I’ve talked to a lot of business owners who have tossed around the idea of hiring an intern, but many of them view it as a way to handle overflow work for less than it would cost to hire a full-time employee. Once we start talking about what’s really involved in hiring an intern, some of them change their minds and decide to hire temporary staff or a new employee instead. Others decide that, yes, an internship is the direction they want to go.
Here are three important things to know about hiring an intern for your business.
Recognize that it’s not about free labor
Sometimes businesses think getting an intern means getting free labor. But if you have the mindset of wanting free labor, you’re not going to get good talent. While unpaid internships do sometimes happen, they’re really not in the employer or the intern’s best interest.
Many colleges and universities have entire divisions devoted to student internships. Their goal is to place their students in paid internships, and they advertise their success in doing so. Internship programs also fall under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and there are rules about when interns are classified as employees and therefore entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay.
Define your goals as an organization
What are you trying to accomplish through hiring an intern? Ideally, an internship program is about introducing students to your organization. It’s also a great way to evaluate potential employees. You can get to know a lot more about a person through their time as an intern than you can in a 30-minute interview, and they can get to know a lot more about your company as well.
A good internship program can also increase your visibility and reputation in the community. Interns who have a good experience at your company go back to their college or university and say good things about you. That makes the school more inclined to promote your internship opportunities in the future and can make your job opportunities more attractive to other students.
Focus on the benefit to the intern
Sometimes employers first think about hiring an intern because of the benefit to the company. But if an internship is structured the way it should be, it’s not really about the work load benefit to your organization. Honestly, it should be a detriment, but one with purpose. Yes, your intern will do work for you during their time as an intern, but it’s also a learning experience for them. Your employees will have to take time out of their workday to help an intern learn more about the company and how everything fits together.
The true focus of an internship is on the intern. What can you help them learn during their short time at your company that will serve them later in their career? How can your organization help apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to the real world?
Once you’ve determined your goals for hiring an intern and recognize the effort that will be required, you can reach out to your local universities about promoting your internship to their students. As with any position, you’ll want to create a clear job description and list of requirements that candidates should meet so they know whether or not your internship opportunities fits their experience and interests.
If you need help determining if an internship program is the right fit for your company, contact Why HR to discuss our consulting services.