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Building a Successful Internship Program

By Alex Krebs posted 03-11-2019 12:42


Spring forward!  The momentum of football and basketball sends us full swing into spring season.  At this point in the year, some of our interns have mastered their duties, while others, well, they’re nice to have around!  Interns really are the foundation of our departments; running on-court promotions, rolling t-shirts, dressing manikins, and duties as assigned!  Having an excellent internship program can be a game changer for smaller departments and a nice compliment to bigger departments as well.  So, with the longer days upon us, it’s time to start planning for the 2019-2020 year.  This is a quick guide to help you answer some important questions as you begin the hiring process for your next wave of interns.


First, it’s important to structure your internship program to fit the needs of your department.  How many interns do you need to run your operation?  Think about what you’ll need, starting with football, everything else is cake.   Having a few extra hands never hurts with scheduling either, and the surplus can be beneficial when you have that one intern that’s always sick.  What projects need to be done?  Determining what the interns will actually be doing is one of the biggest components of your structure.  Of course, there’s a fine balance between what needs to be accomplished in the office versus what needs to be executed on the field.  Having interns work on a specific project or sport throughout the year ensures continuity and helps navigate that balance.  And who do you give that responsibility to?  All of the interns?  Ask yourself if a second-tier position might help incentivize your structure.  The cream will eventually rise to the top and from there you can give more assignments to returners that are ready to be elevated.  Whichever structure you deem best, it’s a good idea to paint that picture in the coming month to determine how you will execute hiring.

Potential Applicants

Finding potential applicants for your internship position can be a breeze if you have well defined campus relationships but can be accomplished by turning over some stones yourself.  A good place to start is with your current class.  Require that they recommend some friends, but be careful, the same intern that was always sick might be contagious.  Once you have a well-written description, you can look outwards by targeting student groups, colleges, and programs that might directly be relevant to the experience.  Think marketing clubs, sports business clubs, sport management programs, colleges of business, and so on.  Most of these entities have contact information listed online, while others might just require a few flyers.  Don’t forget to work with your student-athlete development team to see if any potential student-athletes are looking for some experience.

Narrow the Field

After finding your applicant pool, you’ll need to narrow the field into interview potential candidates.  Keep in mind what your team will eventually look like!  If you only interview incoming seniors, then you’ll have complete turnover and no one to fill your second-tier position.  You’ll need to remember this as well when you’re finding potential applicants and ultimately when you make your final hiring decision.  Don’t shoot yourself in the foot along the way!  You can narrow the field by browsing through resumes and cover letters as well.  There’s always a few applications that have noticeably more effort in them.  My favorite is when the cover letter says “Marketing Cover Letter Sample” at the top.


Interviewing candidates can be tedious and certainly time consuming as well, but can be the most fruitful part of the process.  It will be the first time your future interns will hear expectations from the horse’s mouth.  Be candid; not everything you’ll ask them to do is going to be glamorous.  But don’t scare them; tell them what they can hope to learn by putting in the extra effort.  Ask them questions to determine their goals and mindset.  You’ll want to align with interns that share your passion, but you don’t want interns that are super fans.  Which applicants have shown their willingness to get more experience?  Which applicants waited until their senior year to complete their first internship?  Not one quality should be a defining factor, but hopefully by asking the right questions you can’t paint a full picture and determine who will fit best with your existing full-time staff.   


Add your comments below for more tips!  Best of luck with hiring season!