• 5 internship recruitment solutions for government agencies

    May 16, 2017 by

     

    Federal agencies seeking to hire interns or implement internship programs should take a cue from their private sector counterparts, says Mel Hennigan, VP of People at Symplicity Corporation, an Arlington, Virginia-based company that specializes in enterprise technology and information systems management for higher education, government, and businesses.

    In other words, they should evaluate, research, and learn the value of implementing a robust internship program as a way to attract college students and recent college grads to their organization. Don’t expect today’s student or grad to find you – federal employers have to find them through creative methods involving technology, social media, and the right advertising approach.

    “A one-size-fits-all approach does not work, so employers, even at the federal level, need to be creative,” says Hennigan, who has spent nearly a decade of her career in roles that support the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and intelligence agencies. Hennigan is also a member of the Society For Human Resource Management Talent Acquisition Panel. “Don’t expect interns to find you,” says Hennigan. “Employers have to go where the talent is, and become visible to the college student or college grad.

    Kyle Hartwig, ­­­­­­Senior Human Resource Specialist with the National Institute of Health (NIH), agrees. The NIH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and is the nation’s medical research agency. To be a successful in federal government recruiting, employers need deep knowledge of staffing systems and federal hiring practices and laws. However, employers must also be willing to use innovative technologies and alternatives to posting on USAJOBS. Hartwig discussed that and more in the College Recruiter article and video 7 steps for successful federal government recruiting.

    “Student marketing in parallel with federal government hiring is never easy,” says Hartwig. “The first challenge, however, is engaging with the talent you seek.”

    Hennigan and Hartwig provide these tips for government agencies seeking new internship recruiting solutions:

    1. Understand the new student landscape

    Many students and recent college grads first find out about internship programs/opportunities, campus hiring fairs, or how to connect with recruiters at federal agencies through commonly used online tools – social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn).

    “Skip the usual power point and start using social media conversations,” says Hartwig. “Throw out the calendar of events and list digital outreach tactics you plan to use before you show up on campus.”

    2. Form partnerships

    Government agencies can benefit from forming partnerships with colleges and universities. Develop relationships with campus career counselors, department leaders, professors, and alumni. Seek out opportunities for employees of your organization to speak at their alma mater, even narrowing it down to a specific set of students, grads or by department. Also consider participating in university employer summits or planning activities at university career centers. Find what approach works best for your organization and develop that approach. Federal employers should also read research reports from Corporate Leadership Council or Partnership for Public Service, says Hartwig, to stay on top of trends and issues.

    There’s additional partnership options too, like thinking outside the box and partnering with College Recruiter. How so?

    Government clients who want to hire hundreds or even thousands are typically going to look at packages which integrate targeted email campaigns, targeted display ad campaigns, and targeted mobile banner advertising campaigns, each of which allow College Recruiter the opportunity to deliver to the career sites of those employers thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of candidates targeted by geography, school, major, year of graduation, diversity, military veterans, occupational field, and more.

    3. Don’t wait for interns to come to you

    The first step, for federal agencies to take, says Hennigan, is to identify the type of talent they need to hire for an internship position. Do they need a STEM graduate, a marketing professional, an IT professional, administrative, technical expert, or other?

    Then employers must find out where those students and grads are, and meet them where they are at. By forming those partnerships, they can quickly identify where they can best find qualified students to apply for internship opportunities.

    “The landscape has changed, and employers need to figure out how to get talent interested in their opportunities,” says Hennigan.

    4. Identify talent

    Once the employer has identified the type of talent they need to find, they need to create a plan for attracting that type of talent. Federal employers need to look beyond just being a federal agency to attract employers. “Personalize the engagement,” says Hennigan. “Today’s college student and grad is looking to be wowed, and wants to know why working for your company is the right choice for them.”

    Federal agencies compete against the private sector, and that includes Silicon Valley firms, Fortune 500, and hot new technology startups. Leave the boring behind when working to attract interns.

    “It’s very easy for a federal agency to sell the message of how working for the government is contributing to the mission of the country, and patriotic, but today’s students and grads want more than that.”

    That’s why federal internship programs or internship opportunities need to clearly outline a value proposition, says Hennigan. It needs to clearly outline what the organization can offer the intern (real world training and experience, working on real world projects, solving problems, contributing), and the outcome (invaluable skills that helps them become more marketable for the next step in their career, or if possible, an opportunity to apply and interview for a full-time job with the organization).

    “Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes,” says Hennigan. “They want to be able to contribute and make an impact, show them how they can do that as an intern.”

    5. Learn from other successful internship programs

    An internship should add value to the intern, not the company, says Hennigan. But through that internship, the intern can add value to the company by working on real projects, solving everyday business problems, and making a contribution from day one.

    Building an internship program takes dedication – many private employers hire people solely to manage and develop an internship program. It would be helpful for federal agency’s to consult with industry professionals or colleagues who work on building internship programs to get advice. What works for them? What do private sector employers do that can be implemented in a federal organization (they are more similar than most think). Partner with organizations like SHRM, or participate in industry panels or summits to learn more, and build a network of resources who can provide cost-effective solutions for creating an internship program.

    A typical internship should last from eight to 12 weeks says Hennigan, and in the end, the goal should be to keep that intern or group of interns interested in pursuing employment opportunities with the federal organization they are interning with.

    “Every internship should have the end goal of funneling fresh talent into the organization,” said Hennigan.

    According to Hartwig, government agencies are afraid of doing active outreach because they are concerned about ethics. There are very stringent laws associated with hiring. Thus, HR specialists for government agencies often shy away from taking real steps to find talent for unique roles. More often than not, many federal agencies don’t feel they have the freedom to recruit and find their own talent. With strict or even confusing federal staffing regulations, recruiters often opt for simply posting an opening on USAJOBS, or a few other places.

    That approach doesn’t always work. There are other options available.

    Working for a government agency holds prestige for many students and college grads. But that’s not enough these days.

    “It’s no longer a world where the candidates don’t have options,” said Hennigan. “The organizations who communicate the best value and opportunity to the student or graduate are going to attract top talent.”

    Want more tips and strategies on how government agencies can connect with interns? Stay connected to College Recruiter by visiting our blog, and connect with us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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