Catch Them While They’re Young!

Written by Akhil Shahani, director of The Shahani Group.

In theory, all companies like to believe that they’re hiring the best people, and that it really takes talent to make it into their organization. But is that really true? Hiring two out of 200 job seekers doesn’t really mean a thing if they’re not the best among the entire universe of possible candidates. So, how do you go about hiring top quality people?

The real problem with hiring people once they’re through with college is that the best professionals are rarely found in the job market. They’re so busy making it big in their careers, or are so valued by their existing employers, that switching jobs holds very little incentive.

Thus, by definition most job seekers are not the most talented or the brightest in their profession. Or to be fair to them, they could be perfectly good people trying to make it in the wrong job. So, an employer looking to hire top-notch people isn’t likely to find them this way.

This is where an internship program can make a big difference. Students don’t think of employment until they get to their final year. Therefore, employers get to pick from a wider set of people, a representative subset of the candidate population. Naturally, some of these guys will be the best of the breed.

The best part of hiring interns is that employers have an opportunity to try them out before they take them on full-time. An internship program helps keep the employee pipeline full.

That being said, hiring interns is no less important than hiring permanent staff. It needs to be handled with care and attention if companies are to succeed in their mission of attracting the best talent. Employers that have discovered the formula suggest doing all or most of the following:

  • Get personal. Surprise the candidate with your attention. Don’t send out bland e-mails in bulk or post recruitment notices. Identify the schools from which you’d like to recruit and send out personalized letters to students.
  • Get a second opinion. Teachers are usually the best guide when it comes to identifying suitable candidates. Speak to them to seek their recommendation on who they think suit your requirements best.
  • Probe carefully. Don’t be in a hurry to hire the first applicant. Go through the entire bunch through a series of interviews. Make sure at least one of those interviews is in person. Prepare a list of questions so that you don’t miss out any vital points.
  • Treat them well. Interns are not lowly paid gophers. They are potentially your future employees, and if you’d like them to consider working for your company, you’ll have to woo them slowly and surely.

Some other things to do:

  • Pay a reasonable stipend during internship
  • Pay for expenses like stay and travel
  • Give them real work to do

If you put these ideas into practice within your organization, you will build a truly talented workforce, and that will pay huge dividends in the future.

Akhil Shahani is a serial entrepreneur who wants to help you succeed. If you like to work smart, check out  It’s full of articles and resources to help you start and grow your business successfully.

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