Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Soliciting student interns from the UH ICS Department

Several times per semester, local companies contact me to ask if I know of any good students who might be interested in working with them on a project. I am always delighted to receive these emails and want to facilitate these kinds of interactions.  In general, even if I happen to know of a student, I will always suggest that they send me a short email that I can resend to our internal student mailing lists.  With hundreds of students in our department, there may well be an ideal candidate who I have not had the opportunity to get to know personally.

Here are some hints that you can use to help maximize your chances of connecting with a good candidate:
  • Note that your email is unlikely to be the first solicitation our students have received this year. Indeed, your email may not be the first solicitation our students have received this month, or even this week.  It is helpful to point out what makes your opportunity special beyond being just a job.
  • Our students tend to be busy. Really busy.  Most already have part-time jobs in addition to a full academic load, and many are juggling a full-time job with a full-time load.  Naturally, pursuing new opportunities requires yet more time and energy, and switching from a currently stable employment situation to a new, unknown situation has real risks for our students.  Help them to see the rewards that might come from pursuing your opportunity.
  • In your email, the more details you can provide up front, the higher the chances that good students will respond.  In addition to the overall intellectual/professional opportunity, students are very interested in  logistics.  What is the pay? What are the hours, and what level of flexibility is available? Will the student need to work with you on-site, and where is that?  Are there citizenship issues? What technical background are you hoping for?  What technical skills will the student acquire?  Will the student work alone or as part of a team? Could this develop into summer job, or full-time work after graduation? 
  • While you might be tempted to create a Word document with this information and attach it, resist.  To minimize the "barrier to entry", describe your offering as plain text in two to three paragraphs directly in the body of the email. It is always appropriate to provide URLs to further information on your company website. 
Good luck, and don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.