Internships have come a long way since the days of the college student being sent to grab coffee orders for senior staff and managers. The modern intern, especially in the tech world, is tasked with real work that can show a prospective employer a lot about their work ethic, and capabilities, and personality.

For companies that offer internships, it’s smart–when possible–to extend a job offer to a skilled intern. Failure to do so could mean they end up working for your competition, and you could be missing out on a young professional who might bring cutting-edge skills to the table.

If you’re trying to decide whether to hire an intern at the end of their program, here are four factors to consider.

1: You already know how your intern works

Whether an intern has been with your company for a few months over the summer or for an entire school semester, you’ve had a chance to assess quite a few things about the person.

You know how that intern works, whether they get along with coworkers, how skilled they are at the work they’ve been given, and whether they fit with your organizational culture.

Consider all of those elements as known variables in contrast to all the unknowns that come with a new hire. A regular hire could seem to be compatible with your team now, but in a few months there could be a completely different picture, and a lot of wasted training time and money if that person has to be let go.

SEE: IT jobs in 2020: A leader’s guide (ZDNet special report) | Download the PDF version (TechRepublic)

2: Hiring interns reduces costs and hiring delays

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, it takes an average of 42 days and $4,129 to fill a vacancy. That’s over a month of lost work time and a significant amount of money spent with no guarantee that the eventual hire will be a good fit.

Hiring an intern, on the other hand, eliminates the lost time, saves the money, and lands you with an employee who you’re familiar with (and vice versa).

3: Newly transitioned interns can hit the ground running

On top of hiring costs and a 42-day wait to fill an open slot, hiring a brand new employee brings more delays in the form of paperwork processing, training time, and a learning curve that any employee, no matter how talented, has when they join a new organization.

When an intern joins your team as a permanent employee, you’re bringing someone on board who already knows the flow of work, what they’re responsibilities will be, who they’re working with, and likely already has the necessary paperwork on file with HR and payroll.

That newly hired intern can start full steam ahead on day one, which is great for business.

4: Former interns have a higher retention rate

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, interns who transition into full-time employees are far more likely (PDF) to stick with a company than those hired traditionally.

In 2017, the one-year retention rate for former interns was 65.5%, as opposed to 46.2% for those without a prior internship. At the five-year mark, that difference remains roughly the same: There’s a 51.8% chance a former intern is still around, and those who weren’t interns are only 35.8% likely to still be with an organization.

SEE: The future of IT jobs: A business leader’s guide (Tech Pro Research)

How to make your internship program as effective as possible

Losing a skilled intern because they didn’t have a positive experience at your organization can be a huge loss, and it can damage your brand as an employer as well–Glassdoor reviews can have a huge impact on whether a potential employee pursues a job, and the last thing you want is a long list of bitter interns dishing about bad corporate culture.

Don’t assume that an offer means an intern will accept–if you’re going to court a new employee, you need to be sure you’re running a good internship and creating an environment that they’ll want to stay in. Here are three recommendations.

1: Pay interns

Paid internships are more likely to end with a job offer, with 60% of paid interns getting an offer, and only 37% of unpaid interns receiving one, according to a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. There could be a number of reasons for that discrepancy, but according to the career development website The Balanced Careers, the reason could be simple: Paid interns feel more invested in their work and want to stick around.

Interns should never be looked at as free labor–if you aren’t paying your interns, you aren’t building loyalty and might not be getting their best.

2: Give interns real work

Internships can be a great way to offload long, tedious, and mundane work, but that isn’t going to foster an environment where that intern feels appreciated, which in turn means they’ll likely look elsewhere for work.

According to Forbes, interns are interested in meaningful work experience that helps them look better to future employers; if they aren’t getting that experience, that future employer isn’t likely to be you.

Not only that, said Forbes, but giving an intern meaningful work helps your organization run more smoothly, get more accomplished, and be more successful. It also helps you get a better idea of what that intern is capable of and whether they’d be a good permanent addition to your team.

3: Pair interns with mentors

Interns need guidance, and there’s no one better to give it than a seasoned professional from their department.

Pairing an intern with a good mentor, says Symplicity Recruit, gives an intern “insights about career opportunities, navigation of a company and other guidance.”

Feeling connected to an experienced employee also helps an intern grow and coaches them in a way that makes them a better fit for a full-time job.

Treat your interns right and give them opportunities to shine, and you’re likely to end up with someone you can’t resist hiring. Why do the opposite?

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