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How To Recruit And Hire Interns

Internship programs are a wonderful way for future professionals to get the much-needed skills they’ll need in their new job field. It also has benefits for employers. Before you advertise your program, see what it takes to run a successful internship program and whether it’s a good fit for your company culture. 

Pros And Cons Of Hiring Interns

There are many good reasons to hire interns, but there are some potential downsides to consider as well. 

Pros:

  • It’s an effective way to vet future employees.
  • It’s a good look to create an intern program as a way to give back to the community.
  • Get new ideas from a group of younger workers who are eager to embrace new trends. 

Cons:

  • Creating an internship program is a significant time and resource investment.
  • Not all of your employees will be OK with the flexibility and extra attention these unproven workers receive.
  • You must comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or risk fines and/or legal action.

Tips For Recruiting Interns

Recruiting an intern starts long before they enter your office. Successful HR teams follow these steps prior to bringing on their first intern:

List The Skills An Intern Can Provide

This shouldn’t look like a typical job description, because you won’t be hiring experienced workers and they won’t be with you long enough to fully acclimate to the job needs. Seek to clarify a smaller, specific set of skills you want to see in an intern. These can usually help fill in the gaps for an existing employee:

  • Research
  • Writing/blogging
  • Photography/videography
  • Graphic design
  • Social media management
  • Website development

From there, you should focus on the intern’s projects. Popular options include updating a website with new photos, revamping your brochures, or creating a viral video for social media.

Determine Your Budget To Hire An Intern

If you’re attracted to the idea of an internship program due to the cost-savings potential, think again. With the time spent training and supervising for what amounts to a short period of employment, you could see more resources put into the position than a typical full-time employee. Also, some internships will require at least minimum-wage payment. 

Identify The Sources Of Candidates

Narrow down the places you’ll find candidates. The institutions you contact should have programs that align with your goals. Do research in advance to make sure their student body is a good fit, and don’t overlook trade schools.

Advertise Your Internship Role

Getting the word out about your internship program will not look like a traditional job advertisement. You only want to attract college students. Ideas for job announcements include:

  • Contacting the colleges and universities near you to announce to their students
  • Job boards that cater to newly graduated students
  • Career development departments

How To Hire An Intern You Have Chosen

Your selection of an intern may not look like that of an employee because you’ll use recommendations from faculty, portfolios, or academic grades to make your determination. Once hired, they should be informed of the temporary nature of the job, as well as the pay. Job hours and schedules can be settled after hearing about the academic requirements that the student has.

Everything should be documented in a contract signed by both parties, and the college or university may have a sample agreement that you can use. Determine the project goals, academic credit to be earned, and outcomes in advance so you can report to the school on how the intern did.

How To Manage The Intern Relationship

“Who’s the boss?” is a common question of internship programs. Decide in advance which of these two options is the best manager for your new intern:

Department Supervisor

Since the internship can be a very hands-on experience and require a lot of supervision, it makes sense for the person who knows the job intimately to be the intern manager. The drawbacks are that supervisors are very busy and don’t often have the time to give such close oversight. They are also not as in-tune with the academic aspects of an internship and may not share the technical or research know-how of the intern. 

Human Resources

When an HR professional manages the intern, there is an opportunity to do more career-based training beyond just the role of the job. The intern can freely ask about professional development, and the department supervisor is then free to focus on their duties.

FAQs

These are the most frequently asked questions about internship programs.

Is An Intern Considered An Employee Or An Independent Contractor?

There are very few instances where an intern would be considered an independent contractor. Independent contractors are generally self-employed individuals who offer services to the general public—this isn’t how most internships work.

Is It Legal To Not Pay An Intern?

Nonprofits have more flexibility to provide unpaid internship opportunities. A for-profit business, however, has to follow federal, state, and local laws on payment. While it may be possible to offer college credit in lieu of money, it’s best to check with your local labor department to ensure compliance. 

Do Interns Have To Be Paid Minimum Wage?

All paid workers must receive the minimum wage for your state or municipality. If your state allows a lower “training wage,” you could be exempt from this requirement. 

What Legal Concerns Come Into Play When Hiring An Intern?

Whether you pay your intern or not, you still have to follow workplace requirements for keeping your employees safe and free from discrimination. If you plan on hiring a paid intern for more than 30 hours a week, for example, expect to give them the same legally-required benefits as your other workers. 

How Many Hours Do Interns Work?

You can hire your interns for as many hours as the law allows in your area, but you’ll want to remember the goal of the internship program. Since many of the interns are still in school, check to see that their schoolwork won’t suffer.

  • Summer: 40-hour workweeks, including overtime pay for additional hours worked
  • During the school year: 10-25 hours per week, which may include weekends or holidays 

Do You Have To Offer Benefits To Interns?

Paid interns should get access to the benefit level provided to your other employees that work the same hours. Even unpaid interns, however, should be covered by your worker’s compensation plan. For best results, only offer paid internships. 

Do Interns Get Vacation Or Sick Days?

Paid interns would get the same benefits as paid employees, including vacation and sick days, if applicable. You do not need to provide them if they don’t work the same hours or if they don’t receive the same pay. Exceptions to the rule may be found in your state employment laws regarding sick leave. 

Did you know that Comeet’s applicant tracking system is ideal for hiring all types of employees? See why it’s specially made to handle your company’s needs.


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Adrienne Smith

Adrienne Smith

Adrienne Smith is a content strategy consultant working with high-growth businesses on their brand messaging, content strategy, and content creation. A digital nomad, she's exploring the world's cultures and cuisines as she works.

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