THE BLOG

How to Kickstart Your Internship Program

04/16/2013 04:14 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2013
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Hiring a quality intern to meet the needs of your company can be a challenge. But you don't need to be a Fortune 500 company to do it right. Building a successful internship program will lay the foundation for recruiting, hiring, managing and even promoting perfectly matched talent for your company.

There's certainly no one-size-fits-all mold for an internship program. However, the best internship programs encompass thoughtful planning. Whether you're an entrepreneur, small business or startup, finding the perfect intern to match your company culture and goals is crucial. Build your internship program to be as unique as your mission and vision -- the right hires will be sure to follow suit.

You may be searching for an outgoing social media wiz or a motivated sales intern to meet the growing needs of your company. Before you make a hire, you must kickstart the creation of your internship program.

Assess Your Needs

Is hiring an intern a want or a need? Without careful assessment, you may find yourself setting out to hire an intern without a direct purpose in mind. Building a successful internship program involves a focus and defined goals to ensure the program is beneficial to both your company and the intern you bring on.

There are many reasons companies hire interns. Some of them hope for their internships to act as a training mechanism to convert students to full-time employees, while others are looking to acquire a skilled helping hand and some simply would like to share their company message with a new generation of potential brand ambassadors. But hiring interns just for the sake of having them around should never be your strategy.

Hiring an intern or interns should be nothing short of a win-win experience for both parties involved. Knowledgeable students or recent graduates should have the chance to gain valuable hands-on experience through contributing and interacting as a valued part of your team.

Nail Down Logistics

Your internship program is likely to be a sinking ship without proper planning. What will your interns daily, weekly, monthly and semesterly tasks be? Who will they report to? It's important to remember that no internship position will have the same duties and expectations. These must be laid out prior to the creation of the internship. Here are a few logistics to consider:

  • What types of work will your intern be involved with?
  • How many hours/days a week will the intern work?
  • What's the time frame of this internship?
  • What skills and qualifications are necessary for a good match?
  • Where will the intern work? Will this be a virtual experience within your office?
  • Will you pay your intern? If so, how much?
  • Who will manage your interns?

Offer Something Unique

Run-of-the-mill internships won't cut it. Give your internship program the secret ingredients for attracting and maintaining talented interns -- even after the internship is completed.

Make your internship program match your company culture by providing your interns a one-of-a-kind experience with your company. Today, interns aren't just looking to gain on-the-job experience to build their skill sets. They're also looking to engage with unique company culture. Employers have begun to recognize the wants and needs of the young talent within their industry and are now beginning to provide their interns with incredible perks.

Your company may not have the resources provide perks quite like Google does, but you there's still a lot you can do to provide your interns with a uniquely awesome experience. Consider buying lunch once a week or holding an after-hours celebrations during their time with you. If you prefer to get outside, plan budget-friendly team-building outings or let them enjoy the atmosphere at a baseball game.

As for day-to-day perks, delegate meaningful projects to show your interns how they benefit the company's bottomline. You should also give them the chance to regularly interact and connect with all employees, including executives. Allow your interns to take part in meetings, seminars, conferences, events and even travel when necessary. Focus on learning by giving your interns a chance to receive industry-specific training in regard to special software and techniques. Most importantly, give your interns time to have fun.

Grasp The Legalities

There's a lot more than task delegation to consider when it comes to hiring interns. Kickstarting your internship program involves familiarizing yourself with the law. First there's the ongoing debate regarding paid vs. unpaid internships. Whatever type of internship you're learning toward, it's important to take into account all of the legal specifications.

Get to know your state's minimum wage requirements, the contractual confines of non-disclosure agreements, college credit, worker's compensation, policies and guidelines, alternative forms of compensation, offer letter requirements -- essentially anything regarding the hiring, management and termination of interns. Not understanding and following these laws and guidelines is a recipe for disaster.

Get The Word Out

You've built an awesome internship program, but how do you spread the word? Taking action by finding beneficial connections with universities and industry organizations. Get out and attend job fairs and make university classroom visits. You will also need to find a job search or recruiting platform to meet your needs. This digital platform should allow you to post your internship position and gain exposure to qualified candidates.

Internship programs aren't created overnight. It takes a dedicated company with the appropriate planning to create attractive and beneficial internship offerings.

What do you plan to offer your interns to great an enhance their experience?

Ashley Mosley is Community Engagement Manager of InternMatch, an online platform connecting the best intern candidates and employers. Connect with Ashley and InternMatch on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.