The key to a strong internship pipeline is also the biggest hurdle

Written on Nov 07, 2019

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager

To stay one step ahead of the competition when it comes to recruiting, employ an age-old tactic used in business.

“It's definitely a lot of relationship building,” said Eveline Maciag, senior human resources professional at Schneider Downs & Co. Inc, an Ohio CPA Proud organization.

Maciag said it can make all the difference when building and maintaining a strong pipeline at your business. And while it might seem like an obvious answer, what often gets overlooked is the amount of work it requires to be successful.

When establishing strong ties at colleges and universities, it usually means connecting with professors to get in front of students more than just during a typical career fair. During this process, Maciag said it’s important not to come from a “take, take, take,” perspective.

“I treat the professors as a business partner,” she said. “So, it's not just a one-way street when I'm working with them.”

Maciag said she’ll work with professors to offer shadowing days at firms and even participate in class projects to give students a real-life accounting perspective. This way, the professors can offer a more dynamic and diverse experience to their students and she’s not the only one benefitting from the relationship.

“It’s a reciprocal relationship, but I think that's an approach that we've shifted to in recent years,” said Trevor Warren, CPA, audit and assurance shareholder at Schneider Downs. “Candidates and employees are such a critical part of your business and you should be treating your relationship with schools and professors with the same care you would a future client.”

That evolving perspective on the value of creating a strong pipeline also extends to the internship program itself, since outdated or lackluster experiences can turn off students from a company entirely. Maciag said they are “constantly improving the internship program” to stay competitive and ensure it’s a worthwhile experience for the students. Offering rotational programs around audit and tax and expanding internships to more than just a busy season or summer schedule means appealing to students’ diverse needs and interests.

“It’s also about being flexible with the internship,” Maciag said. “And when you find a student that comes in and it's just a phenomenal fit, you really want to keep them engaged in the program.”

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