Maximizing Internships, Pt. 2: Be Realistic About Chances You’ll Hire Them

As a follow up to my last blog about Fox, Joss & Yankee’s white paper, “Implementing Internships,” and my own thoughts on maximizing the benefits of having interns, there’s one more area I want to cover: using internships as a tool to recruit professional employees. Many firms have this strategy, at least in the back of their minds, when they initiate internship programs. But we’ve found that internships result in jobs so rarely (less than 20% of the time), that the advisory firms I work with have taken recruiting off the list of the many good reasons to have an internship program.

Now don’t get me wrong: through an internship, an advisory firm will come to know a student intern far better than they can through a typical recruiting and hiring process. Also, the intern will get to know the firm a lot better. That, by the way, is one of the reasons that firms need to put their best foot forward during the time that interns are working in their offices: the impression of disorganization, lack of interest in the intern, or failing to provide a valuable learning experience will not only sour that intern on the firm, but may well make the firm a less desirable employer to all the other financial planning students with whom the intern networks. 

But with most internships, the advantages of getting to know one another are outweighed by the reality of the situation. For one thing, most financial planning students are in transition: which means they are entering into a new field (often their first career), and have very little idea of what they are looking for in a place to practice their new profession. An internship will give them valuable exposure to the business of financial advice, and at least one way that advice is delivered to the investing public. But the chances are relatively low that this first exposure to a financial planning firm will include the situation that interns ultimately decided they want. 

What’s more, many college financial planning programs require, or at least strongly encourage, their students to serve as interns at advisory practices. And even if they don’t, virtually all financial planning students these days understand that their chances of getting a planning job when they graduate will be greatly enhanced if they have an internship on their resume. 

So planning students tend to be far more interested in simply getting an internship than taking a hard look at whether they would take a permanent job with a firm at which they intern. For instance, interns are much less picky about location of an internship (the region of the country, whether it’s in a city or a suburb, how their spouse feels about it, etc.) than they would be if they were considering a first job. They’re not so concerned about the nature of the firm, either: large or small, the investment philosophy, the target clients, etc. When it comes time to choose their first “professional” job, however, all these considerations come into play, in a big way. 

There are many great reasons for advisory firms to hire interns, including getting specific projects done, getting cutting edge technology help, and giving back to the advisory profession by training the next generation of financial planners. But take it from me, working with interns as a way to screen potential professional employees is, in many cases a long shot.

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