Micro-Internships – a Powerful Tool for Talent Acquisition



Companies of all sizes face massive challenges related to early-career professionals. Companies burn millions on campus recruiting competing at the same schools, see diversity metrics that are unacceptable (with “solutions” often causing more harm than good), and complain that Career Launchers aren’t job ready. The impact is that companies are have more open positions than ever before, and then face 55 percent attrition of those new hires who are made.

However, the issue is not a shortage of talent. In fact, the nonprofit Strada Institute reported that over 43 percent of recent college grads were underemployed. The cause is not a skills gap tied to technical competencies; as research shows that the top eight skills valued by employers for early career professionals are those Core Skills such as problem solving, communication, grit, and adaptability.

The reality is of the millions of underemployed Career Launchers, the common thread is they lack the academic pedigree (ie school, major, GPA) or family network to even be considered by many companies. These are smart, hard-working, diverse individuals who have been filtered out because they don’t have the “right” keyword on their resume or have the wrong academic pedigree, neither of which is predictive of a good hire.

Assuming this issue does not go away when the gig economy or robots replace all of the jobs, how do companies solve this?

While we don’t think robots or gigs will really replace jobs, the acceptance of the gig economy has created a solution. While most of the discussion is around gigs is either tied to “side hustles” for those looking to supplement income or a way for companies to leverage geographic arbitrage by offshoring projects, the reality is that gigs are becoming a powerful tool for HR, especially related to early-career professionals. In particular, acceptance by hiring managers that individuals outside of the four walls of a company can add value through project-based work has created a way for HR to:

  • Gain early access to candidates
  • Enhance diversity and inclusion
  • Drive retention
  • Support brand development

Specifically, since an individual gig requires little to no commitment, a company can more easily provide an opportunity to someone from a different background, GPA, major, etc. – while we know these traits don’t prove skills or predict fit, companies still too frequently rely on them for top-of-funnel filtering at the early-career stage as there is little to no other data upon which they can rely. And by seeing these individuals in action, companies can more effectively assess communication, problem solving, grit, and the other core skills that are vital to success.

In the same vein, the low commitment of gigs provides an opportunity for companies to get in front of early-career professionals who might not otherwise consider their company, industry, or role. As gigs provide a way for individuals and candidates to mutually audition one another upfront, they also lead to better hiring outcomes and retention.


Join @shrmnextchat for #Nextchat: Micro-Internships - A Powerful Tool for Talent Acquisition with special guest Jeffrey Moss on February 6 at 3:00 p.m. ET.   



The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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