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The First Steps to Hiring an Intern

Summer is here, and that means that thousands of businesses are looking to hire summer interns. Internships are becoming increasingly important to college students as they look to gain hands-on experience before entering the job market. Internships give most students a vital foot in the door, but they also provide employers with eager employees.

If you’re looking for interns, you’re not alone! A 2014 survey found that 56 percent of employers hire interns at some point during the year, and that number has been steadily rising. While hiring interns is a great, low-cost way to nurture potential future employees, it’s also important to ensure you’re hiring and managing an intern effectively and within the law. Keep reading to find out how to best hire an intern.

Access Your Company’s Needs

Interns are looking for experience that will help them land a permanent job in the future, so it’s important to create a job description that is right for your company and is also appealing to students. Ask your employees and yourself how an intern will help you achieve your department’s goals. Ensure you have enough work to support an intern. Identify the employee who will train, mentor, and supervise the student. Resources are also important—is there space for an extra employee and a computer available for them?

Think about the workload and projects you’re planning for the next few months. Plan in advance the short and long-term assignments you would give an intern. This will help you craft the job description and understand the skills you should look for when interviewing.

Paid vs. Unpaid Interns

Whether or not to pay interns is one of the first questions that arises among hiring managers. One-third of businesses in surveyed in 2013 did not pay their interns and instead opted for unpaid interns, travel stipends, scholarships, or other forms or compensation. The same survey also found that the majority of students seeking internships also did not consider pay to be their top concern and instead favored the kind of experience they would gain.

It may be in your company’s best interest to pay its interns, however. Paid internships are likely to attract top talent and can eliminate any concerns about the legality of unpaid internships. The U.S. Department of Labor has limits on the work unpaid interns may perform for employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Essentially, businesses can’t derive any benefit from the intern.

According to the Department of Labor, unpaid interns can’t do any work that contributes to your company’s operations. This includes work that helps you run your business, such as performing inventory audits, filing papers, or answering emails or phones. What unpaid interns can do is shadow full-time employees and perform duties that don’t have a business need.

From these guidelines, a paid internship program will give your business more flexibility in the kind of work that can be assigned and also provides more value to the intern.

There are many more considerations when it comes to hiring an intern. To learn more, sign up for our newsletter to receive hiring tips and new regulation notices. To learn how to manage your internship program, click here.

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