How to Hire Interns: 7 Steps

A well-designed and executed internship program allows students to explore potential careers and obtain valuable job experience. When you hire interns, you’ll also create a robust talent pipeline for your company while boosting its reputation.

Small businesses in particular offer a number of advantages to interns that larger companies often can’t match, including more opportunities to make greater contributions. Small businesses also can be more responsive to the varying skill sets candidates may bring, whereas interns may get lost in the shuffle at large corporations.

Of course, your small business can benefit tremendously from the ability to “kick the tires” on a potential permanent hire, not to mention the influx of fresh ideas that recent graduates often bring to the table and the opportunity to mentor tomorrow’s leaders.

If you’re gearing up to hire interns, these seven tips will help you do so successfully.

1. Determine Specific Job Functions

While it can be tempting to jump in and hire additional staff to cover for employee vacations, it’s important to assess your business needs and have specific job duties in mind once you decide it’s time to hire an intern. Also consider having a back-up plan for your intern, if your summer business isn’t as robust as you’d hoped.

For example, a computer design student might be perfect to help your business launch a new website, or an intern majoring in marketing could assist you in creating a campaign to attract new customers. If you’re building a long-term talent pipeline, then this will also give you an opportunity to see how well they perform at a given task.

By planning for and engaging candidates with specific skills, you might be able to get a head start on the rest of the year by having interns update your social media sites, conduct product research, and work on other projects you may have put on the back burner.

2. Recruit and Hire Interns the Right Way

Just because an intern isn’t a full-fledged employee doesn’t mean you should put little effort into sourcing them. After all, even if they’re not earning a full salary, their efforts could help—or hurt—your business, depending on how well you’ve prepared. Apply the same recruiting and interviewing techniques you use for your normal hiring (assuming those strategies have been successful).

Tapping into your existing customer base is a great way to attract potential interns who are already enthusiastic about your product or service. For example, a bicycle manufacturer or retailer could put out calls for interns on their website, store locations, or other highly visible venues where their customers tend to congregate.

If recruiting interns from your existing customer base isn’t possible, then consider generating a list of colleges and universities in your region and focus your recruitment efforts there.

3. Embrace Social Media

Today’s students are increasingly searching for internships online and your recruiting efforts should reflect this. Use your company website, Facebook page, and Twitter account to spread the word about your internship program and other job openings.

If you don’t have an internal recruiter, designate an employee to be in charge of summer hiring—ideally someone who will directly manage and train summer interns. This person could help with social media recruitment by:

  • Posting positive testimonials from previous interns.
  • Conducting outreach in relevant social media groups and forums.
  • Posting intriguing, helpful content.

These tactics can help build the company brand and recognition while also drawing the attention of interested, qualified interns.

4. Invest in Training

Many small businesses have found that conducting a more thorough employee orientation ensures consistency across the workforce, and generates employee loyalty. Getting them in the door is just the beginning—figuring out how to hire interns should also include enhanced onboarding programs that will be mutually beneficial for the intern and the company.

In fact, many of today’s job seekers value on-the-job training just as much (or even more) than the salary and benefits. Even if the training you provide your interns ultimately doesn’t pay off in the form of a key hire down the road, skills training programs are an effective part of any succesful recruiting operation.

5. Research Your Compensation Abilities and Obligations

To compete for top talent and motivate your interns, it’s a good idea to pay them. Plus, if you’re a for-profit business, there are strict state and federal guidelines for when you’re allowed to offer unpaid internships. If an intern is treated and utilized more like a regular employee, they are entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. Furthermore, if you miscategorize your interns and violate state or federal laws, you could face stiff penalties.

6. Design a Creative Benefits Package

However, not every small businesses can offer summer interns the same competitive wages as larger companies in their area. If that’s the case, consider bolstering your compensation package with creative benefits such as a relaxed business casual dress code, flexible hours, events like company barbeques, or specially designated summer days such as “Smoothie Fridays.”

Low-cost benefits that make them feel like an integral part of your team will go a long way toward keeping them happy and engaged. It’s also a great way to get top internship candidates to apply in the first place.

7. Look to the Future

After you hire interns, be on the lookout for workers who could be valuable team members if openings arise at your small business in the future. Working a summer internship is a great way for both the managers and the interns to determine whether it may be a good fit. Even if they decide to shop around and see what the broader job market offers, keep the door open and check in with them periodically.

It’s especially important to keep your future hiring needs in mind when hiring student interns for the summer. Always keep future hiring potential in mind by offering competitive salaries and a variety of hands-on experiential learning opportunities, which can make your small business a very attractive option.

Map Out Your Intern Recruiting Strategy

Running a mutually beneficial internship program can work wonders for your business and provide high-quality employees for your future needs. Now that you know how to hire interns, you’ll want to map out a strategy that works for your company and start the process. You can find top candidates by posting your job ad on Monster’s world-class job board. Get started today with a free posting.