Candidate Experience: Internship Applicants Are People Too

Written by Kevin Wang

As college students are finally starting to understand the long-term value of internships and actively pursuing them, it has subsequently become more difficult for them to successfully secure one. For example, in 2009, advertising agency Mullen received almost 600 summer internship applications from all over the United States for only 24 slots in their Boston office. The rise in internship applicants has kept Recruiting and Human Resource departments busy, burdening them with a flood of cover letters and resumes to review.

There are many great articles scattered across blogs on the Internet, focusing on what proper etiquette for internship applicants should be. Students are reminded to always send thank-you notes, maintain a professional tone in the cover letter, and research companies before interviews, along with many other bits of valuable and timeless career advice.

However, I’ve rarely seen anyone discuss what proper candidate experience etiquette should be when handling and communicating with internship applicants from the workplace perspective. With record numbers of applicants and applications, it’s very easy for hiring departments to forget that each individual application was painstakingly filled out by an actual human being, and carries the hopes and dreams of that individual. It’s also carelessly easy to view individual applicants as one of many and disregard them. By doing so, businesses are permanently damaging their relationships with their biggest fans and alienating their most enthusiastic advocates. Prospective interns, while at the bottom of the hierarchy at any organization, still deserve to be treated fairly.

Here’s how leaders can improve their workplace culture branding experience and better handle the internship applicant communication:

  • Be clear up front about the details of the program. That includes properly communicating the expected hours, responsibilities, pay, and other elements. If students aren’t eligible, straight up tell them! Email the applicants if any significant changes occur to the program.
  • Send a decision, regardless of whether it’s positive or not. It may sting for them to be told that they didn’t make it, but they’ll respect you for it.
  • Complete the review process in a timely manner. Students don’t have all the time in the world to finalize their plans for the upcoming semester or summer. Let them know as early as possible so they can assess their options well before crunch time.
  • Leave the door open. Don’t kick your rejected applicants to the curb. Let them know that they’re just unfortunately part of of an extremely competitive pool, and encourage them to apply again in the future.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Stress to all your employees that internal referrals for an applicant does NOT guarantee them a position. Also, don’t mislead applicants or hint at anything with correspondence. It’s better to be tight-lipped about the whole affair until you’re ready to make announcements.

Finally, the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would want to be treated.

We may be interns, and maybe that’s not much, but remember, we’re people too.

IMAGE VIA Flickr

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