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Candidate Experience | 11 minute read

Customizing the candidate experience for interns

February 1, 2023

Many companies are prioritizing internship programs after a long pause during the pandemic — and for good reason. The competition for talent is still fierce, and intern and early career programs are an effective way to ensure companies have access to employees with the skillsets needed for the future. 

Before they become employees, though, a great candidate experience is a must. Although it may seem like a positive candidate experience is similarly defined among all candidates, think again! For internship candidates, this involves catering communication to their wants and needs. 

Evolving your intern candidate experience strategy based on audience 

Born between 1997 and 2012, Generation Z makes up 30% of the world’s population and is expected to account for 27% of the workforce by 2025. Source: World Economic Forum 

Keep in mind you're appealing largely to Gen Z internship candidates — which differ greatly from more seasoned employees. To optimize your company's candidate experience, you must adjust your approach based on this audience. 

As with any new process, the strategies you use to create a great intern candidate experience should evolve over time. Integrate regularly tailoring and revamping these strategies any time a new generation enters the workforce to reflect changes in candidate expectations.  

For a great candidate experience, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Am I regularly following up with candidates on where they stand in the application process? 
  • Does my career website answer commonly asked questions about internships and early education opportunities? 
  • Is my company interacting with potential candidates via social media, text messaging and chatbots?  
  • Do I encourage current employees to share stories about their workplace experiences? 
  • Is there a system for getting feedback from past interns so I know what improvements to make? 

Build a good impression 

 First impressions are incredibly important to everyone — Gen Z included. That’s why it’s crucial to start building a strong employment brand with the next generation of workers as early as possible.  

Creating relationships with local universities is a good way to get your company’s name buzzing around campus. What students are saying about your organization – whether they’ve heard about your internship from word of mouth or experienced it firsthand – could sway future interns to apply for your program over other companies.  

To build a positive reputation on campus, consider becoming an employer partner, attending internship and job fairs, hosting company tours, launching a campus ambassador program or working with student organizations and the university’s career center. Fortunately, becoming an employer partner is relatively easy. All you have to do is go to the university’s website, review the information and benefits provided and look for either an employer partner form or a contact person.  

Use technology to your advantage 

 When planning your recruiting process efforts, take full advantage of social media’s accessibility and cost effectiveness. Be sure to research your target age group and pinpoint what platforms they're using so you can focus on those to gain traction and visibility.  

54% of Gen Z spends four hours on social media daily and 38% spend even more time than that. The four most popular social media platforms used by Gen Z are YouTube (88%), Instagram (76%), TikTok (68%) and Snapchat (67%).
Source: Morning Consult 

Gen Z lives on social and wants to see the company they’re looking to work for involved too. Get on board with university events and run external employee engagement initiatives that showcase your interest in college activities. If you show you care about what interests them, you can begin to build trust and respect organically. 

One great way to do this is by sponsoring a scholarship, certification course, student organization, service-learning project or research study. You could also improve your job advertising and promotion efforts by joining Handshake, a platform that students use when searching for an internship or job. It's also a good idea to start using targeted job advertisements to build a talent pool of applicants who can get notified about future events and career opportunities.   

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Engage candidates throughout the interview process 

 Once you have attracted potential interns and identified the qualified talent you’re seeking, you must keep them engaged throughout the interview process. Text messaging is one way to be proactive with Gen Z candidates, as 70% check their phones within five minutes of receiving a notification, according to reviews.org. Opting students into a workflow that’s parallel to their everyday habits is an effective way to meet candidates where they’re at and get across real-time updates. This encourages connection and makes a world of difference in engagement and awareness. The more flexible and tech savvy you are with them, the better.  

Additionally, factoring in candidates’ classes, consider multiple interview days and times that work around their schedule. Consider hosting an interview day at a few different local universities so students don’t have to leave campus. 

Keep the entire interview process transparent and avoid unnecessary delays. Interns have a set amount of time to complete their internships, which are often for school credit, so keeping the interview process moving is crucial to their success and your reputation. Building a reputation for having an excellent candidate experience, which includes an easy and fast interview process, means you’ll be able to build up your internship program and set the stage for retaining them as future full-time talent. Growing that talent pipeline is vital to closing the skills gap and being an employer of choice.  

Gather feedback and measure results 

With an ever-evolving candidate experience strategy in place, especially in companies that cater to multiple audiences, you must measure results to ensure you're on the right track. This can be accomplished by pulling relevant data and market research from both candidates and current employees through anonymous candidate satisfaction surveys. You’ll be able to take inventory on types of talent you’re attracting, as well as identify gaps to be sure you’re also seeking diverse talent with different backgrounds and skills. 

For a complete picture, be sure to survey candidates who withdrew from the interview process, declined the job offer or were not selected for the role they applied for. After all, candidate experience doesn’t just affect those who got the job.  

As the talent market continues to change, consider what adjustments you should make to your internship candidate experience and tailor your recruitment tactics and talent strategy accordingly. Remember, interns have the potential to turn into loyal employees and brand ambassadors. Cater to these candidates and discover what solutions work best for your company, fine-tune it and you’ll be well on your way to attracting and retaining top talent. 

Gen Z is entering the workforce
Are you looking to modernize your approach to candidate experience or revamp your internship program? WilsonHCG can help.
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About WilsonHCG

WilsonHCG is an award-winning, global leader in total talent solutions. Operating as a strategic partner, it helps some of the world’s most admired brands build comprehensive talent functions. With a global presence spanning more than 65 countries and six continents, WilsonHCG provides a full suite of configurable talent services including recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), executive search, contingent talent solutions and talent consulting. TALENT.™ It’s more than a solution, it’s who we are.