Are you contemplating hiring interns and/or starting a new internship program at your company?

My goal is to provide you with some insight to consider whether hiring interns is the right fit for you.

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Interns: Investment or a Costly mistake?

There can be many benefits to bringing on an intern:

  1. Tap into some fresh talent for a portion of the cost. Increase the productivity of your company without breaking the bank. Interns are looking for an opportunity to learn the nitty gritty of your industry. They want to acquire skills to jumpstart their career, thus more likely to work for less monetary compensation.
  2. “Prevue” a potential employee before hiring them. Hiring an intern is the most efficient way to evaluate and analyze one’s potential as a future full-time employee in your company. If you find the intern suitable you can hire them as your permanent employee in the future. The benefit here is that you don’t have to go through with the full onboarding/training process of new employees with the intern as he/she would already be familiar with the assigned duties. Internship programs are a great recruiting tool and efficient way to find your future employees.
  3. Interns are typically people who are new to the industry, hence they have new out-of-the-box ideas and completely different perspective to any problem or situation. They challenge the “it is done this way” mentality and a growing company can benefit from such new ideas.

Sound good for your situation so far? Read on.

Understand your role as an employer:

These benefits, however, don’t come free. Since interns generally tend to be young and sometimes inexperienced, they have yet to develop problem-solving and time management skills useful for real-life working situations. Therefore, it is your responsibility as the employer to teach them and expose them to situations that give them the opportunity to acquire these key skills required to thrive in their future jobs.

Your role should include constant teaching moments, so you will be monitoring and regularly evaluating them. Ultimately you will guide them and create an environment in which they can evolve into a better worker. Involve them in important tasks, encourage them in the midst of chaos, reward them for work well done and instill a sense of team spirit in them. A strong internship program undoubtedly benefits you and exposes your business to potential future talent. So, if you have the capacity to provide this kind of support for your intern, keep reading for more tips.

Paid vs Unpaid internships:

Now that you have decided that you have the time and structure to support an intern, you need to determine what type of compensation you will offer. Do your research and determine if and when your organization can offer an unpaid internship and when it cannot. Check out the US Department of Labor’s Compensation Test. Know your compensation options for interns before you decide on:

  1. Paid Internship (earning salary)
  2. Stipends (earning partial monetary payment)
  3. Internship credits (earning credit for school)
  4. Internship education benefits (learn professional skills or networking opportunities)

Student Visas:

Once you have researched compensation and have determined the type of internship you will offer, you are ready to hire an intern and need to know who you can hire. You might receive applications from international students, which can be great both for that student as well as your organization. However, just because a student has clearance through their visa to go to school in the US does not always mean they can work here. Review their visa status and verify clearance before onboarding and putting your company at risk.

Is this the Right Fit for your Business?

If you are considering hiring an intern because they are cheap or free labor, then this option is probably not a fit for you. If you are ready to provide an internship that is geared toward professional development, be sure to provide a program that someone breaking into your industry can truly benefit from, gain valuable exposure to real work life situations and increase career opportunities. Only then will you truly benefit from all of the advantages interns can offer.

Additional Quick Tips

  • Schedule the intern part time – remember they are students first and you don’t want to overextend them
  • Invest sufficient time and effort to cultivate and nurture your intern – make sure they get as much out of the experience as you do
  • Have a plan and meaningful goals set for the intern and your company – set clear expectations and give them opportunities to rise to your challenges

Info sourced from:

  1. http://www.internship.com/employer/resources/setup/benefits
  2. http://employer.careerbuilder.com/jobposter/small-business/article.aspx?articleid=ATL_0060HIREANINTERN
  3. http://linkilaw.com/benefits-of-hiring-an-intern/
  4. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/234138
  5. http://www.forbes.com/sites/yec/2011/12/06/5-reasons-you-should-hire-an-intern-and-3-reasons-you-shouldnt/#7aa8aee834d3
  6. http://www.wagehour.dol.gov