Do you want to be an employer of choice? Do you need helping hands to get projects off the ground? Do you want to manage labor costs? If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you may find your answers in an internship program. Read more to learn how.

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What Is an Intern?

An intern is a temporary employee, typically a college student, who is seeking exposure to the corporate world and corporate work experience.

The Benefits of Hiring an Intern

Well-designed internship programs are truly win-win. Here are a few benefits to the company:

  • Talent pipeline. Entry-level roles often experience the highest turnover rates. Hiring interns for these roles after their internship is an effective way to build a pool of entry-level talent that already has experience with the company.
  • New perspectives. Interns will not come in with preconceived notions on what will or won’t work. They offer a fresh set of eyes and a new lens through which work challenges can be viewed and tackled.
  • Employer brand advocates. A positive internship can yield a lot of marketing power about the experience of working for your company. The best employees are often the result of good referrals.
  • Ease with technology. Today’s students thrive on technology and innovations. They are typically early adopters and can often help a team leverage current technology to streamline work processes. Interns add value to the team by helping senior members with technology.
  • Help with projects and tasks. Interns gain valuable work experience while the company gains temporary helping hands to complete tasks and projects.

What Do Interns Typically Do?

The work interns do varies greatly from internship to internship because interns work in entry-level positions across a broad spectrum of industries. Below are general groupings of the types of assignments interns most commonly receive:

Administrative tasks

Organizing meetings, note-taking, providing recaps, preparing presentations, and coordinating events are a few of the administrative tasks an intern could be assigned.

Research tasks

Interns are often tasked with gathering, compiling, and analyzing data from internal or external sources. Making conclusions or recommendations from the data and presenting it, either informally in a meeting or formally in a report, is frequently expected of an intern.

Implementation tasks

Interns may be involved in assisting initiative rollouts by helping develop communication material, answering questions for other employees, or being a part of the initiative development itself.

How to Find the Perfect Intern for Your Organization

As with permanent employees, having an acquisition strategy will help you find quality interns for your program. Here are a few venues to tap:

Academic Institutions

Establish a relationship with career centers at your local universities, community colleges and trade, and vocational schools. Once your program is developed, meet with the career center director and share your program. Find out which of their curriculum tracks your program most closely aligns with.

Recruitment Fairs

Create a calendar of recruitment events you have the time and resources to attend. Curate material to showcase your employer brand and future career opportunity tailored to the students in attendance. Try to get company leadership from each of the functional areas that will benefit from an intern to participate. Look at this as a marketing opportunity.

Vocational Institutions

Vocational schools are often overlooked as a viable source of talent. Work with career counselors to discuss your business and have them play a role in which positions would be suited to their graduations. Tailor your program to meet their needs.

Social media

Ensure your program is highlighted on any social media platforms where your company is active. Ensure you have a compelling headline that will attract attention and that submitting an application is clear and easy. Verify you have someone responsible for monitoring activity. How you follow up on applications is a direct reflection of your employer brand, good or bad.

How to Officially Set Up Your Internship Program

The intern experience is critically important if you intend to eventually offer permanent roles to any interns in your program. See the steps below for guidance on establishing an internship program for your company.

Step 1: Gain Executive Sponsorship

Your internship program should be part of your overall talent acquisition strategy and thus supported by executive leadership. Ensure that business leaders are willing to get involved with the design and ownership of the internship experience. void your internship becoming yet another HR program. Consider partnering with the business in sourcing candidates to get sponsorship from the beginning.

Step 2: Create a Learning Curriculum

Have a plan in writing that clearly outlines what the intern will do over the course of the program. This should include exposure to various departments, executives, and initiatives or events. Clearly outline learning objectives and expectations.

Step 3: Build a Cross-Functional Experience

Internships are geared to provide exposure. Build a plan that allows an intern to gain exposure to multiple parts of the business. Provide work across functions where you can. Where cross-functional work is not feasible, provide a detailed overview of that function that illustrates how it ties into the support of overall company objectives.

Step 4: Create a “Capstone” Finish

Provide a way for your interns to reflect on their experience by creating a short presentation for executive leadership illustrating their work and the experience they gained. This gives them an opportunity to practice their presentation skills and reinforce their learning experience.

Tips for Successfully Managing Interns

Interns are employees and must act within company guidelines. They should be given clear goals and access to performance tools and a supervisor or HR when support is required. Here are three tips to successfully manage your interns:

Tip 1: Meaningful Assignments

Interns are seeking exposure to the corporate world and will not gain professional development by making coffee and cleaning the breakroom. Interns should be provided with assignments that have clear links to corporate objectives and are explained during onboarding.

Tip 2: Multiple Check-In Points

Having several check-ins with HR during the duration of the internship is critical for accurately gauging the intern’s experience with the program. While managers should also follow this tip, HR represents a neutral party and is typically in the best position to receive constructive feedback.

Tip 3: Feedback

Feedback from interns can be useful to understand your program’s effectiveness, your management team’s engagement, and a view into your own corporate culture through a fresh lens. This feedback can be used to improve your program and ensure it provides a robust pipeline of talent.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Interns

State wage and labor laws require that most internships be paid. Check your state’s Department of Labor website to verify. Typically internships are paid entry-level rates. An exception are student interns earning school credit through an internship program and are thus unpaid.
While there are no steadfast rules about the duration or time of year internships run, frequently an internship is 10-12 weeks during the summer break between a student’s junior and senior year of college.
Yes, absolutely! This is the ultimate measure of success for many internship programs.
No, but college students do make up the majority of interns. An intern may be just out of high school and wanting an internship to determine whether or not to pursue college or a recent graduate who needs exposure to the corporate world. An intern can also come from a vocational school.

Milly Christmann is a high energy, operationally oriented talent management leader with extensive expertise in human resources, sales management, service and operations. She is recognized for collaborating with leaders to achieve their business goals by unleashing the power of an engaged workforce. By using process improvement, technology and strong, impassioned people skills as well as by attracting, developing and retaining top talent, Ms. Christmann drives change that matters.

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