Financially, hiring an intern makes sense. Since college interns are relatively inexperienced and will generally only be staying with you for 3 months at most, you don’t have to pay them as much as you pay your full-time employees.
Still, interns shouldn’t be relegated to “glorified errand runner” status. If you hire the right talent and treat them well, interns can save you so much more than salary expenses. They can lend an extra hand, inject fresh new ideas into your organization, and even become star employees in the future — provided you do the following first.
5 Tips for Hiring an Intern
Scout for interns in places other than LinkedIn.
Granted, LinkedIn is a great place to look before hiring an intern. However, you should also look at other platforms like LookSharp and YouTern, which are specially designed to bring interns and employers together.
Alternatively, you can reach out to local universities that offer business internship programs. I highly recommend that you develop a relationship with their placement office. Since students enrolled in these programs receive college credit, they’re more likely to take their internship seriously. Also, seeing what a college or university is like firsthand can give you insight into the quality of the school’s graduates.
Organize the internship program beforehand.
The last thing you want is a starry-eyed undergrad fumbling around your office, not knowing what to do. Before hiring an intern, make sure you’re both clear on what you expect to gain out of the internship.
Find out as much as you can about the intern.
In addition to interviewing them about their skills and experience, ask specific questions to learn more about how they’ll fit into your company’s culture as well as their work personality. Determine which workplace tasks can be offloaded to interns and match them to your candidate. Make a rubric that thoroughly details what’s expected upon hiring the intern from day one all the way up to their last day.
Treat your intern like an employee (to a point).
In order for your intern to be productive, they need to feel like an integral part of your workplace (rather than just being “extra baggage”). So treat them like you would a new hire.
Schedule a “get to know you” session with other employees including your in-house mentor. Give the intern a quick tour of your facility so they’ll know where to have lunch, where to go for bathroom breaks, and the like. Create tasks that make use of their existing skill sets while challenging them at the same time.
However, be careful not to challenge them too much. If you have a strategically critical task (like customer service relations with a major client), it’s better to let the more experienced employees handle those. Otherwise, you’ll risk traumatizing your intern and losing important business at the same time.
Reward your intern with something other than experience.
Whether you believe in paying interns or not, the fact is that financial rewards are a powerful motivator. Studies have shown that paid interns are more likely to become full-time, long-term employees. So if you want to make it easier to recruit talent in the future, you’d do well to offer perks that attract the best interns.
Internship programs shouldn’t be taken lightly. When you hire an intern the way you’d hire a promising new employee, you can add value to your organization for the short term (during the intern’s stay) and the long term (if you decide to bring them on board for the future).
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