Talent, Visas, & Internships- We can fix this!

by John on February 24, 2016

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!” – Pete Townshend

I was thinking back to one of the many conversations that I’ve had with my father. He tended to use semi cryptic song lyrics and sayings when he was trying to make a point with me. It was his way of trying to find some commonality with me when we disagreed on a subject.

He was a lifer with AT&T/BellSouth/Southern Bell. Long since retired, he tried to share his point of view creatively. His goal was to try and get me to see things differently. Some of the time it worked. One of his favorite sayings to me (aside from “Diplomacy, JP, for the love of all that’s holy can’t you be a diplomat?”) was the line above from Pete Townsend. His point, the more things change, the more they really stay the same.

This thought was prompted by a conversation that I had with a random recruiter a few weeks ago about the state of college recruiting. I shared with them a simple fact. The firms that figure out how to build solid intern recruiting programs leveraging students on a F1 visa status would be king. They (the firms) would outpace any other firms recruiting on campuses today.

Sadly, the response I received from the recruiter was exactly what I would say to career services professionals when I was recruiting full time. They really wanted to, but couldn’t figure out how to make it work.

Unemployment is down, recruiting talent at the collegiate level has become extremely competitive, but I’m still hearing comments that are stuck in a strategy reminiscent of 2006.

I’m a huge advocate for my students here on visas. They’re hungry, hard working, and top performers in class and leaders in various campus organizations.

Here’s how I think HR can start to solve this problem:

  1. Talk to all the students, don’t fixate on the visa status, fixate on the student’s skills
  2. Build a kick-ass internship program. If your firm is focusing on “diversity” then HR needs to help their leaders understand the true meaning of the word.
  3. Help shift the old paradigm of “we can’t convert the intern to a FTE once the internship is done” to a new one of “We are providing a world-class internship experience for top university talent, regardless of visa status” with senior leadership and line managers.
  4. Win.

Is it simplistic? Yes. Can it be done? Absolutely! When senior leaders realize that they’ve managed to find amazing talent, they’ll find a way to keep it instead of losing it to their competition.

Maybe then, just maybe, Pete’s words wont ring so true in the recruiting space.

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