Is your small business looking to hire an intern this summer? You're not alone! According to a December2012 survey by Internships.com, 53 percent of the 300 companies surveyed plan to hire more interns in 2013 than they did in 2012.
In fact, internships are becoming increasingly important to both students and business owners. The difficult economic climate means that new graduates face unprecedented challenges as they try to enter the job market. Internships give them a vital foot in the door and also provide employers with nurtured and eager talent to help them grow their business.
- 47 percent of employers have a structured internship program
- 39 percent of small businesses made full time job offers to interns in 2012
- 85 percent of employers say hiring an intern was a positive experience
If you want new ideas and the opportunity to nurture a potential future employee - at a low cost - read these five tips for hiring and managing an intern (within the law).
Assess your Needs
Interns will be looking for the right kind of experience, so it's important to evaluate your needs and create a job description that is appealing for both parties. Think about how an intern can help you achieve your business goals? Do you have enough work to support an intern? Who will supervise, train and mentor this individual? What about resources - like office space or a computer?
Think about potential workload that you can hand-off in terms of short and long term assignments and be sure to plan well in advance (hiring takes time)!
Should you Offer a Paid or Un-Paid Internship?
Should you pay your interns? Interestingly, most students state that compensation is the least important factor when considering an internship. And according to Internships.com, one third of businesses surveyed chose not to pay their summer interns (choosing to offer college credits, company perks or travel stipends instead).
If you want to attract right talent and take your investment seriously, then it's worth compensating your intern(s) appropriately. (The average hourly rate for a bachelor's degree-level intern is $16.21, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers .)
Why not get an un-paid intern? Perhaps the biggest rationale for paying interns is that the U.S. Department of Labor puts limits on the work un-paid interns can perform under the Fair Labor Standards Act. For example, your business can't be seen to derive any benefit from the intern. Essentially, the following applies:
- Unpaid interns cannot do any work that contributes to a company's operations. This includes any tasks that help you run your business, like documenting inventory, filing papers, or answering emails.
- Unpaid interns can shadow other employees and perform duties that don't have a business need. For example, a bakery may allow an apprentice/intern to decorate a tray of cookies that will not be sold to customers. Because the task was only a training exercise for the apprentice/intern and the bakery did not receive any benefit from that work, the bakery would not have to pay that student worker for that time.
For more information on what exactly unpaid interns can do, according to the Department of Labor, read The Truth Behind Unpaid Internships.
Clearly, a paid internship program will give both your business and your intern(s) more flexibility.
Managing Interns - Considerations to Remember as an Employer
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that this is a learning experience for your intern, not a traditional "summer job". Consider the following:
- Expose them to Real World Experiences and Tasks - There's no harm in giving your intern mundane, tactical tasks to complete, but be sure to mix it up and give them real business experience as well. Have your intern sit in on meetings and sales calls. Give them the opportunity to take a first stab at a project, guide and mentor them through it, don't be afraid to let go of the reins a little, and step in when you need to.
- Mentor - An intern is used to feedback (college tutors provide it all the time), so be prepared to coach and provide honest feedback about what they are doing well on a particular project and where there's room for improvement.
- Set Parameters and Guidelines - This may not be something you are used to doing with your regular employees, but expectations need to be set about appearance, business attire, work hours, and acceptable internet/social media use.