The Impact of Interns
“OK, listen up. We have a conference call with the hiring manager in five minutes to go over his new network engineer req. Dial into the bridge line but don’t announce yourself. Put it on mute and just listen.”…….(Awkward silence)…… “Umm, how do you work this thing?”
It never fails. Whether they are from SMU or Georgia Tech or NC State, it is always entertaining to watch our interns try to figure out how to use this “desk telephone” for the first time. Seriously, I should record it. But it makes sense. For most, this is their first professional job and first exposure to a landline- their childhood homes have only had cell phones for the majority of their memorable existence. However, give them a name of any candidate you find on LinkedIn and be amazed when they come back in 10 minutes with a cell number, an email, and a recommendation for the social platform where you are most likely to get a response. For lack of a better term, their “Facebook stalking” type of skills are unparalleled.
Three years ago I had a hypothesis. Hiring college interns to do sourcing will make our recruiting organization more productive and identify new quality IT candidates for our clients. The challenge was clear. In our increasingly hypercompetitive industry, average placements per month per recruiter were declining and we were not increasing our average number of submittals. The worst part was the phone. Our number of calls and talk time continued to decline. At first, it was confusing. We had access to every tool the recruiters wanted and the ability to find more candidates than ever before. How could we make less calls? But, the reality is that sourcing today is different. With so many places to look for candidates and so much content surrounding them, sourcing today can be distracting or even paralyzing for a recruiter. Now, back to my theory. If we hired and trained college interns to source candidates on our open jobs, and passed those leads to a recruiter to call, could we make our existing recruiters more productive and our recruiting organization more profitable? If we trained them on basic Boolean, gave them access to Monster’s awesome Cloud Search tool in Bullhorn, and taught them to leverage @fishdogs Empathy Map Theory, could they quickly add value?
The answer is yes. In 2015, our intern program helped to raise our recruiter’s phone activity by more than 10%. In Dallas alone, our recruiters' weekly submittal average increased by 17%. Across the company, we made 70 placements in 2015 due to the interns' sourcing efforts. You know how much margin your firm generates on an average placement. No matter how many “X” multiplier finance wants to see as an appropriate ROI, when you drive that many placements, you are positively impacting profitability. What started as a hypothesis has grown immensely. Today, we have 16 interns working spread across Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, Charlotte, and Phoenix.
To be clear, we are not benefiting at the expense of our interns. First, our interns are paid and paid well. More importantly, however, is the experience they gain while working at MATRIX. They walk away from the internship prepared to enter the workforce. They gain a deep understanding of how interviewing and hiring really works, more than any of their peers. They are learning about technology, negotiation, buying motivators, and compensation trends. They learn to come up with solutions to real problems. Much of what is taught in business school, our interns get hands-on experience with. And that experience leads to jobs. Every intern that has successfully completed our program and has graduated from college is gainfully employed. That is almost 30 in the past three years. Several are now full-time employees at MATRIX. Others have leveraged their internship to land jobs at companies like Southwest Airlines, Autotrader.com, UnitedHealth, and Northwestern Mutual to name a few. Next month, we will lose our second intern to Oracle (apparently Larry pays the University of Texas grads very well). I'm not bitter. (Well, maybe just a little.) Regardless, my point is we are helping our interns to launch great careers and that is really fulfilling.
The Icing - Talent Pipeline
The increased productivity is great. The intangibles that come from having interns in the office and what that does for culture is hard to explain. What has been the biggest surprise though, is the fact that we are helping to build talent pipelines for our clients. We knew that we would hire some of the interns to be recruiters at MATRIX. What we did not expect is that several of our former interns would now be billable consultants, driving value and helping our customers deliver critical projects. Others are full-time employees at our customers and serve as champions for MATRIX, helping us to navigate their organizations and expand our relationship.
As we head toward summer and your organization looks for talent to fill key roles, remember to not underestimate the impact of interns.