Cleveland Internship Summit: 5 Takeaways from Virtual Recruitment Best Practices

In case you missed it, a roundtable discussion at last month's Cleveland Internship Summit focused on virtual internship programs. Check out these takeaways from the session.


Businesses around the world are facing unique and unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies are now hosting internship programs and other recruitment opportunities in a virtual setting.

At the Cleveland Internship Summit hosted by GCP and COSE last month, one of the roundtable sessions explored the topic of virtual recruitment best practices—with participants sharing tips, expertise and ideas. Here are five takeaways from that session that might help you while planning your virtual internship program.

Takeaway No. 1: Think outside of the box when it comes to keeping virtual interns engaged.

Participants offered several suggestions for virtual events and activities to keep interns engaged and entertained. While at first students might feel uncomfortable participating in these activities—especially in a virtual setting—by the end they are excited and energized. Some of these virtual ideas include:

  • Pizza making night
  • Trivia night
  • Happy hours
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Zumba classes

Takeaway No. 2: Don’t try these virtual activities until interns have had a chance to get to know each other and your team.

Taking a Zumba class is awkward enough for most people; it’s even more uncomfortable if you don’t know the people you’re doing it with. Be sure to introduce your interns to each other and your staff early and give them a lot of opportunities to enhance these relationships. Exposing interns to as many people as possible, as early into the program as possible, will help them feel more engaged and comfortable participating and will ensure these virtual activities are more effective.

Takeaway No. 3: Set clear expectations at the start of the program.

There are many challenges when it comes to working virtually—and you may find it necessary to set clear expectations from the beginning. From the start of the program, have your interns review your employee handbook and any other guidelines your company enforces. Be sure communication expectations are clear by having a discussion with your interns about how you would like to be communicated with, and how they would like to be communicated with as well. Making sure everyone is on the same page and is clear on expectations is a great way to start off any working relationship.

Takeaway No. 4: Reinforce the idea of being present.

Try to find opportunities to reinforce the importance of being present even while still remaining virtual. Require your interns—as well as all other staff—to have their cameras turned on during all activities. Encourage your interns to become involved in the planning process when it comes to the details of your internship program. Ask them what kind of work, activities and events they would like to see incorporated into the program. By helping to shape their own experiences, they will feel more engaged and present throughout their time with your company.

Takeaway No. 5: Use the buddy system.

One way to make sure your interns are particularly engaged and feel a sense of security is by assigning a “buddy.” Pair up an intern with a regular staff member and encourage them to schedule regular check-ins, weekly virtual lunches and other opportunities for them to connect. Your interns will appreciate having someone to go to with questions and serve as a mentor throughout their participation in your program.

Have you experienced a successful virtual internship program at your business? Share your tips with us on twitter.

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  • Next up: 5 Takes on the Value of Internships
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  • 5 Takes on the Value of Internships

    The value of internship programs to the actual interns working within a firm isn’t hard to see. The interns get an opportunity to put their classroom skills to work in a real-life environment while also getting a chance to add valuable contacts to call on during their impending future job search. But what’s in it for employers? Some of the early returns to a Greater Cleveland Partnership survey on the value of intern programs have found hesitancy on the part of some companies to bring interns on, citing such reasons as not understanding the value interns can bring to an organization or not seeing a need to have an internship program in place.

    The value of internship programs to the actual interns working within a firm isn’t hard to see. The interns get an opportunity to put their classroom skills to work in a real-life environment while also getting a chance to add valuable contacts to call on during their impending future job search. But what’s in it for employers? Some of the early returns to a Greater Cleveland Partnership survey on the value of intern programs have found hesitancy on the part of some companies to bring interns on, citing such reasons as not understanding the value interns can bring to an organization or not seeing a need to have an internship program in place.

    Data around those companies that have such programs in place, however, indicates there is a benefit to employers who commit to internships. Employers made job offers to 64.8% of their interns during 2014 with 79% of interns accepting those offers, according to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The study found that employees who had completed either an internship or co-op program were more likely to be with their employer at both the one-year and five-year retention benchmarks.

    As part of the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s ongoing internship study, which is being completed in conjunction with Cleveland State University, survey respondents were asked to identify their top reasons for bringing interns aboard. Five responses from Northeast Ohio companies are below.

    Citizens Bank

    We have a Commercial Banking internship program to create a pipeline of diverse talent for future hiring. The college students are also a value-add for time-limited projects.

    FIT Technologies

    • Helps offset high staffing needs during summer season.
    • Offers value at an economical hourly rate.
    • Supports IT training and college programs.

    foundation. a brand and communication strategy firm 

    • Valuable assistance.
    • Opportunity to make a positive impression of Cleveland on young talent in an effort to bring them back to this market.

    Safety Controls Technology

    Many of our interns participate in our intern-to-hire program. Interning with our company allows the student to see what an occupational safety and health company actually does and allows them to ascertain whether or not they’re truly interested in the field. We find that interns who have completed service with us are more engaged and ready to start in a career the day after they graduate.

    Turner Construction Company

    Aid in success of future recruiting efforts. Increase diversity. Provide exposure to our industry for interested candidates.

    Add your voice
    The survey, part of a broad collaboration on internships between Dr. Ronald Berkman of Cleveland State University and GCP, should take no more than 10 minutes and asks about the perspectives of your organization on internship programs, your use of interns, and related questions. The information will help build mutually rewarding connections between the business community and local interns. To access the survey, visit Also, stay tuned for information on the upcoming Cleveland Internship Summit presented by Cleveland State University and GCP on February 10. 

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  • Next up: 5 things to look for in a dental plan
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  • 5 things to look for in a dental plan


    Your employee benefits package can say a lot about your company. Providing options your employees value can be a key factor in employee retention and satisfaction. It can also be an integral part of attracting new talent and growing your business. Dental coverage is a highly valued benefit that promotes excellent oral health and supports overall wellness. The right dental plan can keep your employees smiling while increasing productivity and reducing unplanned time off. Here are five things to look for:

    1. Coverage that meets your needs and budget.
    Every company is different. Look for a carrier that will customize their plans to fit your company. Your dental benefits should meet the needs of your employees while staying within your budget.

    2. Dental industry expertise.
    Many insurance carriers offer dental, but very few have the specialized knowledge and experience to design effective dental plans. Bundled benefit packages often include "one-size-fits-all" dental benefits with hidden restrictions that make it possible for the carrier to offer the proposed cost savings. To offer your employees a dental plan they value, look for a carrier with dental expertise.

    3. Easy access to participating dental professionals.
    With many dental plans, members pay less for their dental care by visiting a dentist or specialist who participates in the plan's network. Be sure your employees have access to network providers no matter where they live, work or travel.

    4. Resources at your fingertips.
    It's important that you and your employees have online access to tools and resources for your dental plan. Network search tools and secure member sites are all great perks that make it easy to access plan information and benefits.

    5. Support that you and your employees can count on.
    You and your employees deserve friendly, reliable service. Look for carriers that offer local, in-house support teams.

    Want all five things and more? Medical Mutual dental plans feature the SuperDental® network, one of the largest networks in the United States, giving members access to participating dentists and specialists no matter where they live, work or travel. In addition, our local, in-house service team is just a call away. 

    Prefer self-service? If you are a COSE MEWA member through Medical Mutual, our website and secure member portal, My Health Plan®, provide convenient access to our Find A Provider tool, ID cards, plan information and more. To learn more about the dental benefits available with a COSE MEWA plan, please contact your broker or your Medical Mutual Sales representative. 

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  • Next up: 5 Tips from the FTC on Avoiding Office Supply Scams
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  • 5 Tips from the FTC on Avoiding Office Supply Scams

    As a small business owner, there are a number of scams you need to be aware of designed to steal your money and harm your company. The Federal Trade Commission is bringing you a series highlighting these scams and what to do to protect your business. We’re kicking off this series with a focus on a scam involving unordered office supplies.

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency. The FTC investigates and sues companies and people for unfair or deceptive acts or practices that target individual consumers or small businesses like yours. With its headquarters in Washington, D.C., and eight regional offices, including in Cleveland, the agency is well-positioned throughout the country to learn about scams and deceptive advertising affecting the local community. The FTC also has a database of more than 13 million complaints filed by consumers that it uses to determine trends in scams and which scams are affecting the most consumers. This information helps prioritize who the FTC should be investigating and can then be used to educate consumers on how to avoid the trending scams.

    In addition to preventing scams and deceptive advertising, the FTC also works to keep consumers’ data safe. The FTC ensures that companies that collect information from consumers only use the information in ways that consumers expect and that the companies take appropriate precautions to keep consumer information safe from hackers.

    The FTC also spearheads National Consumer Protection Week, a time to help people understand their consumer rights and make well-informed decisions about money, which is running now until March 10 this year.

    In conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week, staff from the FTC’s East Central Region will discuss, in this and future articles in this series, some of the scams and deceptive practices affecting businesses. Some of these tactics have been around forever but continue to make millions for scammers, while others are cutting-edge and the full impact hasn’t yet been seen. We will also talk about how to keep data secure and what to do in the event of a breach. Stick with us and your customers and your bottom-line will be grateful.

    Scam: Unordered Merchandise

    The first scam to tackle is what we call the “unordered merchandise” scam.  It typically starts with a schmoozy call to an unsuspecting small business or nonprofit. Sometimes the caller claims to be “confirming” an existing order, “verifying” an address, or offering a “free” catalog or sample. Then comes the supplies surprise—unordered merchandise arriving at the company’s doorstep followed by high-pressure demands to pay up. When business owners refuse to pay, the scammers may claim to have audio recordings that prove the order was placed, but never come forward with the purported “proof.” The scammers may also have the birthdate of one of the employees as “proof” that the employee agreed to the merchandise, when, in reality, the employee was conned into giving their birthdate during the initial call. Sometimes the scammer will insist on payment, but offer a “discount” of less than the invoice amount.

    In one recent case, FTC attorneys in Cleveland successfully sued a group of businesses and individuals for sending and billing for unordered merchandise. The defendants’ telemarketers called organizations and used deceptive tactics to get employee names—usually someone in the maintenance department—and delivery addresses. The next step: a seemingly innocuous conversation in which the defendants’ telemarketers offered to send a catalog, a small promotional gift (like a knife or gift card), and sometimes a sample of products. The defendants then shipped light bulbs and cleaning supplies to the business or organization, following up with high-priced invoices for those supplies, listing the employee’s name on the invoice as having ordered them.

    If a business or nonprofit paid an invoice, the defendants would send more merchandise and more invoices, often using different company names (although they were all part of the same organization). When challenged, the defendants would try to bluff or trick victims into paying for the goods anyway. For example, they would argue that the fact that an employee had accepted the promotional gift showed that the employee also must have ordered the supplies. The defendants took more than $58 million from businesses and nonprofits just between 2010 and 2014.

    Here are five tips for your company or nonprofit group when it comes to protecting yourself against an office supply scam:

    Tip No. 1: Keep unordered merchandise but don’t pay for it. If your business receives merchandise no one on your staff ordered, the law says you don’t have to return it and the vendor can’t legally collect on it. You don’t have to pay for it, even if you used the item before you realized it was unordered.

    Tip No. 2: Your best defense is a trained staff. Spend five minutes at a staff meeting educating your team about the signs of a supply scam. Caution them about fake friendly callers who worm their way in by claiming to have done business with you before or who say they have an “urgent” need to speak to someone in your maintenance department. If more than one person answers the main phone at your business, post a warning nearby about supply scams. For nonprofits, let volunteers know that fraudsters target charities, churches and community groups, too.

    Tip No. 3: Consolidate contacts. Supply scammers try to exploit the fact that small businesses aren’t likely to have purchasing departments. But you can still designate one person to respond to all inquiries about office supplies, “free” offers or “existing” orders. Putting one person in charge—especially a staffer with a well-calibrated baloney detector—can help protect your company from con artists.

    Tip No. 4: Investigate every invoice. Don’t pay a penny unless you know the bill is for items you or your staff actually authorized. If someone tries to pressure you into paying for unordered merchandise, complain to the FTC and Ohio’s Attorney General and let the pushy caller know you’re on to them.

    Tip No. 5: Bookmark the FTC’s site on protecting small businesses. The FTC’s website features resources to help protect your company. For example, Small Business Scams clues you into typical tactics of business-to-business cons.

    The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. You can file a complaint online at or by telephone at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).  

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  • Next up: 5 Ways to Build a Competitive Benefits Package
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  • 5 Ways to Build a Competitive Benefits Package


    A benefits package can be an integral part of retaining your qualified employees while keeping them productive and satisfied. It can also help you compete for talent and be viewed as an employer of choice. Here are top five things to consider when building a competitive benefits package:

    1. Comprehensive Coverage – Fully integrated benefits protect your employees and keep them satisfied. Combining health coverage with other specialty products, like dental, life, disability, vision and more, provides your employees with the best coverage at an affordable rate for you and them.

    2. Single-carrier Advantage – Working with one company for employee benefits means zero hassle. This alleviates the need to coordinate customer service or resources with multiple providers. Plus, employees will have consistent communications and tools that make it simple to understand their benefits.

    3. Extra Value – Your employees deserve benefits that go above and beyond. Find products that offer value-added services, such as grief counseling or employee assistance program (EAP) services, at no cost to them.

    4. Extensive Network Options – When employees need care, they shouldn’t have to look far. Networks with a statewide or even national presence, in addition to high-quality facilities and providers, can make all the difference.

    5. Local Sales and Services – As a smaller business, you understand the impact of keeping things local. Not having to coordinate with sales and customer service teams all over the country or even overseas can make a big difference in the experience your business and your employees have.

    By partnering with Medical Mutual, you can get all five and more—from our comprehensive health and wellness programs, to various network options and local Sales and services based right here in Ohio. To learn more about the health and specialty options available exclusively through the COSE MEWA, please contact your broker or Medical Mutual Sales representative.

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  • Next up: 5 Ways to Recognize Millennial Employees Without Digging Deep into Your Pocketbook
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  • 5 Ways to Recognize Millennial Employees Without Digging Deep into Your Pocketbook

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