· Features

It is time to think about fresh approaches to recruitment

As companies and recruiters begin to think strategically about employment and management of staff, fresh approaches to recruitment are on the rise.

Going ‘beyond traditional recruitment' is something we are all keen to do in the current climate and an end-to-end approach to graduate recruitment is essential.

Present government initiatives have confirmed that internships are valuable within the UK but how can companies make this work in reality?

Internships offer a golden opportunity to businesses and candidates: businesses can mitigate their hiring risk by trying out a candidate first while providing interns with valuable work experience, giving them a head start in their chosen careers.

Another trend is noteworthy: recruitment is no longer a one-way process. Internships offer candidates the experience and information they need to make the right career choice. On the other hand, businesses can stay ahead of their competition by taking the search for talent earlier than ever before.

Many leading corporations benefit from well-planned and publicised internship programmes that help attract students in large numbers. Meanwhile, SMEs that cannot afford to miss out are increasingly looking to change ways of recruiting staff, signing up to specialist internship recruitment companies that offer sophisticated matchmaking services. If implemented correctly, such services can help businesses to avoid the headache of searching for an intern from scratch and potentially wasting time and effort if the intern is not a good fit.

SMEs not only offer more rounded and real-life work experience, but potentially have the most to gain from fresh and talented individuals. The past few decades have seen Britain slowly turn into a service economy, eroding the traditional apprenticeship model - a model that must be refined to suit the needs of businesses today. Candidates today constantly have to keep current with the latest skills and work experience to remain competitive against a global workforce.

Best practice

The recently introduced Internships Charter set up by the CIPD has been designed to support employees and employers, going some way to confirming the growing importance of internships within the UK.

Genuine and worthwhile experiences for interns are obviously beneficial for both parties and it is the responsibility of recruiters to ensure this is fulfilled. Ongoing support for both parties is essential and business clients should be advised on everything from mentoring techniques right through to the type of work interns can be expected to do. Candidates also need to be offered support from finding the right position to advice and mentoring on how they can get the most out of any internship.

Unsuccessful internships are often down to the lack of research and planning on behalf of the employer. Interns should be chosen based on the culture and value of a business with the specific department that the intern will work in at the forefront of any decision. Typical intern nightmare stories revolve around making tea and photocopying so it's vital that clients treat every intern as a professional and a potential future recruit. Rewarding work experience can very often change people's lives and career paths.

Mentoring is key to a successful internship, so clients should always take the time to share their own experiences, good and bad. Everybody has had to work their way up a career ladder, so it is imperative to connect with interns and show an understanding of their professional aspirations to maximise mutual benefits for both parties.

Regular and constructive feedback is also important for a successful internship, as it is with any employee. Asking an intern for their feedback also promotes the important two way process.

Paid or unpaid?

Some may be concerned that internships are unfair to certain candidates who cannot accept unpaid internships. Although not all internships are unpaid, a new government initiative may help to level the playing field by allowing candidates to accept such internships while enhancing their career opportunities. From January 2010, graduates already receiving Jobseekers Allowance will be able to do an internship for up to 13 weeks alongside claiming an allowance and looking for work. This means unpaid internships will be open to employees and graduates irrespective of whether they or their families can support them.

Younger workers have been hit hard by the recession as many smaller firms have stopped hiring while larger companies have cancelled their graduate training schemes. But for most interns, considerations such as a competitive salary and perks are mostly secondary to their implicit desire to learn. Over in the US, internships are an increasingly popular way of ‘landing that job,' with employers extending offers to over 70 per cent of past interns. At InternStar it is our number one goal to implement internships properly as a benefit and a resource to both British businesses and students.

Sulove Bothra, founder of InternStar