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Enterprises Recruiting Model Transforms Interns Into Managers

May 20, 2009
Related Topics: Motivating Employees, Retention, Workforce Planning, Featured Article, Recruitment
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Enterprise Rent-A-Car will employ 1,800 interns this summer, most of them rising juniors and seniors. By the time the interns head back to school in September, most of the rising seniors will have received a formal job offer from the company, and by the end of the fall semester, most will have accepted it.

With 2008 revenue of $10.1 billion and 66,000 employees, Enterprise is the largest car rental company in North America and one of the top employers for interns and new college graduates. The company hires 8,000 graduates a year to fill its management talent pipeline.

Like most employers, Enterprise prefers candidates who have work-related experience. Its recruiters forgo rigid hiring criteria in favor of a broad approach that selects students with well-rounded work experience, leadership abilities and good customer-relations skills.

Employers consistently rank internships as one of their most effective recruiting tools. A 2009 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 76.3 percent of employers prefer graduates with relevant work experience. For college students, that experience is often gained through an internship or cooperative assignment.

An additional 18.9 percent of employers report that they prefer to hire graduates with any type of work experience, relevant or not.

As labor markets continue to soften, students who have worked in internship or cooperative programs will have a decisive edge in finding jobs. Employers can expect to see a surge in their internship applications over the 2009-2010 academic year, but that fertile field for recruiting will pay off only if the right programs are in place for training interns and converting them into full-time employees.

Recruiting and training
All recruiting at Enterprise is conducted in-house with a team of 200 recruiters scouring more than 1,000 college campuses each year. Recruiters fill open positions at company headquarters in St. Louis and at branch offices in 7,000 locations.

“Enterprise is somewhat different than many companies in that all of our recruiters are full-cycle recruiters with responsibility for all open positions,” says Pam Webster, assistant vice president for recruiting. “Our structure for recruiters is very decentralized. The primary goal is to recruit for the local market. If a student is planning to relocate, the recruiter can hand off the candidate to another recruiter in the new location.”

Enterprise’s recruiting model is designed to generate new hires who reflect the local community for each branch office.

“We try to mirror our communities,” Webster says. To ensure diversity, the company works with student organizations, diversity leadership programs and organizations such as the National Urban League and Women for Hire.

“They all present opportunities to meet with diverse talent,” Webster notes.

Job candidates who visit the company’s online career site can find the names of Enterprise recruiters in every major city, along with their phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Nine recruiters are listed for locations within the New York City metro area alone. The career site also clearly outlines the career path for managers.

Enterprise consistently ranks on the annual BusinessWeek list of the 50 Best Places to Launch a Career. Almost all new hires move through Enterprise’s management training program, which covers marketing, finance, customer service and logistics. Most of the company’s executives, including chairman and CEO Andrew Taylor, are products of the training program.

Enterprise interns complete a weeklong orientation program before they begin working side by side with managers and management trainees in the branch locations. In addition to their on-the-job training, the interns receive formal classroom training in sales and marketing, branch management and professional development. Interns are also assigned an individual or team project, which culminates in a presentation to senior leaders.

Conversions
The majority of Enterprise’s interns work the summer months, but many have the opportunity to work part-time jobs at Enterprise through their senior year and then move into the management training program upon graduation.

The job offer is made at the end of the summer with no hard deadline for the interns to accept.

“We want them to take their time and make the right decision,” Webster says. “Some want to explore other possibilities, and we hope that when they interview with other employers, they remember their positive experience with Enterprise.”

The company maintains an average conversion rate of 50 percent for senior interns.

“Interns see our program as an opportunity to move into the management pipeline very quickly,” Webster says. “Our No. 1 goal is to make sure that the interns have a valuable experience. This helps with the conversion rate.”

Recruiters are responsible for maintaining a relationship with the interns during the school year through e-mails, phone calls and lunches.

“Some send care packages during final exams,” Webster notes. Branch managers also stay in touch with interns with updates about developments at the branch and invitations to participate in events and employee activities.

Webster believes that the success of the program hinges on buy-in from top managers.

“They must understand the importance of the internship program in filling the pipeline,” she says.

Selecting the right branch managers for mentoring the interns is critical.

“Not everyone gets an intern,” Webster says. “We choose only those managers who have a track record for mentoring and we train managers in mentoring and coaching.”

Interns can boost their earnings by participating in Enterprise’s employee referral program. More than 40 percent of all new hires come in through the referral program, which pays a fee for each referral hired into a full-time position.

“The employee referral program helps us reach our diversity goals,” Webster notes. “It is our No. 1 source for minority and female hires.”

Nationwide, 34 percent of the company’s new hires are minorities and 36 percent are females, but for the top 20 operating groups and regions, 53 percent are minorities and 47 percent are female.

Internship hiring will decline by 21 percent this year and co-op hiring by 11 percent, according to a new NACE survey. The last time hiring for both was down was in 2004.

This year, 92.6 percent of survey respondents plan to hire students for internship and/or co-op positions, a slight drop from the 94.9 percent who had similar hiring plans in 2008.

During the 2007-08 academic year, students accepted offers of full-time employment from their internship hosts at a rate of more than 80 percent, resulting in a conversion rate of 56.6 percent. Both rates are the highest recorded since NACE began the surveys in 2001.

The conversion rate may continue to increase as unemployment rises. In a student survey conducted February 19 through April 30, NACE found that just 19.7 percent of 2009 graduates who had applied for a job had been hired.

By comparison, 51 percent of those graduating in 2007 and 26 percent of those graduating in 2008 that applied for jobs had one in hand by the time of graduation.

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