Most Hong Kong firms don’t think too much of summer interns. But many top US companies regard them as an important talent pool.
Cheng Chih-kai, a co-founder of California-based venture capital firm Acorn Pacific Ventures and a tech columnist at the online platform of Taiwan’s Tianxia magazine, says firms must realize that internship programs can benefit in more ways than one.
He points out that most companies in the US, be it tech titans such as Google or Facebook or small and medium-sized enterprises, spend a lot of time and effort to compete for summer interns.
Recruiting and selecting summer interns is in fact a key event for human resources departments every year.
Google hires about 1,500 summer interns a year after drawing applications from several thousands of interested candidates. Facebook is another internship favorite of students.
Both the tech titans treat the interns like employees, paying them the equivalent of an annual salary of US$80,000–$90,000.
The best thing about summer internship is both the companies and the students can get a close look at each other and see if they are a good fit for longer-term employment. Cheng likens an internship as a “trial marriage”.
He cites a survey as showing that 67 percent of summer interns have received a permanent job offer later from the internship companies. And 84 percent of the people who receive such offers had signed up.
With the internship programs, there is good chance that new recruits get matched to positions that suit them.
Back on the campus, summer interns also make great company ambassadors, as they have better knowledge about the products and cultures of the companies they worked with temporarily. Word of mouth exchanges are far more effective than traditional advertising.
There are other indirect benefits too.
Although university students are novices, and their thoughts and ideas might seem rough or vague, their outsider perspective can be highly unique and valuable.
It’s like “dropping a pebble into water”, says Cheng.
On top of equipping interns with basic training and assisting them to get adapted to the working environment, companies have to design appropriate tasks for the newcomers in order to achieve some solid results.
These are all useful exercises for companies. In order to create a good internship experience, interdepartmental communication must be enhanced as well.
Manpower is key to enhancing competitiveness. Recruiting summer interns can be a shortcut to accessing highly talented university graduates.
Cheng is urging Taiwanese firms to follow the practice of the US to tap this talent treasure. Hong Kong companies would also do well to heed his advice.
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