Utilizing an Untapped Resource: Student Interns
by Sara Arnold on April 27, 2016
When you think about the website needs of most colleges and universities today, you can’t help but put hiring more staff at the top of that list. In many circumstances, however, there are a tremendous amount of hoops to jump through to make that a reality. But what if there was a way to get all the help you needed without taking a bite out of the budget or hiring full-time employees? Romana Amato, Director of Web Strategy at Saint Xavier University, gave the perfect solution during her presentation at OUTC16—student interns!
Romana manages a team of full-time staff, freelancers, and, you guessed it, interns. For Romana, interns are the largest portion of her staff and play a significant role in increasing productivity within her department. Below are her strategies for hiring the right student interns and ways to groom them for success.
Determining Internship Type
There are two types of internships that can be offered: paid and unpaid. Paid internships, which also include federal work-study, can be a great solution because they give you the option of using your institution’s budget to keep students on staff after their federal work-study runs out. Although unpaid internships are just that – unpaid – students can receive course credit and gain valuable experience that will help them build their resume.
Knowing the best places to find interns is the next challenge. Romana suggests getting in touch with your school’s career services department since they constantly have students coming in and seeking help for their resumes and cover letters. Additional ways to recruit interns include community-based learning (CBL), posting flyers, speaking at freshman orientation, and reaching out to various department heads and advisors.
Once you’ve mastered how to market your need for interns, it’s time to begin the hiring process. Romana stated, “I don’t always hire interns, but when I do I choose the best!” Ideally, that’s the goal for any department looking to add extra help, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. When going through the hiring process, your website needs should be a top priority.
Interviews are perhaps the most critical part of the hiring process and should serve as an opportunity to gauge a student’s personality and work ethic rather than skill. The types of questions you should ask can be tricky. Romana offered up some great suggestions below.
Now that you’ve gone through the process of hiring your student interns, what can you expect? The first is eagerness and motivation from the interns, which can be very refreshing. The key here is to constantly keep your student interns motivated by giving them projects that will tap into their creativity. Second, because they’re still in the early stages of gaining experience, expect that your student interns will have a lot of questions and be prepared to spend some extra time with them. Third, you can expect to help them create a working portfolio and add value to their resumes with more formal titles (e.g., Assistant Content Editor is much more appealing than Web Intern). And finally, you can expect their need for a flexible schedule when it comes to their academic priorities.
As a way to increase productivity and empower your student interns, start by assessing which projects will play into their strengths. Using a project management system is a great way to organize projects and streamline communication and collaboration among interns. When working with OU Campus™, below are projects to consider assigning to your interns based on their area of study.