Creating a Successful

Businesses hire interns to share their field experience with newcomers, get entry-level and administrative tasks done, and help students get the real-world experience they need to be successful. Although these student employees often work in exchange for stipends or academic credit, employers need to be careful: Interns do not equal free labor, and if you’re thinking of welcoming interns into your office, there are a few key points to consider before you make your first hire. Business News Daily spoke with legal and HR experts about providing a beneficial, legally compliant experience for your interns in a for-profit setting. The pay question: What duties are being performed? Pop culture (based on many real-life stories) makes it seem like interns’ lives revolve around making copies, standing in long lines to get everyone coffee, and answering their boss’s phone calls in the middle of the night, all without a single penny in return. However, there are tasks that an intern could be doing that would categorize them as an employee – which would mean legal entitlement to compensation.

The decision of whether to pay an intern is largely based on what the intern is doing. Adam Kemper, a labor and employment attorney for the Greenspoon Marder law firm, said there needs to be a distinction between interns’ duties and a typical employee’s duties if you don’t intend to pay them. “On a day-to-day basis, what is the intern doing?” Kemper said. “Shadowing? Running errands? Is he or she (working) independently or supervised?” “Ensure that (an unpaid) intern is not performing work or taking on responsibilities that would typically be performed by a full-time employee,” added Samantha Lambert, director of human resources at Blue Fountain Media. If there’s any doubt whatsoever about whether the worker should be classified as an intern or employee, Kemper advised sticking with “employee” and adding him or her to the payroll. “What’s problematic for companies is that they’re having interns run errands, get coffee, buy things for (employees) – nothing educational,” Kemper said. “If you want to have someone do that, treat them as an employee and pay minimum wage.” What tasks can an intern perform? If you decide to pay your intern, that might change the way you structure your program. Paid interns who receive at least minimum wage and overtime pay for working beyond 40 hours per week can technically perform the work of your regular workforce. However, the Department of Labor has a very specific set of guidelines regarding what unpaid interns can and can’t do. If receiving academic credit is not a possibility or the intern is already out of school, Lambert noted, your company must comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This means your internship program must be designed so your company does not benefit at all from the interns’ work, and the experience should be for educational purposes only. The employer should aim to provide the intern with skills that can be used in his or her future career, rather than skills particular to its own operations.

A good way to make the experience educational is to talk to the intern about the differences between school and career and tie their education into their internship. “Students can have an idealistic view of how their college course has totally prepared them for the full-time position,” said Tim Elmore, president of Growing Leaders. “While I can remain very positive about the need for higher education, I always communicate how different an eight-hour workday on the job is compared to a school day on the campus. I talk about the practical value of soft skills … versus the classroom, which measures memorization and test scores.” Kemper advised thinking about the tasks you’d want an intern to do long before you begin searching for candidates. This way, you can clearly articulate the duties and learning experience an intern can expect from your company.

3 Tips for Finding Entry Level Talent

With college graduation just around the corner, the job market is about to be flooded with entry-level talent looking for full-time jobs and internships. For employers, taking advantage of the influx of newly minted professionals can be as simple as having a good campus recruiting strategy in place. “College recruiting is a smart, predictable, scalable way to bring talent into any organization,” said Tey Scott, director of talent acquisition at LinkedIn. “Smart companies know they need to invest in early-in-career talent to compete in the long term. In tech in particular, getting early-in-career technical talent in the door may be the difference between being able to scale their company fast enough to deliver on product road maps or not.” The college career fair is the traditional method of on-campus recruiting, but based on LinkedIn’s success, Scott recommends implementing out-of-the-box initiatives that provide value on campus while also getting in front of targeted recruits.

“The question we asked ourselves was, what would it take to identify nearly all early-in-career talent without having to rely on physical on-campus events?” she said. “To start, we looked beyond focusing our efforts solely on specific universities and schools, which tends to result in a limited pool of applicants over time. We moved away from career fairs at well-known universities and began thinking regionally, which has allowed us to successfully engage with, train and attract various student groups on our platform.”

Scott noted that LinkedIn has also made it a priority to organize more unique, engaging events, such as offering students help with their LinkedIn profiles and taking their headshots.

“LinkedIn’s vision is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, so by focusing more on supporting students’ professional development rather than focusing on recruiting, we can empower students to hone their professional skills to help them land their dream job,” Scott said.

 

Creating a smart campus recruiting strategy

When you’re building a program to attract early-career professionals, branding is everything, said Scott. Mobilizing employees to attend on-campus events like career fairs and mock interviews can be time-consuming and expensive, Scott said — and more importantly, you may not come away finding the best, most diverse talent if you limit yourself to a few select schools.

“If you are a company looking to build your brand, we suggest getting out in front of as many students as possible to see what kind of talent you can attract,” she said. “Chances are you will find you don’t want to limit yourselves to the traditional model of campus recruiting and instead want to broaden your reach.”

In a LinkedIn blog post, Scott offered the following tips for employers looking to find great entry-level talent in the soon-to-be college graduate pool:

1. Focus on targeting by region, not by school. Scott noted that this broadens your pool of potential candidates and, in tandem, the diversity of your pool.

2. Host professional development events. You can engage potential candidates better by branding your efforts as a “development” event, rather than one designed solely for recruitment, said Scott. For example, LinkedIn hosts profile stations on campuses to help students take professional headshots and increase their job prospects.

3. Build and develop programs that encourage hands-on interaction. LinkedIn developed a new program called Accelerate U to provide promising candidates a forum to learn, engage and connect through daylong workshops around professional branding, networking and interview skills.

“The key to our success with the program has been placing emphasis on the importance of skill building through workshops around personal branding, networking and interviewing,” Scott said. “Our goal is to arm students with the skills necessary to put their best foot forward in interviews not just for our company, but for any professional opportunity they choose. By adding value for candidates and a sense of authenticity to our recruitment initiatives, we’ve seen our programs resonate more with on-campus audiences.”

Bad Hire Really Costing Your Business

The average cost of hiring the wrong employee is $17,000, according to research conducted by Career Builder. That means getting the hiring decision right the first time is essential, but how can hiring managers be sure they’re bringing on the right people? Conventional hiring methods follow a simple process where candidates apply based on a vague job description, several are selected for interviews, and then eventually one is selected. But oftentimes what seemed like the right fit quickly becomes a hiring error. Rex Conner, human resources consultant and author of “What if Common Sense Was Common Practice in Business?” (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2016) told Business News Daily the fix is simple: reduce subjectivity in the hiring process. “The biggest obstacle to hiring the right people, onboarding them, training them, evaluating and developing them is subjectivity,” Conner said. “We end up with these ridiculous conversations where an interviewer asks, ‘What’s your biggest weakness,’ and (the response) is ‘I work too much.’ That doesn’t tell you anything about the skills required.”

Given that Career Builder found nearly 60 percent of bad hires went wrong because the employee could not produce the level of work required by the employer, understanding skill set at step one is imperative to avoiding a hiring disaster. Conner offered up the following advice for hiring managers whom are rethinking the hiring process in terms of demonstrable skills and objective measurements of candidates.

  • Develop and articulate two sets of skills: prerequisites and trained. Prerequisites are the skills that a candidate should come to the interview prepared to demonstrate. These skills are required for the job and new employees will not be trained in them. The trained skills are ones that will be learned on the job; some prior proficiency is desirable, but not necessarily required.
  • Reduce the chatter in interviews. Make the interview more about asking the candidate to demonstrate their prerequisite skills than asking open-ended questions that ultimately give you little insight. Once the skills have been demonstrated, ask those questions if you’d like, but there’s no sense in asking them of someone who cannot demonstrate an ability to do the work.
  • Make subjective “soft skills” objective. Things like “cultural fit” and “team player” are somewhat subjective; every company sees a “team player” slightly differently. Conner recommends breaking down these “soft skills” into their component parts. Exactly what do you look for in a team player or in a cultural fit? Name those things to make them concrete, and then ask yourself if you see those traits in your candidate.
  • Narrow the list with job requirements – Getting candidates to whittle down your list for you is key. This can be done by posting job requirements, such as “willing to work weekends” or “must be willing to travel.” Any potential candidates unwilling to abide by these requirements will not make it through your door for an interview, thereby saving time, money and reducing the risk of making a wrong hire.
  • Be subjective if you’re stuck. At this point, Conner said, you’ve got all you need to decide. If two candidates are deadlocked after you have assessed their required skills, determined their coachability on trained skills, examined their soft skills and explained the job requirements in detail, subjectivity still serves.

 

Visa Program Faces Regulatory Changes

The H-1B visa program, which offers 85,000 visas each year to foreign skilled or specialty workers, is undergoing some changes. The program, which grants certain employers access to foreign labor when the necessary skills are not available within the U.S. workforce, is facing three major changes initiated by the executive branch to clamp down on perceived abuses. On March 31, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that computer programmers, typically considered the lowest qualifying position for the H-1B program, would have to demonstrate that they’ve attained at least a bachelor’s degree in their field; associate’s degrees would no longer be considered acceptable. As a follow-up to this change, the USCIS announced on April 3 that “H-1B dependent employers” (companies with a workforce composition of at least 15 percent H-1B visa holders) would be subject to more stringent screenings to ensure compliance with the law.

“This identifies heavy users of H-1B visas,” Dick Burke, CEO of Envoy Global, told Business News Daily. “What (USCIS) is saying is, ‘When we make site visits for compliance, we are going to focus on H-1B dependent companies or those with a high percentage of workers working off site … in a consulting capacity.'” Then, on April 4,, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) jumped into the game with an announcement that it would step up enforcement actions against companies that violated the law, particularly with respect to displacing American workers. “The H-1B visa program authorizes the temporary employment of qualified individuals who are not otherwise authorized to work in the U.S,” a U.S. DOL statement reads.

“In recent years, some employers have used the H-1B program to hire foreign workers despite American workers being qualified and available for work, or even to replace American workers.” According to Burke, these three measures taken together are targeting what is known as the “infotech industry,” in which companies employ large numbers of IT workers from abroad – most commonly from India – as consultants, which then support IT operations for other companies. “There are instances where displacement does occur,” Burke said. “And it’s undebatable that infotech gets a large percentage of the H-1B visas. However, the problem is that (discussions of displacement) drowns out the bigger problem, which is a skills shortage in U.S. STEM jobs.” On April 7, just five days after this year’s H-1B lottery opened, the number of applicants had already exceeded the limit. This has become the norm in recent years, with USCIS receiving almost three times as many applications as the limit in 2016. “Many employers have retracted from sponsoring prospective H-1B employees because the uncertainty makes it cost-prohibitive for companies to invest time and money in an employee who may not be able to work for them after all,” said Renata Castro, an immigration attorney at the Castro Legal Group.