Greenhouse recently wrapped up our first-ever graduate internship program. Laura Chau, an MBA student at Stanford University, spent the summer in both the New York and San Francisco Greenhouse offices working on the Product Marketing Team. We caught up with Laura, currently in Tokyo, to get her perspective on her time at Greenhouse.
Below, hear Laura’s four main pieces of advice for companies trying to create or improve their own internship programs, including her thoughts on how to approach and differentiate undergraduate and graduate internships.
The hiring and interview experience can can make all the difference
Interview and hire interns the same way you would a full-time employee—thoughtfully. A structured process will serve as the foundation to a successful employee and intern experience.
“During the interview process at Greenhouse, I felt like they were actually invested in giving me a positive experience for the summer,” says Laura. “The entire interview process was very structured and comprehensive—I was able to meet all of the people on the team I would be working with. Two of the other companies I interviewed with extended offers without ever giving me the chance to meet my manager in person or see what the office looked like.”
Even though interns may only be working with your company for a few months, it’s helpful for them to experience and get a sense of the office culture and community. Invite them to come to the office for onsite interviews, meet relevant team members, and take an office tour.
Clearly define and structure the internship experience
“For me, personally, I knew that I ultimately wanted to pursue a career in venture capital investing,” says Laura. “But before going back to VC, I wanted more operating experience. I specifically wanted to learn about product marketing and how to launch a product in the HR tech space.”
Make sure you and the candidate get specific on the goals and priorities of the internship. Before starting the hiring process, ask yourself and answer the question: What am I hoping the intern will accomplish during their time at the company? And during the interview process, it’s helpful to understand exactly what the intern wants to get out of the experience.
Having alignment around and answers to these questions will ultimately help you and the newly hired intern clearly define projects. The more concrete the deliverable, the better. This makes it simple for both you and the intern to to track progress and feel accomplished.
For graduate interns specifically, think about depth versus breadth
When hiring undergraduate interns, it’s important to remember they may not have much, if any, real work experience. They’ll likely want to focus on learning, developing, and gaining a wide variety of experiences, perhaps through smaller projects in various departments.
Alternatively, graduate interns bring work experience to the table. They’ve likely owned projects, run meetings, and iterated on processes before. There’s an opportunity for them to dive deeper and focus on a single area or project. As a hiring manager, consider how the team can leverage the graduate intern’s established expertise when identifying projects.
“I had a lot of work experience, but still had no idea how to launch a product in the HR tech space,” says Laura. “While I came to the table with experience in running a project effectively, Greenhouse helped me to learn how to specifically launch a product. Having previous experience as well as a clear idea of what I wanted to learn allowed me to get more depth versus breadth of knowledge.”
For hiring managers, it’s also important to establish the intern’s credibility across the broader organization. Let your colleagues know about their experience and history of creating positive impact, so both the intern and the company are set up for success.
Have a concrete plan for integrating interns into the company culture
Integrating new employees into the company culture is a critical part of onboarding that can lead to higher productivity and engagement rates. With the support of planned onboarding activities and events, this often happens naturally for full-time employees with time.
But for interns, this can be one of the biggest challenges. Since they’ll likely be working at your company for only a few months, they may not have a ton of time to meet everyone or form close relationships. Try kickstarting the process as soon as possible by having a plan in place. And your plan doesn’t have to begin on or after the intern’s first day.
Here’s what Laura has to say on this:
“Before I even started, a future coworker reached out and invited me to a happy hour. I got to meet so many people before my first day. Also, as soon as I was hired, I was given a point person, like a buddy, who frequently checked in and answered my questions—like what to wear and what time to arrive at the office. Lastly, my manager went out of her way to introduce me to people outside of our team. I always had new people to get coffee or lunch with, which helped me learn about the whole organization and feel like a part of the Greenhouse family. ”
Proactively finding ways to integrate interns into the company culture, whether it’s inviting them to an event or sending them team headshots and bios, ensures they’ll experience your organization’s unique environment, values, and personalities as soon as possible, and hopefully contribute to them, too.
“Listening to sales development representatives on the phone and observing how Greenhouse’s CEOs respond to questions has given me so much insight into how things operate behind the scenes at a startup,” says Laura. “But more importantly, I achieved my goal of learning more about the HR tech space and how to successfully launch a product within it, which also positively impacted my team and the company.”
Whether you’re considering hiring an undergraduate or graduate intern this holiday season or next summer, keep the above four tips from Laura in mind as you strive to create mutually-beneficial internship experiences. And thank you, Laura, for lending Greenhouse your many talents this past summer and letting us learn from you!