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Honors interns: recruiting for the future.

As America moves into the 21st century, the Nation's changing demographics impact upon many aspects of life, including employment. These changing demographics challenge all employers to vie for skilled men and women who can provide excellence in the rapidly changing workplace.

In order to respond to this challenge, the law enforcement community must design innovative personnel recruitment programs that attract the best educated and most highly skilled candidates. Understanding the future workforce and implementing recruiting strategies that target these workers serve to strengthen law enforcement's competitiveness in the area of recruitment.

The Hudson Institute's Executive Summary, "Workplace 2000, Work and Workers for the 21st Century," examines the changes that can reshape America's economy and society and projects how these powerful trends can affect the labor market. The publication cites five demographic facts about the future of the U.S. workforce and jobs performed:

* The population and the workforce will grow more slowly than at any time since the 1930s

* The average age of the population and the workforce will rise, and the pool of young workers entering the labor market will shrink

* More women will enter the workforce

* Minorities will be a larger share of new entrants into the labor force

* Immigrants will represent the largest share of the increase in the population and the workforce since World War I.

In light of these facts, law enforcement managers who wish to ensure future effectiveness must focus recruitment strategies on this emerging workforce. They must develop programs to attract bright and enthusiastic young people to law enforcement careers. However, at the same time, department managers must consider the costs associated with recruiting and hiring employees.

Employers cannot afford to make poor hiring decisions that may result in employee performance problems or resignations. They must, instead, develop programs to hire these same bright and enthusiastic young people in the most cost-effective manner, while maximizing available departmental resources.

Examples of recruitment programs used widely today include cooperative education, summer internships, and work study programs--all designed to offer young people an opportunity to explore a particular profession while earning a salary or receiving academic credit. Employers recruit individuals to participate in these programs based on their hiring requirements and personnel needs. For example, if a police department requires a minimum of a high school degree for employment consideration, it would be advantageous to implement programs throughout the year for high school students.

All of these programs compete with those of other employers. Therefore, law enforcement employers must focus on which educational institutions to target, the cultural diversity of the group, academic discipline requirements, and the young person's personal achievements and interest in a law enforcement career.

One of the FBI's recruitment strategies centers on the Honors Intern Program (HIP). This article provides details of the FBI's HIP and suggests ways to adapt the program to suit the needs of local or State law enforcement agencies.


Begun in 1985, the FBI Honors Intern Program allows qualified men and women in college or graduate school to work with the Bureau during the summer months. This familiarizes perspective employees with the FBI, its structure, and its investigative mission.

The intern program begins in June and ends in August. Approximately 45 to 50 interns--paid a prorated salary of $19,713 per annum--participate each year. The interns bear the expense of traveling to the Washington, DC, area (the FBI does not conduct the program in its field offices), as well as their lodging expenses. The Bureau does, however, help the interns to locate reasonable housing.

The HIP consists of the following components:

* Program objectives

* Qualification standards

* Recruitment/application process

* Selection criteria

* Intern orientation

* Intern placement

* Program evaluation

* Post-program followup

Each of these components provides structure and fairness to the internship experience.

Program Objectives

Through the HIP, the FBI hopes to raise the interest of well-educated young people in FBI career opportunities by giving them meaningful, educational work experience. Then, to increase the impact of the program, the Bureau encourages interns to return to their respective schools to share their experiences with both students and faculty members. This serves to broaden the base of prospective employees.

Interns also assist FBI regional recruiters at their colleges. Recruiters visit various college campuses hoping to enlist bright, motivated men and women into public service, not only as FBI agents but also in other professional and technical positions that require specialized skills and aptitude.

When developing objectives for an interns program at State or local levels, law enforcement managers should consider several things. For example, they should determine what they hope to gain from the program, how they can measure its success, and how the program will impact their departments' recruitment objectives. In addition, they should determine whether the goals and objectives of the program support their departments' long-term employment needs.

Managers should also remember that an intern program provides prospective employees with an overall view of positions available throughout the department, not just sworn positions, such as police officers, troopers, or deputies. Bearing this in mind may help agency administrators to avoid focusing too narrowly when they consider the organization's overall employment needs.

Qualification Standards

Interns in the FBI honors program must be either undergraduate students who have completed 3 years of college or graduate students who plan to return to their respective campuses when they complete the program. Establishing this criteria accomplishes one of the FBI's primary program goals: To use interns when they return to their campuses to assist FBI recruiters.

Honors interns must have at least a 3.0 academic grade point average on a 4.0 scale. They must also be U.S. citizens, and they must satisfy a background investigation.

On State and local levels, law enforcement agencies wishing to institute an honors program should consider the following factors when developing qualification standards:

* What are the academic, skill, and age qualifications for the various positions available in the department

* Do the qualifications standards support each department's goals and objectives for the program

* Can managers fill various jobs offered in the department with candidates who have minimal formal education and who do not possess special skills

* What are the security clearance requirements of the department?

Department leaders should also ensure that only practical and appropriate qualification standards exist. Unnecessarily difficult or rigid requirements serve only to reduce the number of possible candidates.

Recruitment/Application Process

FBI recruiters canvass university and college campuses in their respective geographical territories for qualified students interested in obtaining summer internships with the Bureau. Recruiters often find qualified candidates at career fairs; other candidates come to the attention of recruiters through college or university placement offices. In addition, upon request, the FBI distributes brochures describing the HIP to the general public.

The Bureau also produced a video describing the program. Former interns appear in the film to share their firsthand experiences. Interested students who view the film or read the brochures can then apply for an internship.

To apply for an FBI internship, candidates must complete an application and provide a current academic transcript, personal resume, recent photograph, letters of reference, and a 500-word essay explaining their motivations for applying to the program. The candidate then submits the application package to the FBI field office nearest the college they attend.

Local and State agencies developing an intern program should select one person to administer their programs. This alleviates confusion on where to send completed applications--should there be multiple precincts within the department--and any confusion on how the application process works.

Once officials delegate responsibility for the intern program, they should develop a specific application process. They need to determine what standard employment forms they wish to have applicants complete and what documents the prospective interns need to verify that they meet program requirements.

Administrators should also consider what documents could assist them in the selection process. These could include such items as letters of reference, written essays, writing samples, etc. Agency leaders may also consider developing a brochure and video describing their programs.

Selection Criteria

Personnel in FBI field offices review HIP applications they receive for thoroughness and to ensure that the candidates meet the minimum requirements. They then forward their top candidates' applications to FBI Headquarters, where a committee makes the final selections. Selections are based on overall academic achievement in college, participation in school organizations/activities, work experience, letters of reference, academic discipline, content and clarity in the written essay, and interest in law enforcement as a career.

Local and State agencies need to decide what criteria they wish to use in their selection process for intern programs. Some critical issues include what requirements the applicant must meet to participate in the program and whether the standards are fair and relevant to the program's overall goals and objectives.

Program managers also need to rank the selection criteria in order of importance. These criteria should efficiently screen the applicants, resulting in the selection of the very best candidates.

Once program managers rank the selection criteria, they can move on to the actual selection process. Specific employees should be designated for this process, and program managers may even want to consider forming a selection panel/committee.

Intern Orientation

Each year, the FBI designates the first 2 days of the intern program as an orientation period. During this time, interns receive an overview of the Bureau, a tour of the building, briefings on security and on employee services, and a review of intern assignments. Interns also receive notebooks that contain all the interns' names and phone numbers, maps of the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, commuting information, and other items of general interest.

Local and State agencies that develop intern programs should take great care when organizing orientations. Such orientations allow for personnel introductions and give the interns an overview of the organization, as well as the program itself. Orientation periods also allow the agency time to resolve administrative matters, and most importantly, put the intern at ease with what to expect.

When developing an orientation program, officials should consider:

* Whether the intern will require special assistance and information about the city or town

* The amount of time needed to acquaint the intern with the department's structure, personnel, regulations, and other administrative matters

* What topics the orientation should cover (The agenda might include a facility tour, review of a training or recruitment video, an introduction to key personnel, and an overview of program objectives.)

Officials should plan orientations well in advance of the interns' arrivals. Organized, comprehensive, and well-executed orientations set the standard for the remainder of the interns' experiences. This makes orientation preparation a key consideration in the planning process.

Intern Placement

The FBI places all honors interns at Bureau headquarters in Washington, DC, or at one of two sites in Virginia--the FBI Academy or the Engineering Research Facility. Program administrators base each assignment on individual interest, educational discipline, and potential contribution. Interns receive "hands-on" training, participating in a diversity of assignments.

Throughout the summer, interns meet and talk with senior management officials and other FBI employees to gain a personal perspective of the FBI. Program managers also designate certain times for intern trips to FBI field offices and the FBI Academy, as well as for visits to cultural attractions and various social activities.

Careful job placement and supervision ensures that both the intern and the organization benefit from the program. Allowing interns to participate in the office work group and empowering them to use their leadership skills by challenging them to develop innovative ideas for necessary improvements provides an environment where interns can make important contributions to the overall organization. At the same time, the interns gain valuable personal experiences that they can carry with them when they leave the program.

When planning how to use interns, State and local administrators should consider what needs will exist during the program, how long the program will last, and how many interns they plan to select. In addition, they must decide where to place the interns in order to maximize program objectives and who will supervise them once they assume their responsibilities. Finally, program administrators need to develop a schedule of planned activities for the interns. These should include both work-related and social activities.

The success of intern programs depends greatly upon placement within the agency. Satisfying work assignments and valuable on-the-job experiences pay handsome dividends toward accomplishing program objectives.

Program Evaluation

Managers often overlook the importance of written evaluations. They fail to realize that they can benefit greatly from the interns' comments concerning their experiences. In addition, by using written evaluations, management acknowledges the importance of interns' comments.

At the end of their internship, FBI interns submit their comments on the program in writing. Most include their views on the program's strengths and weaknesses, as well as recommendations for changes or improvements. Program administrators then incorporate appropriate changes into the program.

In addition to written evaluations, interns meet with FBI management at least twice during the summer to discuss concerns and to exchange ideas concerning the program. Interns are given the opportunity to discuss their views of the program openly and to offer suggestions for improvement. These sessions isolate problems that management should address immediately and identify areas where they can strengthen the program.

Local and State agencies that wish to institute intern programs should consider several things before deciding on how to evaluate their programs. For example, they should decide what method to use when soliciting feedback about the program from the interns. They must also decide whether the interns' supervisors should provide an evaluation of the program to management. Finally, they should decide whether the program has enough flexibility to accommodate new ideas and constructive criticism. Flexibility in the program can mean the difference between a successful program and an ineffective one.

Program Followup

Because of the significant amount of energy, time, and money invested in an internship program, a strong program followup is necessary. Interns are a resource that agencies can use to address future personnel needs. Agencies should implement strategies that encourage the interns to return as permanent employees.

When the interns return to their respective colleges and universities at the end of the summer, the work does not end. The FBI staff continues to maintain contact with each intern as they pursue their academic endeavors. An effective program produces interns who know more about the agency, its investigative mission, job opportunities, and employment requirements. Hopefully, this experience becomes the impetus for the interns pursuing a career with the agency.

However, because many of the interns leave the program to return to school with no definite career plans, the merits and positive experience of the program must be reemphasized and recommunicated to the interns well after the program ends. To aid in maintaining contact with honors interns, the FBI plans to develop a newsletter to send to all former interns. This newsletter will include information about the agency, such as organization and personnel changes, new initiatives, employment updates, information on other former interns, and other noteworthy items. The newsletter will remind the interns that they belong to a very select group and that the FBI continues to have an interest in them.

Local and State law enforcement agencies that develop an honors intern program need to ensure that a strong followup program exists. Program managers should encourage interns to contact the department or office periodically. This allows agency personnel to advise them of current employment requirements and hiring prospects. It also helps to determine the employment status and career aspirations of the interns.

Agencies that maintain contact with former interns can also ask these interns to speak at various recruiting events. These events could include job fairs, career days in local schools, and job placement seminars.


Law enforcement is a highly rewarding profession for individuals interested in public service. However, in this ever-changing world, agencies must find effective ways to recruit the finest and most capable workers to carry the law enforcement profession forward. Intern programs may be the most efficient method of accomplishing this critical task.

Special Agent Kennedy is assigned to the Personnel Resources Unit at FBI Headquarters, Washington, DC.

Honors Intern Program Guidelines

* Define the goals and objectives of the program

* Target the candidates

* Aggressively recruit target candidates

* Develop a fair and competitive selection process

* Prepare for the interns' arrivals

* Provide a meaningful experience through proper job placement, supervision, and practical training

* Request feedback from interns and give feedback when appropriate

* Familiarize interns with future job opportunities, employment requirements, and hiring prospects

* Followup with interns after the program ends
COPYRIGHT 1993 Federal Bureau of Investigation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes related articles; FBI's Honors Intern Program
Author:Kennedy, Kathleen E.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Previous Article:High visibility crime prevention - Night Eyes, Footprints, and RSVP programs.
Next Article:Pay for performance.

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