How to Hire an Intern

An intern brings a fresh outlook and unique perspective to your small business. It’s a budget-friendly option to access potential future employees. Interns get groomed to fit your company’s culture. Hiring an intern is an opportunity for your small business to grow.

This blog will walk you through how to develop an internship program and the steps to hire interns.

How to Hire an Intern

Understanding the Value of Internships

The benefits are mutual whether you’re looking for an unpaid intern or one with an expectation of compensation.

For Small Businesses

Your small business is a great way to scout talent for an intern program. Interns can infuse a small business’s culture, work ethic, and skills with fresh ideas and new perspectives. They help lessen the workload of your existing employees. This approach can be just as effective as finding unusual ways to promote a job opening.

For Interns

Interns get real-world experience and a chance to build a professional network. They can sharpen existing skills and develop new ones. Learning how to onboard new employees or understanding the intricacies of an intern job description can be beneficial. Interns learn how to communicate properly and adapt to a dynamic workplace.

How to Hire an Intern

The Role of Interns in a Company

Integrating unpaid interns into different departments pays off.

  • Interns are flexible. They can take on different responsibilities across departments.
  • Unpaid interns are usually students who are up to date on industry trends.
  • They come from diverse academic backgrounds. This adds creative problem-solving and innovation skills.

Providing Significant Educational Benefits for Interns

An internship program providing real-world experience can benefit the student’s education. It can help them develop technical and soft skills.

They can bridge the gap between what they learn in the classroom and its practical applications. This enhances their resumes and makes them competitive once they graduate. And this is where a robust training plan template can come in handy, ensuring the intern’s growth and aligning their training with company goals

How to Hire an Intern

Designing a Effective Internship Program

Objective SettingDefine clear objectives for the internshipSets clear expectationsEnsure they align with business goals.
Skill MatchMatch intern's skills with company needsUtilizes intern's strengthsRequires thorough vetting.
MentorshipAssign a mentor to the internSmooth onboarding, guidanceMentor should have time & skills.
DurationDetermine the internship's lengthDefines commitmentConsider business cycles & student schedules.
CompensationDecide on paid vs. unpaidAttracts better candidatesMust comply with labor laws.
Feedback LoopRegular check-ins & evaluationsContinuous improvementEstablish a structured process.
TrainingInitial & ongoing training sessionsEnhances intern's productivityInvest time upfront.
NetworkingProvide networking opportunitiesBroadens intern's perspectiveEncourage interactions.
Job Offer PotentialConsider intern for full-time rolesTalent retentionPerformance should guide decisions.
Legal & PaperworkProper documentation & contractsProtects both partiesEnsure compliance with local regulations.

Here are 5 of the boxes you’ll need to check to build an effective program for hiring interns.

  1. A clear role definition needs to outline the responsibilities and roles by specifying the expectations and tasks. This is crucial when you’re looking to hire interns effectively.
  2. An orientation aspect should introduce your interns to a small business’s procedures, policies and culture.
  3. Experienced supervisors and mentors should be available to answer questions and provide ongoing feedback and support.
  4. Performance evaluations need to supply regular feedback so interns can grow and develop their skills. Feedback, whether positive or an interview rejection letter, helps in the development.
  5. Academic credits for their internships should be supplied where applicable.

How to Hire an Intern

Paid Internships vs. Unpaid Internships

This debate centers around several issues, including legal compliance and an issue of fairness. The Department of Labor has established regulations and guidelines that employers need to meet to offer unpaid versions legally.

For example, the internship needs to include an educational experience that lines up with the intern’s career goals or academic schooling. What’s more, the work the intern does should not be substituted for regular employment. Small businesses should not benefit financially from an unpaid internship.

Unpaid internships have the benefit of lower costs. However, any enterprise that wants to attract top talent and build a positive brand image should offer paid internships.

How to Hire an Intern

Setting Up an Internship Program Aligned with the Department of Labor Regulations

Here are a few steps you need to take to make sure that your internship program is in compliance with the Department of Labor’s guidelines:

  • You need to get familiar with the FLSA (see below).
  • There is also a primary beneficiary test that needs to be used.
  • Businesses need to define the educational purpose of internships and ensure that interns have separate responsibilities from employees.
  • You’ll need to sign supervisors to mentor them and create written agreements.
  • Keeping records of progress, tasks, and schedules is part of staying in compliance.

It’s also important to stay on top of any changes in the DOL guidelines.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Internship Regulations

Students and interns are not considered employees under the FLSA. That means they don’t need to be paid for their work. However, there is a short primary beneficiary test to determine if employees are considered interns.

How to Hire an Intern

Defining the Intern’s Role and Responsibilities

A well-defined job description attracts the right candidates by clearly defining what you expect. It’s also important to specify the end and start dates for the internship candidates as well as the working hours. Staying informed about job trends and using various job platforms can also assist businesses in hiring the right interns.

Setting Up a Supportive Environment for Interns

Mentorship and support create a positive as well as educational experience. Interns who get this kind of backup tend to be more productive and engaged.

Each intern should have a dedicated supervisor or mentor. One-on-one guidance works best.

How to Hire an Intern

Steps to Hiring an Intern

It’s important to make sure that your intern hiring process is fair and unbiased. These steps help when you’re hiring interns. It’s a noble goal to reduce hiring bias and focus on skills and suitability.

Crafting the Perfect Internship Job Listing

Clearly lay out what interns will learn working with your company. Describing any network and opportunities available is helpful for hiring unpaid interns or paid ones.

Where to Find Potential Interns

Small businesses can interact with candidates at university career fairs. It’s a good chance for face-to-face interactions. Online job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn provide industry-specific platforms to connect

Internship-specific websites have good resources and listings.

How to Hire an Intern

The Intern Interview Process

Here are a few suggestions for conducting interviews and evaluating criteria for candidates.

  • Ask a question about their specific career and learning goals. It’s a good way to see if there’s a fit with their career plans.
  • Evaluate how well you think they’ll fit into a working environment and respond to any feedback.
  • Ask them about the specific knowledge and skills they hope to gain.

Contracts and Agreements: Safeguarding Both Parties

A well-structured contract will prevent misunderstandings. Especially when it comes to unpaid interns. These documents need to be clear about specific criteria and comply with regulations and labor laws.

How to Hire an Intern

Onboarding and Training

A proper onboarding process is important. Make sure to include the following:

  • A session on the company culture values in history for integration purposes.
  • A module that connects the intern with the team to promote a sense of belonging.
  • A hands-on training session with software and tools.

How to Hire an Intern

Keeping Your Intern Engaged and Making the Most of Their Time

Work with the intern and set clear, specific, achievable goals.

Feedback and Performance Reviews

These types of check-ins help an intern with their skills and development. Regular reviews motivate them and help them to stay engaged.

Common Mistakes When Hiring Interns

Following are some mistakes you’ll want to avoid when you’re hiring an intern.

  1. Bad communication can erode an intern’s commitment and confidence.
  2. Bad training and onboarding can leave interns feeling disconnected.
  3. Failing to provide regular performance evaluations and feedback can stifle their development.

How to Hire an Intern

FAQs: How to Hire an Intern

Finally, here are some common FAQs.

What’s the average duration of an internship?

Internships typically run from 2 to 6 months.

How to ensure internship programs are attractive to top talent?

Competitive compensation or benefits like professional development opportunities help.

How can a business transition an intern to a full-time role?

This is a good strategic move that involves several steps.

  • After assessing their performance, you can discuss the compensation, responsibilities and job positions open.
  • Tailor the job offer based on an intern’s prior performance and qualifications.
  • After a series of interviews and extending the job offer, adopt a structured onboarding process for a smooth transition.

What rights do unpaid interns have?

US labor laws protect unpaid workers’ terms by giving them the right to education and training and a safe work environment. They have other rights and legal protections for back pay, overtime, and minimum wage if they work over 40 hours a week.

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Rob Starr Rob Starr is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 7 years. He is a graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. His print credentials include employment with various Toronto area newspapers and three works of fiction: The Apple Lady (2004), Creekwater (2006) and Sophistry By Degrees (2008) published by Stonegarden Press In California.