Written by: Kelly Ledbetter
Interns are risky.
A great intern can increase your efficiency and revenue, but a bad intern can be a serious hindrance to your company’s productivity.
To avoid addition by subtraction at the end of an internship, follow these five tips to locate an intern who will really contribute to your team — and who you would consider bringing on full-time once the internship is up.
1) Offer meaningful work
This might be a no-brainer, but if you bore your intern, you will get apathetic work.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, interns are seeking challenging assignments. According to Forbes, meaningful work ranks in the top five choices interns make about companies, along with an opportunity for full-time employment and job training.
That means you should offer interns responsibility beyond mere entry-level duties.
Going to the trouble to give interns tasks that you might consider suitable only for a full-time employee shows the intern that you are willing to make the internship mutually beneficial.
2) Search for someone specific
You don’t want just any college student or recent graduate on your sales floor—let’s say you want someone who has international travel experience, too.
Clearly defining both the job description and your expectations will help you weed out unqualified applicants and attract those who approach both your work and their work thoughtfully.
In an interview, what would you rather say?
- So what’s your major?
- Tell me about how you want to incorporate your leadership training from your study abroad program into helping us meet our marketing goals.
(Hint: It’s 2.)
3) Advertise in the right places
Diversifying the locations where you advertise for your internship is likely to produce the best results.
- Internships.com, Monster College, or Internmatch. These and other similar sites connect students and employers.
- Social media. Share a link to the detailed job description on your website. Then share the link again and again.
- Blog. Better yet, blog about why your company’s internship is competitive. Not enough time to blog?
- Local universities. Is there a job board in the computer lab? Put up a flier.
- Word of mouth. Don’t underestimate the importance of talking to your clients, employees, and even former professors about seeking an intern.
(Note: While students seek internships all year, high traffic times for searchers are March for summer internships, August for fall, and November for spring.)
4) Provide competitive rates & flexibility
The U.S. Department of Labor says you have to pay your intern minimum wage if you want them to “provide value” to your business. Otherwise, they won’t be able to contribute to your company in any significant way.
But offering minimum wage isn’t necessarily competitive. According to Looksharp, if you want to attract the top 5% of interns, you should offer pay between $12 and $15 per hour. If you’re looking for a graduate student, it could be even more than that.
It’s typical to offer 15 to 20 hours per week, and since most interns are students, you’ll need to keep their class schedule in mind.
Flexibility is key. Nights, evenings, weekends, Tuesdays and Thursdays after 2:30, or 9 to 5 on Monday and Friday only.
5) Help them set & meet individual goals
Interns aren’t like other employees. Because they know they are temporary (most internships are 8 to 12 weeks), they are actively seeking personal gain from the experience—not just a paycheck.
Remember that discussion you had in the interview, the one where you asked the intern how their leadership experience would help you out? Encourage your intern to set at least one personal short-term and long-term goal.
(Example: Learn to navigate QuickBooks and sign on two new clients.)
Fulfilling this could be as simple as scheduling two evaluations, one within a week of hiring and one within a week of the program’s conclusion.
THE BEST POSSIBLE OUTCOME
You offer an internship with real responsibility. You describe it in detail, and you advertise locally, widely, and in a timely manner.
You offer a rate above minimum wage and flexible scheduling. You recognize that interns have personal goals and want to work together to develop their attractiveness to other businesses.
Then you realize that the “other business” is you. You’ve just trained someone who shares your company’s vision and would make a great fit on your team—all year long.
Interns want to find full-time jobs, and you want to find interns with the potential to become full-time employees. Making a careful hiring decision can optimize the likelihood that their goals and your goals will mesh. (And if not, you’ve just made a fan who will recommend your company to other job-seekers.)
Taking the time and effort to invest in seeking a high quality intern isn’t just about the intern. It’s about finding a valuable employee that can help grow your business.
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