By Jenn Boutwell, Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Alliances, Sage
Every single year, thousands of people make the decision to apply for internships. Whether it’s for the learning experience, school credit, or a desire to get a foot in the door with a certain company—internships are in high demand. For small businesses looking for a way to attract qualified college students to their company, or to save a little money by eliciting entry-level help—an internship program can be a beautiful thing.
If you are considering hiring an intern for your small business or startup, answer the following questions to create a solid internship program that attracts top candidates.
1. Will You Pay Your Interns?
This may seem like an unnecessary question to start off with, but the answer will determine the direction of your entire program. If you make the decision to hire unpaid interns, you’re in for a bit of a headache. The U.S. Department of Labor requires organizations to meet six strict criteria in order to use unpaid interns. Go here for a list of rules your program must meet according to the Fair Labor Standards Act.
As a small business, the answer to this question is a no brainer. Pay your interns. Interns that go unpaid are usually reserved for companies that think they’re so awesome that these kids are lucky to work for them for free. As a small business, you don’t quite have that luxury just yet. Paying someone what they ‘re worth is the right thing to do, and it will attract more qualified talent. The money you save by hiring an unpaid intern will probably be lost in the time you’ll spend teaching them things a more qualified paid candidate would already know.
If you make the decision to create a paid internship program, here is a list of minimum wages based on your industry.
2. Can You Make This Mutually Beneficial?
When searching for rockstar interns, consider exactly what you are looking to accomplish, as well as what they hope to gain. Creating a well-rounded program BEFORE hiring is extremely important to the success for both parties.
Define a list of tasks that will help ease your workload, as well as allow them to gain valuable experience. Be prepared for lots of questions by creating a training guide for your future intern. Consider questions like: What is expected of them? Who do they turn to for questions? How often should they expect a review? What procedures would you prefer them to adhere to? Where do they find “this” or “that” – the necessary tools of the job.
What might seem obvious to you about your office culture might not be so clear for a newbie. Make your program incredibly professional and organized to keep the expectations – and the positive results – high.
3. Where Should You Look?
To find the best candidates, you’ll need to know where to find them. First and foremost, you should be looking at college students with a drive to succeed. The easiest way to do this is recruiting right at the source. Find a way to speak to an entry-level college class that lines up with the scope of the position you’re offering. You can also foster relationships with professors or student advisors to spread the word about your position.
Are you considering creating an internship program for your small business? Don’t forget to be generous, set the bar high, and look in the right places. You won’t regret it.
Jennifer Boutwell is Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Alliances at Sage. She has over 18 years’ experience driving strategic growth and product visibility for leading companies in the computer, web and prepaid industries. Articulate, organized, flexible under pressure, able to take relative information, make sound decisions and negotiate to resolve conflict. Experienced in public relations, budgeting, increasing sales growth and analytics to support marketing campaigns.