HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia


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.

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. If you're looking to hire an intern, find out how to save hours a week on your hiring processes!

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.

The Cons of Hiring an Intern

While there are great benefits to internship programs, they may not be right for every company. Here are a few potential cons of hiring interns.
  • They take time to train. Because most interns are there to get job experience, you’ll likely be working with people who don’t bring many practical skills to the table. If you have the time and resources to provide the proper training, that’s great! If not, then the intern is likely to feel unsupported, and whoever is managing them will feel overwhelmed.
  • Their work might not be up to scratch. Interns make a lot less money than a normal full- or part-time employee—for good reason. If you decide to hire an intern, you’re accepting that they may need extra supervision, work more slowly, and make more mistakes than the average member of staff would.
  • Paid interns can be expensive. If you’re hiring a paid intern, there are several costs to consider: hiring and onboarding costs, training costs, and then the actual pay they take home. Smaller businesses may not have the resources to devote to an internship, especially when the intern won’t stay at the company to add value in the long run.

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.
There are two types of internship positions: paid and unpaid. This section will go over some of the things to consider when deciding what type of internship your organization will offer.
Participants in paid internships are … well, paid. The rate of pay depends on the industry; generally, technical fields pay more than nontechnical ones. Location and company size also affect how much interns are offered. According to ZipRecruiter, the average hourly pay for interns in the U.S. is about $15. Paid interns are considered employees, which means that they’re protected by the state and federal laws that apply to employees, including minimum wage laws. Most interns are classified as non-exempt hourly employees, which means that they’re eligible for overtime pay if they work over 40 hours in a week. If interns work more than 30 hours a week for at least 90 days, they may become eligible to receive benefits. For more information, see the section titled “Laws You Should Know Regarding Interns.”

Unpaid Internships

Because the FLSA has strict rules regarding unpaid internships, it’s important that companies who want to create unpaid internship programs comply with the requirements. The general rule of thumb is that unpaid internships should benefit the intern more than the company. If the internship primarily provides valuable experience to someone new to the workforce, that’s great! If you’re taking advantage of unpaid labor, that’s a problem.One factor that makes unpaid internships more acceptable is offering school credit. To do so, employers must work with colleges or universities. Educational institutions often provide a list of learning outcomes and criteria that interns should take away from the experience. You can use this information to craft an internship program that will yield maximum benefits to participants.The Department of Labor (DOL) uses a “primary beneficiary test” to determine if interns are employees (and therefore must be paid). In addition to whether the internship offers academic credit or not, there are six other standards that are evaluated. The DOL states that “courts have described the ‘primary beneficiary test’ as a flexible test, and no single factor is determinative.” In other words, you don’t necessarily have to meet every standard. If the validity of your unpaid internship is called into question, the courts will analyze the circumstances holistically to come to a decision.

Laws You Should Know Regarding Interns

There are several laws that govern internship programs, both paid and unpaid. Knowing these laws will help you avoid misunderstandings and legal issues.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA requires for-profit companies to pay employees for their work. It also mandates that employees receive at least the minimum wage, as well as overtime pay if they’re non-exempt. If your interns are employees, they fall under the protection of the FLSA.
  • Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA states that businesses with over 50 employees must provide health benefits for employees who work over 30 hours per week for a certain period of time. If your paid intern is working more than 30 hours per week for more than 90 days, they may become eligible to receive health benefits. Note that seasonal employees are an exception, so summer internships don’t fall under the ACA requirements.

Where 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 and community colleges. 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.

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.

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 opportunities 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.

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 that you have someone responsible for monitoring activity. How you follow up on applications is a direct reflection of your employer brand, good or bad.

Job Boards

Job boards are a great way to get your job post in front of a wide audience. While you could have lots of success finding internships through larger job boards like Indeed and ZipRecruiter, there are also lots of niche job boards that are directed towards the sort of people who are often looking for internships. For example, many college and university students use Handshake to find their next opportunity. For a list of other internship-specific job boards, see this list.

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: Give Meaningful Assignments

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

Tip 2: Have 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: Encourage 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. Now that you have a better idea of how to hire and manage an intern, see how Eddy Hire can help you find a good fit for your company.
Milly Christmann

Milly Christmann

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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