state CPA society’s showcase at smaller colleges. In our presentations at these venues, we don’t just talk about our firm. Instead, we give a presentation on a topic of interest to college students. Last spring, for example, we talked about how to build your networking skills since that’s an incredibly vital professional skill that may not be addressed in college courses. In addition to recruiting events, we also reach out to our network of accounting professors and provide presentations within the classroom. The students get to ask questions about accounting as a career and about our firm. By getting to know the presenter, they have an immediate personal connection to the firm.
Build the right foundation. To be effective, an internship program must:
- Have buy in from firm leaders who must see it as an investment in the firm’s future.
- Have an office champion. Our success is directly attributed to the support from our firm’s leadership, specifically our audit shareholders, and its willingness to working closely with human resources to achieve our firm’s recruiting goals.
- Offer interns a fulfilling experience. We give interns meaningful tasks that provide real world experience and that will contribute to their professional growth.
- Align with the firm’s strategic hiring plans. When we hire an intern, we are already considering how they might fit into the firm once they graduate.
Courtney Marti is Marketing and HR Director of Casey Peterson & Associates, a medium firm which has offices in Rapid City, South Dakota, and Gillette, Wyoming.