An internship program can be a win-win: Your organization gets short-term support at a bargain cost while interns gain valuable experience. In fact, the deal’s even better for you as a business owner because, in addition to the extra help, you also get an in-house farm system where you can evaluate and groom potential fulltime hires. Setting up a program that meets all these goals isn’t something that happens on it’s own. Below, we’ll look at some steps you can take to help make sure your program is achieving the results you and your interns want.
1. Take a Look At Your Business
Examine the current state of your organization — what needs do you have? What resources? You’ll want to have a solid sense of where an intern could help out and who will have the time to teach them while they are with you. You’ll also need to consider issues like compensation, as well as relevant labor laws that can affect what your interns are paid (if anything) and what kind of work you can have them perform.1 You can start learning about internship labor laws at the US Department of Labor’s online internship fact sheet.
2. Put Together a Program
If you really want your intern to be happy and learn about your business, you can’t just toss them into the scrum. In addition to their regular duties, a structured program involving shadowing, mentorship sessions and regular performance evaluations would be beneficial. This will help your intern develop their skills in your business and will also give you plenty of opportunities to see them in action, gaining valuable knowledge when it comes time to decide whether to hire them on fulltime.
3. Decide How You Will Recruit
When you’re looking for internship candidates, one of the best resources also happens to be the simplest for you. Colleges and universities often encourage their students to take internships, coordinating the application process through their career development centers. Registering with these schools can get you a steady stream of motivated applicants.1 Of course, the internet is also a great resource for hiring. In addition to regular job posting sites, there are many webpages devoted exclusively to internships.
Though one might be tempted to think that an interview with a potential intern isn’t that important since, after all, “it’s just an internship,” this is a mistake. In fact, the interview can be a comparatively more important part of an intern’s application than that of a fulltime prospect, since interns will likely not have much previous work that you can evaluate. Because of that, you should pay close attention to their personality and behavior during the interview, noting even small things like a lack of enthusiasm — an intern who isn’t excited to be there isn’t going to take full advantage of the educational opportunities offered them.2
1 Beesley, C. (2012, May 9). How to set up an internship program for your small business. Retrieved April 24, 2015, from https://www.sba.gov/blogs/how-set-internship-program-your-small-business
2 Internships.com (n.d.). 8 warning signs when interviewing interns. Retrieved April 24, 2015, from http://www.internships.com/employer/resources/recruit/8-warning-signs-when-interviewing-interns