In spring 2017, Briana Randall, director of the University of Washington Career & Internship Center’s Internship Project, presented a webinar that provided information and tips to employers about managing interns effectively.
“One of the things we talked about was that an internship should be a learning experience, and the managers should be offering interns performance evaluations and lots of feedback,” Randall recalls.
Afterward, several employers asked Randall if she had a performance evaluation template that they could use with their interns.
“While I didn’t, I thought that if I’m encouraging employers to do this, I could try to create some tools for them to use,” she says.
“Almost from the very beginning, my idea was to build the template around the NACE Competencies. These serve as the evaluation’s foundation. There were several evaluation forms on the NACE website that were based on the competencies.”
Using those forms as guides, Randall wrote the questions for her intern evaluation form, and made changes based on the feedback from several campus partners who manage internship courses and from the employers that participated in the webinar.
By summer 2017, Randall had posted the evaluation form on the University of Washington Career & Internship Center’s website for use by intern managers on and off campus.
The form includes four areas to rate for each competency. For example, under “Critical Thinking/Problem Solving,” managers use a Likert scale to rate their interns in the following areas:
- Shows a sincere interest in understanding the organization, their role, and their assigned tasks;
- Practices sound judgment based on an analysis of available data and information;
- Demonstrates creativity in approaching tasks, solving problems, and overcoming obstacles; and
- Seeks out resources and/or asks for help when unsure about how to proceed on tasks.
Each competency area has space for additional comments, and the competencies section is followed by several open-ended questions.
The evaluation form is used in different ways. For example, Randall teaches an internship class that is not connected to a department so students from all different majors take it. The site supervisors use the form for their student performance evaluations. In addition, some of the other departments on campus that run their own internship courses have their site supervisors use it.
“Our intention in creating it was to let it be used campus wide and beyond,” says Randall, who created a similar form through which students evaluate themselves and their internship experience.
“We also push it out in different webinars that we lead for employers. In addition, I run an internship program on campus, through which campus departments have interns. The intern managers in the program use the form, as well.”
As of mid-February of 2019, Randall reports that nearly 100 unique individuals have viewed the performance evaluation on the University of Washington Career & Internship Center’s website. She notes that employers required to use the template for interns taking internship classes do not access it from the website. Randall has also made the evaluation form available to NACE members.
“I really see this as a tool to benefit the intern and the employer for their own benefit and growth,” Randall says. “It adds to the experience of the interns to be evaluated and to know what they are doing well and what they need to work on.”
Randall says academic departments that report having their site supervisors use it have indicated that they like using the template. Students in the midst of their job search also appreciate the feedback.
Eventually, Randall says, she would like if the Career & Internship Center could collect and use some campus-wide data.
“We could identify what students are performing well in or where employers are seeing some struggles,” she says.
“Then, we could address it and focus programming on that area. However, we’re not quite there yet.”
Randall shares some suggestions for creating a similar resource for those who work with interns to use:
- Get feedback from key stakeholders—Your eventual final product will be made stronger by seeking and implementing the feedback of people on the front lines, such as internship course instructors, intern managers, and others who will be using the template.
- Use campus language that’s already understood—Doing so could help get buy in and would help people to better understand the evaluation. For example, the University of Washington Career & Internship Center has an additional version of the template—beyond those for intern managers and interns—that maps to a set of student leadership competencies that are already being used on campus. At this point, the language used with the student leadership competencies is more familiar on campus than that used with the career readiness competencies. Randall and her colleagues have overlaid the language so those using the leadership competencies for on-campus internships could see how they relate to the NACE competencies and to create a common language around competencies.