internsRecently, there’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the topic of diversity in the workplace — and rightfully so. We live in a diverse world; it only makes sense that our workplaces readily encompass the same type of inclusion and diversity. But unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

According to InternMatch internal data, only 10 percent of companies with 250 employees or more feel the diversity of their internship program is satisfactory. The other 90 percent of companies feel they need work in terms of diversity.

On the other side of spectrum, an InternMatch survey of more than 100,000 students shared “company culture” is the third most important criteria when selecting an internship, behind “portfolio building” and “career exploration”.

Building a diverse workplace comes with a variety of benefits: improved company culture, a better work environment, more creative ideas, and even fresher problem-solving tactics. But, boosting diversity within your company isn’t just about bringing on a more diverse set of full-time employees. Hiring diverse interns and new grads is one of the most effective ways to create a beneficial shift toward a more diverse workplace.

Diverse internship programs leads to diverse companies. Use these tips to recruit a more diverse fleet of interns:

Understand the diversity issues faced by your industry. Each career field presents a unique diversity challenge. Before you can begin recruiting a more diverse fleet of interns, you must first understand where the problems with diversity lie.

For example, in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) field, many problems exist around the number of minority students who are currently studying and employed. The Level Playing Field reports that African-American and Latino students combined represented only 15 percent of all AP test takers in physics and calculus. This data provides important insight into where a major diversity issue lies. Find out where your industry stands on diversity and what specific areas need to be met when you take action.

Mentor high-school students. One of the best ways to tap into diversity is by accessing your future workforce early. Engage students at a high-school level by partnering your company with their schools or creating high-school programs relevant to your industry.

In addition, consider hosting a hackathon at a local high school, brown bag mentoring lunches with your employees, tech talks, or even a diversity internship or fellows program for high school students. This will give a diverse group of students a chance to interact with your company, gain valuable information on a career they may not have previously considered, and leave you top-of-mind for when they’re at the appropriate intern age.

Google and Microsoft are two companies who have had a great deal of success with their diversity-focused mentorship programs. Google RISE Awards, which stand for Roots in Science and Engineering, works to promote and support STEM and computer science education initiatives. They currently grant awards to organizations working with K-12/primary and secondary school to provide enrichment programs to nurture the future of their industry. Microsoft has created the DigiGirlz High Tech Camp to give girls 13 and up a hands-on experience with technology and inspire them to consider a STEM career.

Build more diverse recruiting connections. Improving the diversity of your internship program involves promoting your company to and recruiting a more diverse selection of students. If your local universities aren’t cutting it in terms of their diversity, it might be best to expand your reach and build more diverse connections.

Tap into your industry’s professional organizations dedicated to minorities — for example, the National Society of Black Engineers or the National Black MBA Association. There are also many historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) where you can begin attending career fairs or even participating in speaking engagements. Be sure to send employees who are comfortable sharing your company’s diversity message.

Offer a paid internship. Providing well-compensated internship opportunities for students is another simple way to open up your talent pool to more diverse candidates. Taking on an unpaid or underpaid internship can be costly for a student and it’s what ultimately holds back so many students from getting the experiences they need to succeed in their careers. The expense of paying for college credit is one thing, but students may also have to forfeit their part-time job to make time for their internship. Improve your chances of drawing in a more diverse selection of candidates by providing your interns with a paid opportunity.

Provide online interviewing options. Switching up your hiring practices to bring them away from more traditional methods can improve both the recruitment and hiring of diverse interns. Drop your traditional face-to-face interviews and begin using video interviews for your intern hiring process. This can help to open your internship program up to more geographic locations, a greater diversity of students, and even offer a more interactive approach to hiring. Companies big and small are utilizing video interviewing to improve the way they hire.

Diversity isn’t an easy issue to tackle. Improving your hiring practices to reach a more diverse audience for your internship program will create a positive wave of change within your company.

What are you doing to draw in a more diverse group of interns?


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