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Beyond the Internship: Actions to Encourage Intern-to-Employee Conversion 

The recruitment period is over, decisions have been made, offers extended and accepted. Postings, resume reviews, phone screens, visits to campuses, participation in online interviews – you did it all, and now, the time is finally near, your intern is starting, and you are outlining their summer agenda. 

Welcoming and hosting your summer intern is not that different than onboarding a new employee. Yet, with acknowledgment of Gen Z preferences, this type of planning for both onboarding and the internship in its entirety can turn a short-term engagement into a long-term investment. According to the Executive Summary of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2023 Internship and Co-Op Report, the intern-to-employee conversion rate in 2022 was 57.6%. With over half of interns becoming employees, it is hard to ignore the potential outcome of an internship while planning the start. Another exciting finding from this report is that “The retention rates for employees who served as interns are higher at the one-year and five-year marks than those who did not engage in such an experience. Employees who did an internship at the same company had even higher retention rates.”  Not only are the interns staying, but they are staying longer than those who did not intern with the company.  

In NACE’s 2022 Quick Poll, “nearly 85% of responding employers indicated internships are the top recruiting method for their investment of time and money.” With such a large return on investment, an ideal end to the internship experience would be an intern-to-employee conversion, someone who already knows your business, the role, and the culture and has the specific training to contribute immediately on day one. The question is no longer, “Is it worth it to host an intern?” but now “What can you do to make the internship experience so outstanding they choose your company to start their career?” We asked our internal experts (i.e., our intern-to-employee converts) about their experience and what their supervisor, team, and the company did, specifically, that made each want to stay at HR Works beyond graduation.  

An introduction to our Experts: 

Holly Ebert

Summer 2022 Intern
Current role:
Benefits & Leave Coordinator,
HR Administration Services  

Riley Gardner

Summer 2023 Intern
Current role:
HR Associate,
HR Strategic Services 

Brianna Perez Franceschi

Spring 2022 Intern
Current role:
Data Analyst,
Affirmative Action  

Understanding the Internship Role  

Brianna: My internship supervisor spent time with me when I began my internship, making sure that I understood the product and services being offered to our clients. These discussions helped me see the importance of the work I was doing and made me feel accomplished in my internship tasks. Also, seeing my contribution to the products and services helped me feel more integrated into my role and fostered my interest with the company.  

Riley: My supervisor helped me to understand the different departments in the division and the variety of roles on the team. Whenever I was learning something new, my supervisor and co-workers explained how my tasks were specifically helping the team. Because I felt like part of the team from my first day, I was really motivated to learn everything I could, knowing that what I was doing was making a difference.  

Building Relationships  

Riley: When I arrived on my first day, my supervisor had my desk set up in an area with the rest of my team. Being in close proximity with them helped me to build relationships from the start and made me comfortable asking questions as I learned.  

Holly: I attended an off-site event with my co-workers, and it was a great way to get to meet people on my team and others that I didn’t work with on a daily basis. From there, I made it a point to participate in any team building events that were offered. For me, those experiences helped to create meaningful relationships with my co-workers and feel like part of the company.  

Seeing the Possibilities  

Holly: Throughout my internship, I had several opportunities to learn multiple areas within the company. This experience gave me the chance to see which department was the best fit for me and to get to understand what makes each department and team unique.   

Brianna: Getting to meet others within the company and having a little Q&A session during my internship was a way to let me know that just because I was interning in one area, did not mean I couldn’t explore others. It was a gateway to learning other departments and helped me to understand the areas and functions of the company as a whole.  

Riley: Meeting other people in the company and learning about other services outside my department was helpful for me to fully understand everything the company offers. I also rotated throughout my team to understand their roles and responsibilities. Additionally, being able to hear from past interns (Brianna & Holly) and ask them questions about their roles/experiences was very helpful. Collecting those experiences helped me to see how to make the most of my internship and where I could fit in with my interests.  

Sending the Message: You Are Valued.  

Brianna: Asking interns for their feedback can help them truly see that this is a company that cares about the thoughts of their employees, and that wants to know how to further improve future experiences.  

Holly: The company recognizing interns’ achievements and special days (National Intern Day, graduation, and more) is a chance to make sure the intern is feeling seen and a great way to make sure everyone including interns feels valued. This was very meaningful to me and made a great impression when my achievements were recognized.  

Acknowledging the Dual Student and Professional Roles  

Riley: After my summer internship, I was offered the opportunity to stay on during the fall. Because I was still taking classes, my schedule would have to change. My supervisor was very understanding with my schedule and allowed me to flex my hours depending on the week, work a hybrid schedule and navigate my hours around my class projects if needed. Finishing my collegiate career strong was not only my goal, but my supervisor and co-workers made it feel like their goal too, with all the support I received.  

Holly: I continued my internship throughout my final year in college and my team couldn’t have been more caring and supportive. My schedule was really hectic as I wrapped up my classes, and I was also a spring athlete, so that added more to my agenda. My hours were flexible, and I never felt any pressure from my supervisor to log in or check on my work when I wasn’t scheduled.  

Brianna: I knew I wanted to prepare myself for a future in which I can utilize my education in some way, so in my senior year of college I took the chance to experience an internship and through the interview process, received the opportunity with HR Works. They were very accommodating to my student schedule and were flexible on the days I would be able to log in and do the work. Although I knew it was a hybrid model of work, I always wanted to show up in person for those small couple of hours even though it was not required of me.  

Summary 

During the creation of this article, the National Association of Colleges and Employers published Factors Contributing to Intern Conversion. Within it, the author mentions “It is likely that no one single factor accounts for a student making the leap from intern to full-time hire, but there are several circumstances that correlate.” The experiences that Brianna, Holly and Riley shared are helpful to illustrate specific circumstances and actions that made continuing their journey with HR Works an opportunity they were eager to accept. It is also important to note a few other factors our experts cited that impacted their experience: agendas throughout the internship and the ability to start a full-time position directly after the internship. One commonality with every experience was a connection: with the supervisor, within the team and throughout the company.  

While each organization has its own goals for the internship if an intern-to-employee conversion is one of them, integrating some of these suggestions might be helpful toward the goal of retaining a fantastic and committed intern. As you can see from this article, Brianna, Holly and Riley are integral members of our HR Works Team and we couldn’t be more thrilled they chose us after graduation. 


Written By:

Laurie Valentino with contributions from Holly Ebert, Brianna Perez-Franceschi, and Riley Gardner 

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.