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  • Communication Helps The Walsh Group Boost Intern Conversion Rate

    January 27, 2016 | By NACE Staff

    A supervisor communicates strategy with interns.

    TAGS: best practices, internships, conversion, nace insights

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    When it comes to finding out what college students want in an internship program, who better to ask than interns themselves. The Walsh Group has used intern feedback and insight to help shape its internship program and achieve a high intern conversion rate.

    "We spend a lot of time and money bringing interns into our organizations," says Emily DiTraglia, recruitment manager with The Walsh Group. "Make sure to use them as resources to see if your program is meeting their needs, find out what other employers are doing well, and more. Your interns are a wealth of knowledge; don't ignore them."

    To open the dialogue about intern wants and needs, The Walsh Group holds mini focus groups of interns throughout the summer.

    Understanding what students want, need, and expect has helped The Walsh Group reach a 70 percent-plus intern conversion rate over the last two years (75 percent in 2014; 70 percent in 2015).

    The company, DiTraglia says, is better off for bringing high-performing interns on full-time.

    "Our interns are more productive faster," she says. "They know our systems, policies, and procedures, and understand our culture. They have worked for us and have liked doing so."

    DiTraglia points out that The Walsh Group is studying interns' performance over time, and seeing if their retention rate is better than employees who did not intern for the company.

    Another aspect of The Walsh Group's intern conversion efforts is understanding the skills, qualities, and behavioral characteristics that successful employees of The Walsh Group possess. The firm recently studied their employees in operational roles, and identified five common behavioral drivers of success:

    • Motivation
    • Assertiveness
    • Accountability
    • Relationship-building
    • Decision-making

    "We use this assessment to measure behavioral characteristics," DiTraglia says. "Our interviewing process is behavior-based, and the assessment helps us to develop behavioral interview questions unique to the role. This helps us to see if candidates possess the right drivers to really bring their resumes to life in the role. It's nice to have more data so we can make better hiring decisions."

    There are other ways the company strengthens its bond to its interns. For example, interns have access to all of The Walsh Group's employee training opportunities, the firm will pay for key professional certifications for its interns, and interns are able to make job-site visits to see the diversity of work the company has to offer.

    "We also match interns to peer mentors, or other employees who have come up through the internship program as well," DiTraglia says. "They serve as a resource for the interns throughout the summer. At the end of the summer, we have an Intern Appreciation Day for interns and their mentors at a professional baseball game."

    Interns not only return to campus with an array of high-quality Walsh attire, but high-performing interns also receive an offer of full-time employment.

    "We give them a long time to make a decision—usually until the end of November—because we want them to do their due diligence so they are sure of the fit," DiTraglia says.

    The Walsh Group, she says, serves on advisory boards of its key schools, and makes itself available to these schools for information sessions, classroom presentations, and other support. The company is also available to assist its interns who are, for instance, participating in construction engineering competitions or service trips.

    Going forward, the firm is formalizing a campus ambassador program and ramping up efforts to assess the success rates of recruitment schools by analyzing dollars and resources spent and return on investment. The firm would like to have clearer metrics and plans for each recruitment school.

    "We want to strengthen the connection between The Walsh Group and our key recruitment schools throughout the year," DiTraglia says.

    DiTraglia offers three tips for increasing your organization's intern conversion rate:

    • Communicating—Like The Walsh Group, your organization might have numerous career paths. DiTraglia recommends speaking with interns so they can explore all of the options available to them to find the career path that best meets their goals.
    • Treating interns as a valuable resource—Ask your interns about what they and their classmates are seeking in an employer as it pertains to the internship program and beyond. The information you collect will be invaluable.
    • Being flexible—Make reasonable changes to your program based on the insight provided by your interns.

    "By communicating and being open to change," DiTraglia says, "both sides benefit."