• Summer intern onboarding: good and bad practices

    May 15, 2017 by


    Onboarding should be a positive and productive experience for interns. Employers who build a successful onboarding program benefit in the short-term with satisfied interns, and in the long-term when they convert to full-time employees who can help achieve company goals. However, if intern onboarding is done incorrectly, new hires won’t likely be effective.

    College Recruiter heard from Saïd Radhouani, , Ph.D., co-founder of Nextal, a collaborative applicant tracking system, and Wes Higby, President of Full City Tech Co. They shared best and worst practices for summer intern onboarding.

    8 essential elements to successful intern onboarding

    Saïd Radhouani spells out below seven steps for ensuring interns are set up for success:

    1. Before anything else, your onboarding program needs to begin prior to day one — even before work begins.
    2. A personal welcome. It is very important to schedule a real moment for your new interns to be personally welcomed. Interns lack experience and might need a special treatment to facilitate their integration within the professional environment. Their first day’s experience can have a big impact on their integration within the work environment.
    3. Site visit and org culture. After welcoming them, it’s important to organize a site visit and give them an introduction about the workspace culture and the business background. This will help your them to be included in the day to day life of your organization.
    4. Introduce them to the team. Once the intern feels familiar with the environment, it’s important to present them to the team that they will be working with. This will lay the foundation for their sense of belonging.
    5. Appoint both a manager and a mentor. While the manager will manage the work of the intern and ensure projects stay on focus, the mentor will have a role of a facilitator. The mentor will be in charge of providing any information (not necessarily related to the intern’s project) that will help the intern in their role.
    6. Clarify expectations. The manager has to clarify expectations from both sides: what the intern is expecting to get from the internship, and what the manager is expecting to get from the intern. To do so, it’s very important to provide a real work assignment and define the success criteria.
    7. Assign challenging and relevant work. Allowing to your intern to work on challenging and relevant tasks that are recognized by your company is one of the best ways to ensure the success of the internship. Once the work assignment has been done, the intern should be given the necessary documents and tools to allow them to get the necessary information. Ideally, the manager or the mentor should provide a reference checklist that the intern can follow to make sure that they are getting all what they need.
    8. Define communication plan. The manager should define the communication plan with the intern. Every intern should send a written report to their manager at the end of each week. This will help the intern to work on their communication skills and write down their work progress. It will also help them to raise flags whenever they hit a roadblock. If they need to write a report at the end of the internship, they will have a lot of materials from these communications. This also will help the manager to track the progress and appreciate the work or raise flags on time.

    Intern onboarding gone wrong: Common mistakes employers make

    Wesley Higbee, President of Full City Tech Co., shares five common onboarding mistakes made by employers.

    1. Treating everybody the same.It’s important to have a process or checklist. Just don’t standardize it too much. Tailor the plan to the candidates you’re hiring. If new hires have accolades in sales, for example, don’t put them through a sales training program.
    2. Waiting periods for benefits.There’s nothing to gain by withholding vacation days, health care, etc. Waiting periods connote cheapskate and can create mistrust. If you don’t trust new employees enough to give thembenefits on day one, why are you hiring them?
    3. Not making expectations clear. If you throw them to the wolves without ensuring everyone is on the same page, of course you will find that they don’t perform up to your expectations.
    4. Not including new hires in the process of assessing what they want to learn.You cannot force feedinga training without also learning what motivates them and where they want to grow.
    5. Not learning from new hires.Learning is not a one-way road. There are plenty of candidates you might hire that have more to teach you, than you have to teach them.

    Signs the internship is going well

    “Two things,” says Radhouani, will tell you whether things are on the right track. “Clear communication and measurable progress.”

    If the onboarding was done successfully, then the intern will have clear objectives and all the necessary information to achieve them. During the weekly meetings with the manager, it should be clear how much progress is being made. Another good indicator is how well the intern has integrated within the team.

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    Said Radhouani of Nextal, an applicant tracking systemAbout Saïd Radhouani: Saïd is tech entrepreneur passionate about Big Data, Search and Digital Marketing. He built teams from scratch and put in place strategies and platforms that serve some of the largest Web and mobile properties in Canada. He founded Big Wisdom to help organizations to leverage their data and make optimal decisions in their digital journey. Big Wisdom provides services from strategy to implementation to support in content management, search, knowledge management and analytics.


    Wes HigbeeAbout Wes Higbee: Wes helps organizations make the leap from today to tomorrow. He started out in software development helping organizations tackle business opportunities. In working closely with customers as a consultant, he realized there are many needs beyond the software itself that nobody was taking care of. Those are the needs he addresses today, whether or not technology is involved. Wes has a passion for sharing knowledge. He speaks professionally on webinars and conferences to help organizations improve.


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