Intern for a Day Program: One-of-a-kind recruiting tool

Last fall local Minneapolis integrated brand agency, Fast Horse, started its Intern-for-A-Day program. The premise? To give students and recent grads an insight into agency life at Fast Horse–and a way for the agency to get to know these students/grads better before hiring them full-time.

What is also interesting about Fast Horse’s approach is they conduct all their recruiting and coordination of the program on Facebook.

Fast Horse has received local and national press about the program–as far as I can tell, it’s the first-of-its-kind in the PR/integrated marketing agency world.

I had a chance to sit down with George Fiddler recently, the man who’s been tasked with managing the program at Fast Horse. After listening to George talk about what the program entails–and sharing a few personal perspectives, it seems things are working pretty darn well. Both for the interns–and Fast Horse. From where I sit, here are a few aspects of the program I think work well:

* Real-world experience. And then some. After entering the doors at Fast Horse for their day of work, each intern is presented with a fictional creative brief. They’re asked to review the brief, come up with a number of creative strategies/tactics and execute one or two on the fly over the course of the day. No coffee-making here!

* Asking for real work–up front. Fast Horse doesn’t just ask for a resume or application–they ask for a blog post. Why is this so smart? Because it demonstrates real, critical thinking. Writing skills. Organizational skills. I could go on. What does a resume really demonstrate? I love the idea of leading with the writing sample. We can get to your resume later–I want to see what you can do first.

* Spotlight, meet your intern. After asking the intern to review the creative brief, come up with some ideas, execute one or two of those ideas, Fast Horse then asks these young folks to report back to the ENTIRE agency at the end of the day and present their plan. (Note: Fast Horse employs roughly 15 staff). That’s a loooooonnnnggg way from faxing, building media lists and running errands for AEs.

I really like what Fast Horse is doing here. But, what does the program really do for interns–and for Fast Horse? I think there are some big benefits on both sides:

Interns

* You want real experience? You got it. The day Fast Horse puts its interns through is fairly extreme when you consider they don’t prepare them for what they’re about to face when they walk in the door. But, young people have been clamoring for this “real world experience” for as long as I can remember (heck, I’m sure I even made that comment at some point in my career). Think about it. They get the chance to review a real creative brief. Brainstorm creative ideas and tactics. Execute on some of those ideas (again, on the fly with no budget). And then organize a presentation to 15 people. That’s a full day, ladies and gentleman.

* No more coddling. I’m of the mindset that we tend to coddle our younger employees a bit. Maybe coddle isn’t the right word, but I think sometimes senior managers don’t give younger folks the opportunities to learn (sometimes by failing) and spreading their wings at a younger age. Fast Horse hits these kids in the mouth–hard. And, I think that’s exactly what they need. Challenge them. Let’s see what these kids can do. From what George told me during our conversation, every single one of their Interns-for-A-Day have been up to the task so far.

* Portfolio-building material. By asking the interns to write a post about a brand they think nails it from an integrated marketing position–and then posting it on the Fast Horse blog (which had just over 3,000 unique visitors in November 2010 according to Compete.com), they’re giving these young people instant (and credible) portfolio material. They now have a published post on a reputable agency blog (here’s an example of Nate Knox’s post). That’s great content for a student or recent grad’s growing portfolio, don’t you think?

Fast Horse

* Cultivating a pipeline of talent. Fast Horse is taking a long-term approach to cultivating deeper relationships with their prospective young talent. First, they engage regularly on Facebook with their younger audience–been doing that for a quite a while. Now, they ask young people to take part in this Intern-for-A-Day program. They also have the summer internship experience. It’s all a strategy that allows Fast Horse to really get to know these kids, so when they have an urgent need (read: win a piece of large new business), they can pull the trigger quickly because they have 4-5 young folks they know and trust.

* Building a reputation. Fast Horse is also developing a reputation in Minneapolis as an agency that listens to and is willing to invest in young talent. Now, are other agencies in town doing that? No question. But, Fast Horse is probably getting more credit because of public-facing programs like this. So, their name is coming up more when students are thinking about agencies to consider. That’s a big win for them.

* Developing skills for existing staff. Like I said above, Fast Horse has tasked George Fiddler with running and managing this program. What’s interesting about that is George was an intern at Fast Horse just two years ago. They thought so highly of him, they hired the guy. So far, I think that’s turned out pretty well. And now, he’s building new skills by learning how to run a program like this and manage a base of potential interns and hires for the organization.

What do you think? Have you heard about this program? Does it hold real value for students and recent grads? What about Fast Horse–do you think this approach makes sense for them in the long-term?

6 comments
EdwardFresina
EdwardFresina

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Katie Did
Katie Did

I love this idea and think more PR agencies would benefit from implementing something similar.

While a resume is an important tool being given the chance to showcase abilities in a real world setting is priceless.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Great to see an agency take this approach. We use interns form our local college (we currently have three) and we make sure they're core parts of the team from the off.

They design client projects; they manage accounts; they research and analyze industry trends. We want to make sure they're not just coffee order takers, but actually experience agency life. Otherwise, what's the point?

Danielle Morris
Danielle Morris

From the student perspective I think it sounds like an exciting opportunity. It would be an informational interview on steroids. You would have the ability to learn more about the company and its culture as well as utilize your skills in an agency setting.