Oftentimes when you hear the word intern, it's usually followed by or near "free labor" or "assistant". Too often an internship which can be beneficial to both the employer but can end in a lack of satisfaction for both parties. So, to hire interns? or not to hire interns? That is the question we'll be exploring.
However, hiring an intern isn’t just finding some random person and having them fetch coffee or do paperwork for the office! An Internship is a two-way street. People take internships hoping to gain experience, pad their resume and maybe even get hired on into the company. Sometimes you also have graduated professionals looking to transition into new careers or industries. While the intern is working for you, you are expected to mentor and help them to grow as well!
There are some great benefits to bringing on new interns. Although they may be temporary, there is an innate cost to your company involved as well. To be more efficient with your process and offset costs, you should try to combine internships with your recruitment process. Depending on how your succession planning is set up, these interns can potentially be trained to fill entry-level roles in your company and actually save you money on recruiting costs. Instead of sifting through hundreds of applicants for the perfect match, you’ll have someone properly trained and familiar with the culture at the end of the internship ready to be hired on full-time to your company. This is a great example of performance-based hiring in action!
When considering whether or not to hire interns, consider the following:
Decide the type of internship to set up
There are actually many different reasons why people take internships and different types of internships that you can set up. For example, is it going to be an in-office internship or a remote internship? Deciding these factors will help you narrow down the candidates you are looking for and clarify the qualities needed to succeed in the internship.
What will their purpose be?
Having a specific purpose in mind should be at the core of everything your company does, and hiring an intern is no different. Before you hire, think about what goal or project should be completed by the end of the internship. Having that end vision will help you formulate intermediate plans and tasks for the intern to accomplish. Interns want their work to have value and mean something. If they are coming to the office each day and doing meaningless tasks, or there is nothing for them to do, they’re not going to be too happy about it! Unorganized internships will reflect poorly on the company and without the proper direction, the intern will resent wasting their time.
On the other hand, when an intern has a positive experience with your company, it can lead to good things. Properly structured internships that successfully add value to your company will give interns a sense of accomplishment. They’ll be more likely to share their good experience with people they know, leading to increased publicity for your company and potentially even more future interns.
A great example of a terrible internship is one I had when interning abroad at a university in Asia. I was really looking forward to learning and developing new skills as well as find out more about career options available in the industry. When I got there though, nothing was ready and there was absolutely no structure prepared for me. I spent the internship being handed off from one person to another doing random tasks, attending meaningless meetings, and finally ending up becoming “English guy”, sitting in a classroom for hours waiting for students to visit and practice their English on. Not only did I learn nothing of value through the whole experience, I had to pay quite a bit for or travel, room and board expenses out of my own pocket as well. Needless to say, it was a waste of my time and talent and I made sure all other future interns knew to stay away from them!
Do you have the capacity for interns?
If your company has interns, you will need someone to manage and take care of them. If you yourself are too busy to walk them through their tasks, then someone else is required to use time and energy that could be put toward other activities to manage them. The person you choose for this intern manager position should have leadership skills and a thorough understanding your company. Taking a trained employee off a task to manage untrained newbies could be detrimental to your company and could cause lasting repercussions such as bad reviews and branding which can negatively impact the image of your brand.
Done right, it can be a win-win situation for everyone involved. Managers will have the capability to accomplish more tasks once the intern is all trained and interns will appreciate having mentors to teach them the skills they’ll need to succeed. Making time to help them grow and learn shows them your great company culture and that you are willing to give back to others. It can also provide fresh insight for your team as well as a potential pool to recruit from.
While doing a projectship with ProSky, I got put with an amazing Mentor doing a Market research for their company. He had weekly meetings with us, gave us personal training and ideas to fulfill our tasks, and even sent us some sweet swag from the company. I learned a lot from him, and the market research I did ended up being used to help them successfully release a new product later that year.
Is there a way we can make this long term?
Similar to how onboarding takes up a lot of time and money, interns can eat up resources as well. A negative side effect of an intern is that after the time period is up, they will leave your company. Training takes up time from you and it is an investment of resources, so essentially the effort you put into developing an intern’s skills will leave with them. In most cases, they are leaving your company right after they become proficient, then the process starts all over again and you are wasting resources. Finding a replacement can be hard, especially if they were fulfilling meaningful tasks.
The best solution to this is to have the internship lead into a position within the company. Ideally, you are looking to fill some job positions and you can use the internship phase to see which role they can fill properly. Make sure hiring an intern makes sense with your company’s succession planning and pathways. Think of the intern program period as a time to evaluate and assess candidates to measure their potential fit within the company.
There are pros and cons to both sides. If you do decide to hire an intern, make sure you have:
- clear requirements – Just like hiring an employee, know what type of intern you want to hire to fit with your company culture
- clear expectations- Make sure both sides understand what they hope to obtain from the internship
- mutually beneficial – Done right, both sides will gain from an intern and leave happy. (or in the case of an intern being hired, continue on together happy)
- potential for a long term position - If the intern performs well, make sure there is an opening for them in your company if needed. Hold on to top talent and don’t let your training efforts go to waste!
Hopefully, this gives you some ideas on how to approach the issue of interns. By keeping these things in mind, you can avoid common pitfalls and grow your company the right way. For more great tips on hiring and improving your company, subscribe to our blog Talking Talent and stay updated on the latest trends and methods.