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  • Shift in Focus Boosts CohnReznick’s Internship Program

    September 13, 2017 | By NACE Staff

    An intern smiles.

    TAGS: best practices, internships, nace insights

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    Three years ago, CohnReznick shifted the focus of its internship program to the early identification of entry-level hires. The numbers illustrate the impact of this change.

    This year, the firm had 170 interns. Eighty-nine percent of eligible interns received offers to come back as entry-level hires. The firm expects 60 to 70 percent of them to accept the offer. This compares favorably to the overall 51.3 percent conversion rate reported by employers in NACE’s 2017 Internship & Co-op Report.   

    “Our rates have been steady the past three years, but before we changed to an early identification approach, the rates weren’t very good,” explains Imad Khoury, CohnReznick’s national director of talent acquisition. “Our conversion rate then was around 50 percent. The premise of this shift is to afford college students an opportunity to be involved with the firm throughout their academic experience.”

    In doing so, CohnReznick makes stronger connections with its interns. Rising juniors and rising seniors in a five-year program attend CohnReznick’s summer leadership program, which is a two-day early identification program, through which the firm identifies summer and winter interns. Then, through these seasonal internship programs, CohnReznick identifies candidates for entry-level positions.

    “Our internship program doesn’t exist just to get work done,” Khoury explains. “It’s really an identification program through which we hire interns who would eventually transition into full-time, entry-level employees.”

    To facilitate this transition, CohnReznick’s recruiting team puts in a great deal of work to find candidates for internships who fit the company’s success profile.

    As an accounting firm, approximately 90 percent of CohnReznick’s hiring is accounting majors. It seeks candidates with GPAs of 3.2 and above from reputable schools. Beyond these basics, CohnReznick looks for go-getters, ambitious candidates who are passionate about client service and helping others, good communicators, and those with critical thinking skills and common sense. The firm also looks for candidates who have:

    • Been involved in a leadership capacity, such as being part of the school’s accounting society, Beta Alpha Psi, or a diverse professional student organization.
    • Work experience, whether it’s an internship or a part-time job.
    • Entrepreneurial experience. Khoury explains that CohnReznick is an entrepreneurial firm in the sense that if a student comes in as a tax intern and decides that tax is not the area for her and she gets an offer, she can indicate that she would rather start in audit or advisory.

    “That’s why our internship program is so important,” Khoury says. “When students are on site, we can see their leadership abilities and interpersonal skills. And we can see their ability to resolve conflicts, make decisions, and work with others. It’s important for us to have evidence of the skills we know make our interns and eventual entry-level employees successful.”

    Another important aspect of the internship program is onboarding. CohnReznick’s onboarding program blends team building, professional development, and technical skill training. Interns start with a one-week orientation either in a local office or on a regional level. The first two days include team-building exercises; basic HR orientation activities, such as receiving a laptop and an overview of the organization; and being introduced to their buddies in the firm’s Buddy Program.

    Khoury explains that the Buddy Program has two components:

    • Buddies—Interns are matched with a buddy, a recent hire who was in the intern’s shoes within the last 12 to 18 months. Buddies answer their intern’s questions and provide guidance.
    • Performance coaches—Each intern is assigned a performance coach who is typically a senior accountant. Performance coaches are dedicated to understanding what their interns are working on and providing feedback.

    This is followed by three days of technical training. Intertwined throughout are networking opportunities and social activities.

    Once the internships begin, interns attend a weekly professional development workshop around one of CohnReznick’s “PYRAMID” values that serve as its compass during interactions with clients, fellow employees, and the broader community as follows.

    • Passion for excellence
    • Yearning for knowledge
    • Respect for others
    • Adaptability and flexibility
    • Making a difference
    • Integrity, reliability, and trust
    • Developing opportunities

    Each value has a workshop built around it. For example, the “Respect for others” workshop addresses the importance of diversity and inclusion, and includes a group discussion about unconscious bias.

    CohnReznick’s recruiting team also stays in touch with interns on a weekly basis to understand how they’re doing. Interns have a mid-internship check-up and a final internship check-up, and take part in the overall performance-management process.

    When interns return to campus, the firm maintains ties by inviting them to meet with recruiters at different campus events, such as career fairs, sponsored events, and others. CohnReznick also invites them to a holiday party near the end of the year and a spring event once they graduate.

    “Each office or each region hosts a spring event once their interns become entry level,” Khoury says. “It’s a fun networking event. Part of our talent strategy is staying connected with them throughout their internships and when they are back at school.”

    Khoury says that all of these elements contribute to a comprehensive and effective internship program.

    “Our internship program is designed in such a way that lets interns know enough about CohnReznick that they could say ‘yes’ as soon as they get an offer,” Khoury explains. “They get to know us, our people, and our values. They get to know the types of work they’re going to be doing. On the other hand, we get to know them, their work ethics, what they want to get involved in, and the quality of their work. Instead of just interviewing students for an hour on campus, this interview is 10 weeks long.”