The Modern Internship: Reinventing a University Recruiting Staple with Quick-Win Campaigns
Internships, like so many aspects of work in 2020, have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sixteen percent of employers revoked internships altogether, while 40 percent made internships virtual, and 40 percent shortened their internships' lengths, a poll by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found.
Internships, despite the events of 2020, are a key pathway for exposing new talent to jobs and employers. Last week on Talent Experience Live, Greg Carter, Vice President of Talent Acquisition at First United Bank, shared how his team is successfully embracing 2020’s challenges and using technology to engage university students with the company’s internship program.
What challenges are associated with promoting internships through virtual career fairs?
First United Bank’s university recruitment team decided to take advantage of the logistical benefits of virtual career fairs (no travel time required!) and expand their presence to 12 schools from their usual six to eight, including first-time attendance at some universities.
The all-virtual approach affected career fair attendance at schools where First United Bank lacked familiarity, and so the team had to adjust staffing and timing.
“It’s a whole new landscape, and moving to the virtual arena had positives along with the challenges,” Carter said.
How have you adapted your goals for internship outreach to meet current challenges?
Carter said he realized that connecting with university students in an all-virtual environment would demand fast, personalized communication. As such, his team focused this year’s approach on:
- Creating a high-level candidate experience
- Using personalization to keep communication fresh and relevant
- Incorporating new technology to underpin the whole process
The TA team had recently adopted the Phenom Talent Experience Management platform and used it to generate multi-touch campaigns, with outreach beginning immediately following virtual career fairs — far different than the typical season, when it might take two to three weeks to respond to candidates who submit physical resumes.
How are you ensuring that your internship campaigns make an impact with Gen Z candidates?
Reaching Generation Z – today’s university students who grew up in the age of interactive media – depends on speed, relevance and authenticity. Technology has really helped First United’s recruiters move with that current, Carter said.
The Phenom platform enabled Carter's team to provide targeted outreach geared toward students interested in specific career tracks such as marketing or accounting. Recruiters simply had to load candidates’ information into the system.
Initial emails included a video featuring past interns sharing their experience, along with recruiters, who prepare the candidate for the interview and internship process. Subsequent emails helped keep First United's internship program top of mind for students.
Showcasing employer brand and culture in a virtual world: Gen Z wants to see and understand an organization’s commitment to purpose, values and career development, Carter noted.
First United aimed to strike a balance between content highlighting these points – the company’s rapid growth, how highly interns are valued (as many as 55% go on to hold a full-time position), D&I initiatives, and career path information – and content providing value to universities and students. (This semester First United’s university recruiters offered resume preparation sessions. Moving forward, they plan to incorporate more interactive skill-building sessions.)
How are you meeting candidates’ expectations regarding D&I initiatives?
First United works to ensure that interns gain real-life experiences, which includes creating opportunities to lean into D&I efforts.
The organization’s “Spend Life Wisely” program, which manifests First United’s dedication to making a positive difference in the world, resonated with virtual career fair attendees. First United made sure to weave this into the internship experience, with real-world projects and workshops related to D&I initiatives like this one.
How do you plan to expand the use of technology in future internship recruiting efforts?
Carter is looking forward to building on the important benefits the team has seen from technology platforms like Phenom’s – speed, efficiency, high-level candidate experience, and engagement with their employer brand.
“We’re just scratching the surface,” he says.
What areas of tech do they plan to leverage next? SMS, for one, and expanded integration with platforms like LinkedIn and Workday. “We always have our eyes on the candidate experience,” Carter said.
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