Test-Drive Your Talent Pipeline Via Ongoing Internship Connections in Business and Work


A few years ago, one of my first clients reached out to me for assistance in hiring a new CPA to join their talented and well-tenured team.

During our initial meeting (as I usually do), I asked the firm’s Partners a number of questions to determine the candidate success profile.  They struggled a bit on answering some of the questions, so I asked my favorite diagnostic question. “Well, when was last time you hired your most successful intern?” One Partner pointed to the other. “When we hired my Partner after their internship, over 20 years ago.” We laughed for a few seconds – then their faces fell a bit. However, they gave me an important clue. “You have at least one intern every year. Just to confirm – you haven’t hired an intern in over 20 years?” They shook their heads again. “We haven’t needed to hire any interns as regular employees,” they replied. “Our business has been steady enough that we haven’t needed to add staff. Over the last year, our business has increased enough that we need another CPA on staff.”

A good problem to have, indeed. “Okay,” I continued. “So who was the best intern you’ve had since you hired the junior partner over 20 years ago?” They both knew instantly, saying the Intern’s name simultaneously. “Great,” I replied. “Not so great,” one of the partners continued. “That was over 6 years ago, and that Intern is happily working for a large multinational corporation. “Really,” I replied, undeterred.”Let’s look up your former Intern on LinkedIn.”

We looked the Intern up on LinkedIn – they had a hyphenated name. “I heard they got married right after they took their current job,” one partner observed. I knew the multinational company – 70 hours a week and frequent travel was the norm.  “Well, based on their family needs, your Intern might be interested in your firm’s flexible work schedules and the ability to work from home one day a week.” The Partners were skeptical. “Why would they come to work for our small firm?” Still undeterred, I made a recommendation. “Call your former Intern and ask them out to coffee, to gauge their interest. Even if they’re not interested, they may have a colleague who is.” The Partners looked at each other. “An hour over coffee is worth the investment,” I urged. They reluctantly agreed.

The result?  During that initial phone conversation, their former Intern brought up their interest in returning to the firm first – they loved working for the firm and Partners, and the 70-hour-a-week grind was not a good fit with the former Intern’s growing family. In 3 days, their former Intern became their new CPA. That experience with their former Intern confirmed for the Partners that they needed to mine their own precious resource: the benefit of test-driving their talent pipeline through their already-long-standing commitment to an annual firm internship experience – and by staying in touch with that precious pipeline.

How will you test-drive and effectively leverage your talent pipeline via ongoing internship connections in business and work?

Vertical shot of a positive office worker computing in office

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