If you're not using student interns, you're missing a huge opportunity, says Patrick Daw, president of $1.4-million Triad LLC, in Glastonbury, Conn. Because they regard the sponsoring company as a potential employer, interns "want to take the job a step farther," observes Daw, who finds them "dedicated, solid, and dependable."

Internships also help promising students develop specific skills before they start asking to join the staff permanently. Walter Joseph Communications, a Chicago video-production company, has hired about a third of the 35 to 40 interns who have logged time there.

And regular staffers get an ego boost from teaching others their skills. "You get used to what you're doing, and then there's a new, lively person who's in total awe of everything you say and do," says Walter Joseph's Dale Vermillion, vice-president of operations. "They rejuvenate the staff."