There are a lot of reasons you shouldn’t hire an intern. You shouldn’t hire an intern if you are only interested in free labor. You shouldn’t hire an intern if you need someone with a lot of experience. You shouldn’t hire an intern if you want an autonomous employee. You shouldn’t hire an intern if you need help with coffee runs and filing.
What is one of the primary reasons you should hire an intern? Hire an intern if having one is beneficial to your company and the intern.
Benefits to your company
As a small business owner, hiring an intern can allow you to see if the employee would be a good fit as a future employee. Seeing someone in action – contributing at meetings; participating in company events; accepting constructive criticism and thinking outside the box – is much more valuable than anything a candidate could tell you in an interview. Also, if it isn’t a good match between your company and the intern, you can part ways without feeling like you’ve made a major investment in bringing a new person up to speed.
In a way, internships can become part of your marketing program. Interns can help you spread the word about your business to customers and potential employees, which can be particularly valuable for small businesses that don’t have a lot of money or manpower. Further, if your small business is an active and visible part of a local community, hiring local interns can be a great way to give back to the community that supports your business.
Interns can also benefit longer-term business operations. For several months, a business with fewer than 10 employees can have the experience of managing a larger staff. Further, managing interns can also act as an impetus to spur a business to take a closer look at their operations and ways they can save on labor costs.
Benefits to the intern
According to a recent National Association of Colleges and Employees (NACE) survey, 61 percent of those who underwent a paid internship during college ended up with a full-time job upon graduation.
There are many ways to find an intern, including forging relationships with the career services offices of local universities, posting listings in local newspapers or on LinkedIn, and utilizing the services of a national “matching service” like Urban Interns.
Businesses often look for students from top colleges, with high GPAs, who are majoring in an area that has some affinity with their businesses. Since a lot of these students are snatched up by larger companies, it becomes more challenging for small companies to attract these candidates. However, there are some things small business owners can do to make themselves more appealing than their big business counterparts:
- Stress the fact that interns may get a broader spectrum of experiences at a small business, where they can touch on many job functions versus a large business where they may be focusedon one small area.
- Assign a mentor who will spend at least 20-30 percent of their work week actively teaching the intern. Have the mentor intervene as soon as they observe issues with work performance.
- Offer perks that have a tie-in with your business, such as clothing discounts if you’re a fashion designer, or free courses at a school.
- Highlight any community-focused work your company dedicates its time to.
Finally, there are several things to watch out for if you decide to have an internship program:
- An internship is meant to expose a trainee to a business area with which they have no previous experience. So don’t make your hiring decisions based on existing skill sets but on qualities you would hope for in any full-time employee – intellectual capacity, work ethic, technical skills and openness to constructive criticism.
- Some problems may arise from the age gap between senior employees, who may be in their 50s or 60s and college-aged interns, who may still be in their late teens. These issues could include misunderstandings about the value and appropriate use of the Internet and social media in a business setting, as well as appropriate workplace attire.
- When hiring interns there are a number of criteria laid out by the Department of Labor in its Fair Labor Standard Act that must be followed, including some of the following: training must be similar to class work in an educational setting; interns cannot replace paid workers; and there is no obligation to hire at the end of the internship.
That is not to say that you cannot hire your intern if you want. After three months of teaching an intern the ins and outs of your small business, you may discover that you’ve found a valuable long-term employee. Have you ever hired interns? What has been your experience – share your thoughts with the SBOC community below.