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New Delhi: After a few on-campus visits to recruit summer interns at the Indian Institute of Management, or IIM, in Ahmedabad, financial services company Edelweiss Capital Ltd created such a buzz that the students invited the company for final job placements last year.

Casual call: Sourav Mukherji, teacher in-charge of placements at IIM-B, says landing a pre-placement offer after a successful internship raises the value of a student among companies.

These days, most companies are using internships as a tryout for a full-time job. Internships establish their brand on campus, judge candidates in a more effective way than exams or interviews, and, in the best scenario, lead to a permanent job offer. A well-done summer job gets noticed even by competitors.

“This is the way companies think: If an HUL (Hindustan Unilever Ltd), or Pepsi (PepsiCo Inc.) or Coke (Coca-Cola Co.) has evaluated this student and given him a pre-placement offer, he must be a good guy," says Sourav Mukherji, teacher in-charge of placements at the IIM in Bangalore. Like its Ahmedabad counterpart, it sends students every year for summer internships to India’s top-notch companies. “Even consultancies will shortlist such a person."

For many, a summer internship can be the first taste of real work. And recruiters warn that summer internships should be just that—real work.

“In Edelweiss, interns work on live projects. Internships should be about adding value, not work on a theoretical project which cannot be implemented," said Swaran Sehgal, head of human resources at the company, which just hired 27 summer interns from various IIMs and the Xavier Labour Relations Institute in Jamshedpur.

Sehgal points to a project on scientific methods of recruitment that an intern worked on in his team. Later, he was hired to take the project forward.

Recruiters say candidates must choose companies that are not just good brands but also offer real opportunities to work.

Candidates can also use an internship to network with alumni in that company, research the industry or sector they plan to enter, and make a long-term career choice.

In some sectors, finding the right internships or summer project is not easy, even for candidates who already have offers of a permanent job.

Tarandeep Singh Bindra, 21, who graduated in engineering from Manipal University’s technology school, struggled for a month before he joined a company in Delhi to work on a four-month project, a compulsory requirement for completing his bachelor’s programme.

“You have to find a company which is open to the idea of letting you work on a live project," said Bindra, who used a number of personal contacts to land a job that allows him to audit information technology systems. “It is not easy to find."

One cause of the predicament is that companies fear interns might leak data or trade secrets.

Others have problems landing an internship simply because their colleges do not meet the cut.

D.P. Srivastava, director in Omaxe Ltd, a fast growing real estate company, just rejected invitations from four colleges located in Greater Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, for summer placements at his company.

“There are lots of MBA institutes. Some do not have the (required) standard," said Srivastava.

He has hired three interns for his marketing and retail departments, but is still waiting to fill an internship opening in human resources.

Tips for students and companies

• The internship should be about value addition, both for the company and candidate. It should involve work on a live project, one that can be implemented, and not a theoretical exercise.

• Companies should appoint a mentor or guide for the intern. He or she can guide the person through the process and can help in both intellectual and infrastructure needs.

• A candidate can use the internship to network as well as make a career choice about an industry or sector.

• The internship should end with the candidate making a presentation to his business head or even several business heads, followed by a question-answer session.

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