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How to Scout Future Leaders Through Internship

Written by Angela Finding

If you want your organization to continue growing in a positive direction, you need strong leaders to take the helm. Of course, the problem is that good leaders are hard to find—and they’re best cultivated when molded over time.

Though it may not seem intuitive, one of the best ways to find new leaders is through your internship program. It offers a number of benefits:

  • First, with a formal program in place, you’ll probably host and educate several waves of interns. That gives you the opportunity to evaluate different personalities, different skill sets, and different interest levels, giving you a wide pool of candidates to choose from.
  • Most interns are attending college for the first time, and are in their late teens or early twenties. Hiring young people gives you more time to develop them into strong leaders from within your organization.
  • Culture pairing. About two-thirds of interns accept jobs that are offered to them, but you’ll still want to make sure they’re a good fit for your culture before hiring them. Incubating them through internship is a good way to do that.

So how can you improve your chances of attracting strong potential leaders in the first place?

  • Reach wide. Expand your reach as much as possible by advertising your internship in multiple places, advertising as early and as often as possible, and considering as many applications as you can. The more intern applicants you receive, the more choices you’ll have, and the wider the talent pool you’ll have to draw from.
  • Look for potential. It’s tempting to look for leadership qualities that already exist, such as decisiveness and confidence, but it’s hard to find those in such young people. Instead, look for potential, including a desire to take control and a genuine interest in the company.
  • Remain patient. You probably won’t find the perfect leadership candidate in your first round of interns, or even your second. When you do find a good candidate, they may choose to leave the company or turn down your job offer. Remain patient with your interns and prospective leaders, and understand that this is a long-term strategy.

With these tips and considerations, you can use your internship program as a way to cultivate your company’s next generation of leaders. Doing so not only puts your company in a better position for its future, but also equips those interns with better skills to take forward in theirs.

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