If you’ve ever considered taking on an intern for your small business, you probably had a lot of questions. Whether you’re a startup or established business owner, there are several benefits and drawbacks to hiring interns that a lot of people don’t think about. This guide will cover some of the pros and cons of taking on an intern for your small business.
What is an intern?
An intern is a person who completes an internship at your company in order to gain experience. An internship can be paid or unpaid although there are legal implications about whether an intern is considered a volunteer, worker or a paid employee. Volunteers are unpaid interns who are typically shadowing experienced employees whereas worker interns must be paid the national minimum wage because they a creating an economic benefit for the internship provider. Employees will pay national insurance contributions and receive a pension from their employer. You can read our internship examples to determine if an internship agreement is the right agreement for you.
What are the pros of taking on an intern?
Interns are usually young people without much work experience which means that they can bring a fresh perspective to your company. Interns can be brought in to work on a short-term project which would be too distracting for your team to consider right now or interns can be brought on to think of new ways existing solutions can be done.
New skill sets
Interns can complement your team with new skill sets which allows you to cost-effectively assess if you need to hire a full-time employee to fill in the gaps or not. For example, if you are unsure about your company's social media strategy, hire a creative college student as a social media intern.
Hiring interns as employees
Taking on interns is a great way to meet and assess prospective employees. Making job offers to interns who satisfy your business needs and can demonstrate they fit in with your company culture will help you save time on your recruitment efforts. Moreover, hiring interns as employees can improve your retention.
What are the cons of taking on an intern?
Time and availability
Taking on an internship can take a lot of a small business owner's time and resources especially if you do not have a dedicated human resources or intern program to manage the recruitment, onboarding and internship process. Moreover, you should anticipate managing interns remotely because coronavirus or other factors which are out of your control.
Sufficient tasks and planning
Interns will require supervision and task planning which means that you might need to anticipate additional tasks if ever the originally planned ones are completed earlier. Moreover, new tasks might require additional training programs you will need to budget.
Unless your intern is only shadowing you, it is likely minimum wage laws require you to provide your intern with a paid internship. Entrepreneurs do not always have sufficient budget for interns which is why it is important to assess the strategic value of the internship against the costs to determine if your business is ready for taking on an intern or not.
How to find interns in 7 steps
Growing a team is one of the most crucial parts of building a successful business. Taking on interns can be a great opportunity to grow your business cost effectively whilst gaining fresh perspectives on your processes. An intern is a worker who will gain entry-level work experience at a company for a short duration. Interns can gain their experience via paid or unpaid internships. This article shares a process for finding and hiring interns for your business.
1. Define what your intern will do
Interns are not hired for the same reasons as employees. Interns are a great way for companies to explore projects or ideas they don't have time to investigate with their current resources. Identify which parts of your business could do with some exploration and define a project which could be completed by an intern.
2. Define which interns can complete
Once you have defined the project and broken it down into tasks, you should have an understanding of the experience and skillsets an intern will need to complete it. You should also have an understanding of how much supervision an intern will require. For example, you might be hiring a social media intern to produce reusable templates for your company socials which can be performed by any university student with digital skills. However, if you are looking to explore new Machine Learning models then you'll need a PhD or masters student with a background in coding and maths.
3. Define the hiring process
Before reaching out to candidates or processing CVs and cover letters from inbound applicants, you need to define the interview process so that you can communicate it clearly to intern candidates before they apply. For many interns this will be their first time applying for internships so it is essential you offer a professional interview, hiring and internship experience. Define the number of steps in the application process, who will be involved and what will be asked from the intern at each step to ensure a smooth process.
4. Prepare your brand
Interns are very sensitive to the brand of the company they are going to gain work experience from so you should ensure your company is present on social media and that your company website clearly communicates your company values. If your company has an official internship program, be transparent about what it's like to intern with your company and try and include testimonials from former interns.
5. A strategy for sourcing interns
Now that you have determined which type of intern you need to hire, what they'll do and, who’s going to interview them, you can start your search for interns. You can advertise your internship opportunities with University career services departments or in student run social media groups. University career services also organise job fairs which you can choose to sponsor. Universities might also require students complete summer internships so you can register with them as an official internship provider if you are likely to take on interns regularly.
You can also source intern candidates by posting adverts on job posting platforms like LinkedIn, whilst at the same time reaching out to candidates who meet your desired skillset. The job listing will allow prospective interns to read the job description before responding to your connection request. You can also advertise roles on job boards, specialised job sites like internships.com or in local newspapers.
6. Secure your successful candidates with contracts
Once you have interviewed interns and determined they are a good fit, it is important to give them a first good impression with a smooth contracting experience. Not providing a formal offer letter or contract within hours of making a verbal offer can increase the chances of the candidate dropping out of the process. You should also follow up with candidates who have not been successful to share feedback which will help them with their job search.
The best way of assuring you can provide contracts to candidates in an agile way is to already have the required templates at hand. Companies tend to think of the basics such as employment contracts and non-disclosure agreements but will not think of the internship agreement when hiring their first interns. Moreover, it is important to make sure that the contract templates you use are up-to-date as they might be incomplete or contain illegal clauses. Using an easy-to-use contract management platform like Legislate means you don’t need to worry about not having the right contract at hand or using old templates.
7. Growing your interns into employees
Interns are a great way of growing your business and supporting your long term hiring plans. An internship is the most effective type of job interview and if they fit in well with your team and see a career path with your company then you can offer them a graduate job straight after the internship. This will allow them to be fully trained and integrated with your co-workers before they even start full-time employment. Moreover, successful internships will lead to referrals and you will naturally attract applicants for your future internship vacancies.
A checklist for onboarding interns
The success of an internship largely comes down to how you onboard interns. When designing your new intern onboarding template, it's important to devise a strategy that will help you integrate new interns quickly and allow them start contributing to your business growth as quickly as possible. This article provides an effective onboarding template for successful internships.
What is the new role you are onboarding?
Each intern onboarding process must be tailored to a type of role in order to increase the likelihood of a successful internship. For example, roles which require specialist expertise will require training whereas roles which require collaboration will require individual meetings with the new intern's team members. To facilitate these sessions, a hiring manager should prepare a checklist template of all the training sessions a new intern will need to complete and the co-workers they will need to meet for a given role. The intern onboarding checklist should also include any equipment required by the role so that they can be sourced before the start date. The IT department should also be informed by the HR team about the new starter so that they can create the appropriate company emails. Moreover, to increase retention and satisfaction, the intern's new role and job description must have been clearly explained to them during the hiring process and in their internship agreement so that they know what to expect before starting their new internship.
What to communicate before the start date?
To take stress away from new interns, communicate to them well in advance what to expect on their first day of work and share any information they need to know about what time they should come to the office, who they will meet and if there is a dress code or anything specific to the company culture they should be aware of. For many interns, the internship experience will be the first time they work in a professional environment so this information will help them fit in from day one. The company policies and employee handbook should also be shared in advance to give the new hire as much time as possible to read them. For interns participating remotely, ensure that you've shared workspace log in details and send the appropriate zoom video call links ahead so that they are not locked out of your organisation on their first day. You can utilise an online video converter to ensure the training videos are in a compatible format for everyone. By listing all these items on your new intern onboarding checklist you will streamline your onboarding process, which will also allow you to hire more quickly.
What to do on the first day
It is essential that your company sets a great first impression on your new intern's first day whether this is in person or remote. You can prepare a welcome letter or welcome email which should detail an agenda for the day and contact details of key team members and times for meeting them. At the end of day one, the new intern must be given a plan for remainder of the internship to help them grow into their role and to allow the hr manager to monitor their progress. Check ins and performance reviews should be scheduled as often as is required to ensure your new intern stays on the right track.
What to do at the end of the first week?
At the end of the first week, schedule a session with your new intern to go through your new hire checklist and review what went well and how the onboarding experience could have been improved. Make sure that the new team member has met all the relevant stakeholders and if not schedule meetings for as soon as possible. Make sure that the new intern is onboard with their plan for the first month and for the remainder of the onboarding period. If your objective is to hire the intern as a full-time employee at the end of the internship, bring this to the attention of the intern as soon as they settle in so that they know it's a possibility they can work towards should they wish to stay with your company.
When is a new intern onboarding complete?
An employee onboarding process usually lasts six months but this is much shorter for internships. Whilst there is no set duration, an intern will be onboarded when they are up to speed with their role and feel as if they are part of the team and your organisation. Onboarding programs should be tailored to roles and should evolve with market conditions to increase the likelihood of your intern offers being accepted. Leverage apps and automation where possible to streamline your human resources department but make sure that your onboarding process remains human. Finally clear and robust internship contracts are essential for a successful intern onboarding. To offer paperless and professional internship contracts to your new interns, sign up to legislate today.
When hiring, it's important to have legally sound employment contracts in place to protect your company and employees. With Legislate, you can easily tailor lawyer approved agreements to suit your needs, and easily extract relevant data from these agreements. Plus, our platform allows for electronic signing, making the contract process more efficient for both you and your employees. Book a demo or sign up today.
The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.