How to Hire Interns the Right Way

Internships can be a great way to find fresh talent. Not only you can attract top talent, but you can also use your interns to fill role gaps in your company for a low cost. That is why almost every large enterprise has dedicated internship programs and ties with universities and colleges. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a huge business to benefit from hiring interns.

Students see internships as an opportunity to gain valuable real-life work experience as well as to earn college credit (for many college programs, internships are mandatory). For fresh graduates, internships can offer job prospects and can often turn into full-time jobs themselves. Said another way, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement — both your company and the interns you hire get something out of it.

But to recruit talent that will add value to the department they’re hired for, you’ll need a meticulously crafted plan to hire the right interns for your company. In the paragraphs that follow, we’ll breakdown a handful of guidelines to improve and streamline your recruitment process.

What you should be looking for

When hiring for a traditional full-time job, you have upwards of six months to train your employees, and as a result, they can assume multiple different roles that require a particular skillset. But unlike a traditional job, an internship only needs a subset of those skills.

The majority of your candidates will likely not have work experience in your field. So you’ll need to make use of their ‘transferable’ skills that they have acquired through volunteering or extra-curricular activities. In other words, you can hire several interns for one regular position. They can share the numerous responsibilities that a typical permanent position would have entailed.

For instance, if you need to upgrade or make changes to your business website, you can hire arts and design students to work on that particular project for you, since most programs demand that students develop their portfolios before they can graduate.

Now that you know you can break up one skillset into multiple subsets and then hire interns based on that, you need to hire interns based on projects you have in mind for them.

With that in mind, you should come up with a clear skill-based job description for your candidates. The majors, the skills, and your expectations, all come into play here. Once you have one, you need to map out expected timelines, goals, and key deliverables. Which brings us to our next point.

How to design an effective program

After you have defined job functions for your interns, it’s time to formulate a ‘roadmap’ for the candidates — one that tells them where they’ll start and what possible opportunities the program might lead to. This is where you’ll explain the projects they’ll be working on, how many hours they’ll be asked to put in and when, and the specific department they’ll be part of, and the training they’ll receive.

Your interns will rarely work for you full-time, so you’ll need to give them a flexible work schedule. If your recruiting plan involves unpaid internships, it will have to account for their course calendar. Conversely, paid internships offer better flexibility. If you work around their schedules, an internship at your business would seem more attractive to students, as opposed to bigger companies.

Outline the duration and the timings of the internship (whether it’ll be a summer or spring internship and the total number of weeks for it), and the working hours.

More often than not, interns are hired to bolster the projects that existing full-time employees are already working on. Delegate projects that fill the entire length of the internship and give interns a chance to be part of a team, so they can learn first-hand how multiple departments coordinate within a company.

Quick example. If you already have a team working on a smartphone app for your business, an IT student can bring fresh ideas, insights, and knowledge about app development to the table. Note that you should be picking majors depending on the kind of project you have planned.

You’ll also need to provide your intern with plenty of supervision and feedback. Entry-level candidates naturally have little-to-no work experience, so you need to devote some time and resources to offer them on-the-site training and performance reviews. If you prepare them with an onboarding program before you assign them projects, it will help interns understand that their jobs are relevant and their contribution, valuable.

Assigning real projects and offering constructive feedback can help interns learn how an organization operates in the world outside of textbooks. It will also allow you to gauge their potential, which might spark an ambition to find a permanent position in your company.

Advertise Right

You can contact academic institutions – community colleges, trade schools, and universities, to find student interns. In addition to that, you can post on different job boards or boards that advertise specifically to student jobs. If you have a prominent social media presence, you can leverage it to promote your internship placements.


If you’re planning on managing unpaid internships, ensure that you’re strictly adhering to the FLSA internship guidelines, since it can have certain legal ramifications. But unless you’re a nonprofit, we’d advise against unpaid internships because it’s unfair to not reward interns who are adding value to your organization.

There are a few more benefits to paying your interns, as well. If they are adequately compensated, they’ll be motivated, and it will attract more qualified students. However, if you are a small business, it might be challenging for you to pay the interns you hire. That’s where unpaid internships come in. Students earn college credit in exchange for the work, instead of payments or stipend at the end of the internship. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) outlines a fixed schedule for unpaid internships – 10 hours a week, for four months. Internship roles that don’t adhere to FLSA guidelines are deemed illegal.

Final Thoughts

The right way to go about hiring interns is to first define the skills you require and the resources and time you’ll be spending on giving them a valuable learning experience. For entry-level graduates, breaking into their dream field can be nothing short of a challenge. So in exchange for providing the students with a great opportunity, you can make use of their talents for a low cost.