Deep dive into our internship program: how it started, the challenges we faced, our recruitment process, the different types of internships, and of course how interns perceive it and the benefits they gain from such an experience.
How it all started…
It all started in 2019 when the HR Director was hired to support the growth of the company. The HR department was in its early stages and a lot of interesting projects had to be accomplished. While attending an external training, she discussed with other HR professionals about their experience of working with interns. Following their positive feedback, the idea of working with interns became a reality.
Muriel, COO & HR Director
Implementing the internship program was a great achievement. It directly proved to benefit both the company and the students. Receiving great feedback from the different interns at the end of their internship is so rewarding for us.
The first offer for an internship in HR was published in October 2019 and our first intern started in January 2020. Our “Sparkers Academy” was born. Our first HR student came from Germany for a 2-months internship. Since then, the internship program has grown and we now offer internships in other fields such as Business & Market analysis, Business Intelligence & Data Science, Customer support, HR, IT, and Sustainable development.
In total, so far, we have welcomed up to 33 interns, from 10 different nationalities for an average period of 4 months. Most of the interns are studying Business Management in Belgium and France where a 3 to 6-months traineeship is part of their program. The interns came from 19 different universities with the most represented ones being the Louvain School of Management and Solvay for Belgium, Audencia and Kedge for France.
We truly believe that the only way to reach a win-win situation is by trusting the students and integrating them as part of the team. Based on that principle, interns have the opportunity to help and get their own responsibilities on tasks and projects like any other employee.
For the company, interns are a real asset as they allow their colleagues to better share the workload. This gives the more senior members the opportunity to dedicate more time to complex tasks or projects which will increase the team productivity in the long run. If we take the HR department, lots of projects have seen the light much quicker than if they had been done by the permanent staff alone.
I want the internship to be interesting and useful for the students. At Sparkers, we consider interns as part of the team and part of the company. We can be proud of what we have implemented with the help of the interns.
Muriel, COO & HR Director
Working with young and dynamic students is also refreshing. It can bring new insights and fresh eyes to the day-to-day work, which can help to further challenge the existing processes. Additionally, it helps us better refine the profiles that we want to hire for the specific roles. Our job and internship offers are indeed evolving alongside our experience with working with interns.
Finally, it is fulfilling for the employees to see someone genuinely happy to learn and grow and to discover a dynamic and international work environment. Helping students prepare themselves for the next step in their life is highly rewarding for us.
The interns' perspective
We interviewed some of our interns for this article and all of them converge on one point: they all like the professional and still friendly environment at Sparkers. They all feel warmly welcomed by the whole company on their first day. The family-like spirit helps them to integrate into the team. Having lunch together, playing games, or chatting during an afterwork, make it easy to connect with teammates and discover the dynamic atmosphere. They also agree on the fact that they receive a lot of support from their colleagues, who are always available to answer their questions.
Another aspect that they praise is the trust that they receive from the company. The interns feel as a part of the team and participate in the tasks and activities as any other team member. They feel proud of their contribution to the company’s goals. The scope of their tasks can be broad: from analysis to documentation and contacting clients for a Business analyst; from recruitment to talent management for HR interns, and so on. The interns will generally touch on different areas of the business to acquire diverse knowledge.
Anass, Data Management Agent
To reach that level of autonomy in their job, they are of course following a training plan which is adapted to each of them: online classes, videos, on-the-job training, readings, etc. Each intern has a dedicated coach who helps them to be smoothly onboarded during the first weeks and they receive assignments adapted to their growing knowledge.
In the end, their time with us is a real springboard for their future career. Our interns have real work experience to put forward during job interviews and new skills to demonstrate, for example: communication, teamwork, a sense of responsibility, confidence, and autonomy. Moreover, an experience in an international company where the interns work in English and with different cultures is also an asset when trying to find a first job. Internships also help students to clarify what they want for their future: what tasks they like or not, the kind of company (family-like or bigger structures), or which industry.
Every day is different, it is really interesting and it never gets boring. I constantly learn and grow, I even got my own project which I will start from scratch. It is the chance to apply the knowledge acquired during my studies.
Johanna, HR intern
Even if the experience of working with interns is very positive for both the intern and the company, it can also represent challenges.
The first challenge faced is recruitment. Finding the perfect profile is not always easy when the offered internships are not remunerated. In Belgium, internships done in the scope of studies program do not have to be paid, which is a disadvantage compared to France for example where internships of more than 2 months have to be remunerated.
We receive a lot of applications from Belgium, France, and other countries, but some of the students either drop theirs or accept another remunerated offer when they learn that there is no gratification.
This is understandable when you need to relocate to another country for several months and pay for rent, groceries, etc.
In some cases and to circumvent this challenge on top of adapting to the sanitary crisis, we can offer full remote internships. This was experienced by 4 of our students, who worked from France and Tunisia. While this was successful, onsite internships remain highly preferable and recommended.
Indeed, integration set aside, remote internships raise two other kinds of challenges:
⭐ Assessing the level of supervision required
To tackle it, one of our primary values is trust. We refuse to do micromanagement and expect from each collaborator that they take ownership of their assignments. This should not be an exception for students. The recruitment process is there to make sure we hire the right profiles, and so far, so good.
⭐Ensuring our data security and confidentiality
The challenge here is that we have to integrate and onboard interns into the different teams while keeping in mind that their status is temporary. We, therefore, have adapted our access and confidentiality structures accordingly in order to secure the roles of interns. The balance must be maintained between the assigned responsibilities and their level of access, which is not always easy. Another action that was put in place in this scope is the IP and confidentiality agreement that each trainee has to sign before starting to work at Sparkers.
Onboarding the interns is another complexity to manage. Employees in charge of their onboarding need to dedicate time to their training. While it is rewarding to share knowledge and experience with young people, it can also be a source of stress when there is work to deliver and deadlines to meet.
Subsequently, it is important to adapt the type of tasks that are assigned to the interns to their learning progress. It is also key to evaluate how confident the interns are to handle the assigned tasks in order to avoid putting too much pressure. On top of this and until the intern is completely autonomous. managers need to find time again to review the work done.
One internship in two locations
At Sparkers, we offer the possibility to share the internship experience between our different offices, mainly between Spain and Belgium. This option offers an enriching and unique experience. Working in different countries provides great opportunities to live an international experience, develop foreign languages, discover the environment of the different offices and learn about other cultures. Moreover, it also allows the students to become autonomous by living abroad on their own.
Succeeding in an internship at Sparkers could potentially lead to a job offer. If not, it is always a great addition to a resume. An internship experience is always the best moment to show your skills and the benefit you can bring to the company.
At Sparkers, Trang and Anass had the chance to join us after their successful internship. Trang was hired as a Business intelligence developer. She is now the BI go-to person of our Audiences team. Anass started as a Data management agent supporting the Data Enrichment team.
Trang, Junior BI developer
I got the job right after my internship. But even if you do not get a job, the internship can help you to find another one. You learn about many aspects of a full-time job, about your interests and it helps you form your personal career goals.
For the recruitment of interns, we mainly use JobTeaser and LinkedIn. Many universities and students in Europe are using JobTeaser as their career page. Candidates can easily find positions according to their diploma and area of interest. Additionally, LinkedIn is the well-known worldwide tool to find a job. Each candidate’s application is received into our Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Our ATS allows the best follow-up of every application.
The recruitment process at Sparkers is pretty smooth. First, Justine, our internal recruiter, meets the candidate via Teams for a pre-screening. If the candidate shows motivation and demonstrates his skills, he will get a second interview with the manager of the department.
Once these two steps are completed and both parties are convinced, it is finally time to sign the contract.
To support our international trainees, we remain in close contact and give them advice on accommodation, public transports and tips regarding the lifestyle of the country. If they are entitled to an Erasmus scholarship, we help them with filling out the required documents.
Different types of internships
Different types of internship contracts are possible. While most of the offered internships at Sparkers are for bachelor or master students in the scope of their studies, we have also welcomed interns from the Brussels employment agency Actiris (StageFirst), students in apprenticeship and even 17-year-old people in their 5th or 6th year at school for 2 or 3 days of observation.
I have learned so much during those 3 days! It helped me in my choice of studies as my co-workers explained to me the different trainings and studies. I could not dream of a better place to dive into the corporate world.
Apprenticeship contracts are new at Sparkers. Our first apprentice joined us in November 2021 !
With this program, the student shares his time between studying at university and working in a company during 2 years. This is giving the student the chance to directly put the learnt knowledge into practice and get experience while pursuing studies at the same time.
Tips & tricks for your internship at Sparkers
Be an actor in your own recruitment process:
⭐ Gather information about us and read again the offer you applied for
⭐ Show interest and ask questions. The interview is a good opportunity to know more about us and your potential future colleagues
⭐ Demonstrate motivation to join us
If you are open, honest, communicative, and positive, you are at the right place! We are constantly looking for candidates who can bring new ideas and a spark of craziness! Are you feeling a match with our Sparkers' tribe? Then, check our offers or contact us at HR@sparkers.com.