8 Tips for Starting a Stellar Internship Program

Internships can be a great way for companies to gain administrative assistance, a fresh perspective and most of all – a great way to build and groom a pipeline of future talent. Interns are often eager to soak up whatever worldly business experience and knowledge you’re willing to give them and with little to no preconceived notions of the business world – may inspire new and innovative ideas.

Setting up an internship program can be easy and a lot of fun, but when done correctly can be priceless for all involved. Here are 8 tips for beginning your internship program.

Job description
While the internship may be a temporary position and it doesn’t seem like rocket science to you, take the time to write a job description. Not only does it allow intern candidates to see what type of experience they’ll get from your organization, it is also professional and allows the student to get a taste of what job hunting will really look like when it comes time.

Pay
The big question – are you going to have a paid or unpaid internship? Employers contemplating adding an unpaid internship to their roster should note that the U.S. Department of Labor has established regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regarding whether an internship is required to be paid or not.

In order to be unpaid, the internship must meet the following requirements:

  1. Job training for the internship is similar to training given in an educational setting.
  2. The internship is for the benefit of the intern.
  3. It does not replace jobs of paid employees, but the intern does work closely under employee supervision.
  4. The company does not reap any immediate advantage from the intern’s activities, but may hinder operations due to the internship on occasion.
  5. It does not promise the intern is working for free in exchange for a future company position.
  6. The intern is aware from the beginning that the internship is unpaid.

Recruit
The best way to recruit interns may very well depend on your industry, but several recruiting ideas can work for any business. First, tap into your current employees’ networks. Who do they know that is looking for the type of experience you have to offer? Enlist their help finding great candidates, but if you have a referral program in place, be clear whether an internship position qualifies for any referral fees.

Team up with local colleges. Most require an internship for graduation and are happy to promote local jobs. You may also opt to find interns the way you find every other employee, through various job boards and sites like CareerBuilder, Indeed and LinkedIn. One website, found at internships.com, is dedicated solely to matching interns with opportunities and offers online posting.

Welcome
Prepare to welcome your intern like you would welcome any other employee. They are, after all, looking for real life work experience. Not only will they most likely experience first day jitters, but it’s possible they’ve never worked in an office environment before. Letting them know in advance how to dress, what to bring with them and even if the department is planning on taking them out to lunch, will help set their minds at ease for the big first day. Welcoming them with warmth and excitement will diminish anxiety, allowing for a more pleasant onboarding experience.

Training
Beyond normal new hire training, your intern may need first time office training. Things like copy room or email etiquette may not be intuitive to someone who has never worked in an office environment. Encourage the intern to ask questions and request additional training when they are not comfortable completing a specific task on their own. Remember that some people learn quicker than others and be patient!

Create a valuable experience
Check in with your intern on a regular basis, especially during their first few weeks. Ensure they know who to approach when they have questions and that they are receiving valuable experiences. Encourage questions and give honest feedback on how they are doing. Monitor whether their task list is overwhelming or whether they’re learning quickly and need to be challenged further. Try and give the intern access to typical corporate resources, experiences and meetings, even if they are not directly participating, to give them a full sense of your organization and its inner workings.

Solicit feedback
Before your intern’s last day on the job, plan on conducting a survey to find out how the internship and your organization met their expectations. Ask if there is anything they suggest you do differently to improve the experience for your next intern.

Reference
If the intern displayed promising skills, offer to act as a reference for future employment opportunities. You may even wish to write a letter they can keep on-hand or post a referral on LinkedIn. If you think there is a future opportunity for them at your company, keep in touch as they finish their studies.

Tandem HR

If your business needs help creating an internship program, talk to Tandem HR today for a free consultation. Tandem HR is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) in the Chicago area that assists hundreds of small and mid-sized businesses with creating exceptional workplaces. We also help clients save time and money while growing their business by taking on the administrative tasks associated with human resources, benefits, payroll, tax administration, regulatory compliance and risk management.

For more information on Tandem HR or PEOs, visit TandemHR.com or call 630.928.0510.