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Advice for Employers and Recruiters

Do employers prefer micro-internships, internships, co-ops, or apprenticeships?

Anita Jobb AvatarAnita Jobb
January 10, 2024

More and more employers are placing more and more value on skills-based hiring instead of hiring students, recent graduates, and other early career candidates primarily based on what school they happened to attend, what their major was, and even what their past job titles were.

There are a number of ways to hire based on skills. One of those is experiential recruiting, which essentially creates a realistic work experience for the candidate and, therefore, allows the employer to evaluate the work completed by the candidate, instead of just trying to guess at whether that candidate can do the work well. There are a number of experiential recruiting options, including micro-internships, internships, co-ops, and apprenticeships.

We’ve gathered insights from CEOs and marketing managers to share their perspectives on which method stands out. From the flexibility of micro-internships to the comprehensive learning journey of apprenticeships, we gather from 16 experts their opinions on which experiential recruiting options they prefer and why.

Micro-Internships Offer Flexibility

First, I’ll say that I don’t think there’s a single correct answer for every business. Depending on your industry and company’s needs, any of these strategies can be an effective way to evaluate professionals for their long-term fit, particularly recent graduates, students, and other early-career talent. 

That said, for the purposes of recruitment, I would say that micro-internships have an advantage over internships, co-ops, and apprenticeships in that they offer more flexibility and require less planning and commitment to develop. A micro-internship can be as short as a few hours or a single deliverable assignment. This makes it more feasible as a strategy to evaluate multiple candidates in a short span of time, as opposed to apprenticeships or internships, which typically last at least a few months. That short duration can also make them more appealing to a wider range of candidates, including more experienced candidates. 

Typically, co-ops are connected to a university program and will only bring you students, while apprenticeships and internships are usually seen as early-career moves, meaning applicants with a few years of experience may see these opportunities as a step backward in their career progress.

Jon Hill, Chairman and CEO, The Energists

Internships Provide Hands-On Experience

In my opinion, utilizing internships has been more beneficial for us as an employer when using experiential recruiting. Internships provide a unique opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in their field of interest while also allowing us as employers to assess their skills and potential fit for our organization. 

Internships can vary in length, from a few weeks to several months, which offers flexibility for both the employer and the student. This allows us to offer internships during different periods of the year, depending on our company’s needs. Additionally, internships can be paid or unpaid, which gives us the option to provide compensation based on our budget and the value we see in the intern’s work.

Amira Irfan, Founder and CEO, A Self Guru

Internships Aid Precision Hiring

I’d say internships are more beneficial for employers when using experiential recruiting. They offer a low-risk way to evaluate potential hires before making long-term commitments. These programs allow candidates to gain real-world experience while allowing employers to assess their skills and fit within the company. 

With a shorter duration compared to other options, internships provide a clear snapshot of a candidate’s performance in a real-work setting. This aids employers in making informed hiring decisions with a high degree of precision and confidence.

Lilia Tovbin, Founder and CEO,

Apprenticeships Tailor Skill Development

In my experience, what makes apprenticeships more beneficial for an employer when using an experiential recruiting approach is that they get to leverage the opportunity of the apprentices’ eagerness to learn and develop skills relevant to their business. Also, they get the chance to better tailor their training program to ensure that they acquire the skills necessary to improve their expertise and the business, and equally get the chance to help them improve on their already developed skills.

The truth is, every business is unique and different in its practices and company culture, especially when compared to other businesses in the same industry. And with an apprenticeship, you get to hire a team (or add to your team) individuals who are motivated by the desire to improve, and whose skills, qualifications, and productive abilities you can testify to because you had the benefit of watching them grow.

Grace Chisom, Marketing Manager, Check CPS

Internships Foster Deeper Immersion

Internships stand out in experiential recruiting, providing employers with ample time to evaluate a candidate’s skills and fit within the company. Unlike micro-internships, which offer brief project-based experiences, internships allow for a deeper immersion into the company culture and industry, fostering the development of valuable skills.

While co-ops and apprenticeships are beneficial, they demand more time and resources, and may not align with immediate business needs. Co-ops alternate between work and study, complicating coordination, whereas apprenticeships focus on skill-building but might not offer varied business exposure.

Micro-internships, despite their rising popularity, fall short of offering the comprehensive experience that internships do. Internships are superior for thorough evaluation and experience, enabling employers and interns to gauge mutual compatibility.

Investing in internships benefits employers by creating a talent pipeline and nurturing future leaders, leveraging the contributions of well-equipped interns.

Gert Kulla, CEO, Batlinks

Duration Matches Candidate’s Skill Level

It depends on the skill level of the candidate. If they’re a fresh graduate or inexperienced, you want something a little longer, like an apprenticeship, co-op, or internship, that gives them the chance to develop and solidify their skill set. People learn at different rates, so giving candidates enough time and nurturing to effectively see how they’ll perform can lead to better-fit hires. 

On the other hand, if someone is more experienced and skilled, a micro-internship allows you both to test the waters with a short-term paid project. It’s relatively low stakes, but it gives you insights into technical skills, cultural fit, and a realistic job preview.

Robert Kaskel, Chief People Officer, Checkr

Internships Cultivate Commitment and Dedication

Internships and co-ops are the most beneficial for employers regarding experiential recruiting. This is because both options provide longer-term opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience and apply their skills in a real-world setting.

I evaluated this at AdmissionSight, where we have a comprehensive internship program for college students seeking to gain experience in the admissions consulting field. As our interns spend an entire semester working with us, they can fully immerse themselves in our work and contribute meaningfully to our team. However, I observed that they view their internship as a stepping stone to potentially joining our team full-time after graduation. This shows the commitment and dedication that can be fostered through an internship or co-op.

Eric Eng, Founder and CEO, Private College Admissions Consultant, AdmissionSight

Micro-Internships Enable Quick Competency Assessment

Employers benefit greatly from micro-internships since they concentrate on small, targeted projects. This methodology enables organizations to promptly assess a candidate’s pragmatic competencies and adeptness in addressing issues. 

Micro-internships offer a condensed picture of a candidate’s talents, in contrast to regular internships or apprenticeships, allowing companies to make hiring decisions more quickly and with greater focus. Additionally, this approach meets the flexible needs of today’s workforce and enables businesses to access a wide range of talent, including people looking for remote work or those with flexible schedules. 

Accepting micro-internships is in line with the flexible character of modern business, offering an economical and effective way to evaluate talent while also satisfying the changing needs of prospective employers and employees.

Adrian Hall, Business Development Manager, Pharmacist Schools

Co-Ops Offer Immediate Workforce Solutions

Employers will get the most benefits from co-ops as their experiential recruiting strategy. It will be helpful for employers who want to fulfill their shortage of employees in the workplace immediately. Also, the employers won’t have the obligation to renew the contracts with co-op students or make them permanent employees.

Co-op students are always enthusiastic to prove themselves. They are also the most passionate and dedicated to learning new skills, completing their work, and giving their best in the workplace. They bring innovation to the workplace and inspire other employees. Employers can observe the work performance of co-op students and note the best performers. Then, they can give them offer letters after the end of their contract or incorporate them into the talent pool for future recruitment.

Tom Vota, Marketing Director, Gotomyerp

Micro-Internships Benefit Both Parties

Micro-internships provide a unique and valuable approach to experiential recruiting. These project-based, short-term opportunities allow employers to assess candidates’ abilities and potential while also giving them essential real-world experience. 

Micro-internships, as opposed to regular internships, offer flexibility and efficiency, allowing businesses to tap into a diverse talent pool and quickly meet specific business needs. They provide a win-win situation by allowing students and recent graduates to gain practical experience and demonstrate their abilities, while employers benefit from new insights and cost-effective solutions. 

By embracing micro-internships, employers can discover hidden potential, stimulate innovation, and establish a pipeline of competent employees for future opportunities.

Michael Branover, Business Development Manager, Branover Contractors Inc.

Internships Offer Mutual Experience

It is more beneficial to offer an internship program. That way, both parties involved get to experience each other. The intern has an opportunity to learn new skills and be a part of the company culture. On the flip side, the employer can see if this is the type of potential candidate they would like to keep long-term. It’s a win-win.

Caroline Pennington, Executive Search Recruiter, Podcast Host, Founder, Feminine Founder

Micro-Internships Focus on Project-Based Skills

Micro-internships are the best option for employers when it comes to experiential recruiting, owing to their flexibility and narrow focus. Micro-internships, in contrast to regular internships or apprenticeships, are focused on brief, project-based assignments that address urgent organizational needs. 

Without committing to lengthy programs, this method enables employers to quickly evaluate a candidate’s capabilities, problem-solving abilities, and cultural fit. The distinctive quality of micro-internships is their adaptability, which allows businesses to effectively access specialized expertise for specific projects, promoting creativity and meeting changing business needs. 

This focused interaction not only expedites the hiring process but also fosters a vibrant, results-driven workplace environment where employers and candidates alike benefit from fulfilling, task-oriented interactions.

Jonathan Palley, Partner, QR Code Generator Hub

Micro-Internships Suit Small Business Needs

Micro-internships are a great tool for small businesses or startups. They allow these companies to bring in talent for short-term, specific projects without the commitment of a longer-term program. This can be especially beneficial when resources are limited, but there’s a need for specialized skills or extra help on a project.

J. Tucker Merrigan, Managing Partner, Sweeney Merrigan

Apprenticeships Provide Hands-On Learning Journey

From my vantage point, each avenue of experiential recruiting holds its unique value for employers. Yet, if I were to champion one, it would be apprenticeships. 

Why, you ask? Apprenticeships are an immersion in hands-on learning. This is a journey where budding talents dive deep into real work, guided by seasoned mentors. This approach nurtures specific skills as well as gives an idea of company culture and operations. Apprenticeships create a symbiotic relationship. Employers benefit from fresh perspectives and dedicated learners. 

Meanwhile, apprentices glean invaluable insights. It’s an investment that nurtures talent organically and yields long-term benefits. Eventually, it leads to impactful results for both the employer and the apprentice.

Malcolm Ferrante, Senior Manager, CSB Group

Internships Offer Versatile Work Experience

Internships are my recommended approach for most businesses. They offer a practical way for students or recent graduates to gain work experience, and for employers to assess their potential. Additionally, internships can be structured in various ways to suit both the employer’s and the intern’s needs, making them a versatile option for many organizations.

Stephen Hasner, Managing Partner, Hasner Law PC

Co-Ops Enhance Long-Term Talent Development

In my opinion, co-ops are more beneficial for employers in experiential recruiting compared to micro-internships and internships. Co-ops involve ongoing collaboration, providing a structured approach to skill development and a deeper industry understanding.

Unlike micro-internships, which offer brief exposures, and internships, which balance depth and breadth, co-ops allow employers to groom talent for future roles, contributing to long-term workforce planning.

This extended engagement fosters a mentor-apprentice relationship, ensuring comprehensive skill transfer and aligning well with employers’ needs for sustained talent development.

Catherine Cooke, Co-Founder, Upskillwise

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