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5 Tips for Hiring and Managing a Summer Intern

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5 Tips for Hiring and Managing a Summer Intern

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: May 15, 2013 Updated: September 27, 2016

Is your small business looking to hire an intern this summer? You’re not alone! According to a December 2012 survey by, 53 percent of the 300 companies surveyed plan to hire more interns in 2013 than they did in 2012.

In fact, internships are becoming increasingly important to both students and business owners. The difficult economic climate means that new graduates face unprecedented challenges as they try to enter the job market. Internships give them a vital foot in the door and also provide employers with nurtured and eager talent to help them grow their business.

Just look at the data:

  • 47 percent of employers have a structured internship program
  • 39 percent of small businesses made full time job offers to interns in 2012
  • 85 percent of employers say hiring an intern was a positive experience

If you want new ideas and the opportunity to nurture a potential future employee – at a low cost – read these five tips for hiring and managing an intern (within the law).

Assess your Needs

Interns will be looking for the right kind of experience, so it’s important to evaluate your needs and create a job description that is appealing for both parties. Think about how an intern can help you achieve your business goals? Do you have enough work to support an intern? Who will supervise, train and mentor this individual? What about resources – like office space or a computer?

Think about potential workload that you can hand-off in terms of short and long term assignments and be sure to plan well in advance (hiring takes time)!

Should you Offer a Paid or Un-Paid Internship?

Should you pay your interns? Interestingly, most students state that compensation is the least important factor when considering an internship. And according to, one third of businesses surveyed chose not to pay their summer interns (choosing to offer college credits, company perks or travel stipends instead).

If you want to attract right talent and take your investment seriously, then it’s worth compensating your intern(s) appropriately. (The average hourly rate for a bachelor’s degree-level intern is $16.21, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.)

Why not get an un-paid intern? Perhaps the biggest rationale for paying interns is that the U.S. Department of Labor puts limits on the work un-paid interns can perform under the Fair Labor Standards Act. For example, your business can’t be seen to derive any benefit from the intern. Essentially, the following applies:

  • Unpaid interns cannot do any work that contributes to a company's operations. This includes any tasks that help you run your business, like documenting inventory, filing papers, or answering emails.
  • Unpaid interns can shadow other employees and perform duties that don't have a business need. For example, a bakery may allow an apprentice/intern to decorate a tray of cookies that will not be sold to customers. Because the task was only a training exercise for the apprentice/intern and the bakery did not receive any benefit from that work, the bakery would not have to pay that student worker for that time. 

Clearly, a paid internship program will give both your business and your intern(s) more flexibility.

The Hiring Process

This process isn’t a whole lot different than hiring a regular employee. You’ll need to write a job description – be sure to state whether the internship is paid or un-paid, your objectives for the position, responsibilities and assignments of the job, and specific experience that the intern can expect to gain.

Where should you look for interns? In addition to posting the opportunity to your website and online job boards, approach local colleges and schools and register with their career services office. Many of these candidates are screened and motivated. Another option is the Department of Labor’s Summer Jobs+ Bank, a Presidential initiative designed to connect youth with employment and internship opportunities. Post your listing here

Managing Interns – Considerations to Remember as an Employer

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that this is a learning experience for your intern, not a traditional “summer job”.  Consider the following:

  • Expose them to Real World Experiences and Tasks - There’s no harm in giving your intern mundane, tactical tasks to complete, but be sure to mix it up and give them real business experience as well.   Have your intern sit in on meetings and sales calls. Give them the opportunity to take a first stab at a project, guide and mentor them through it, don’t be afraid to let go of the reins a little, and step in when you need to.
  • Mentor – An intern is used to feedback (college tutors provide it all the time), so be prepared to coach and provide honest feedback about what they are doing well on a particular project and where there’s room for improvement.
  • Set Parameters and Guidelines – This may not be something you are used to doing with your regular employees, but expectations need to be set about appearance, business attire, work hours, and acceptable internet/social media use.
  • Set Expectations Among Other Employees – If you choose to delegate mentoring to another employee, be sure that employee is aware of your expectations. Likewise, set expectations across your staff so that the intern doesn’t find him or herself being taken advantage of or assigned tasks that are not within their job description.

Workplace and Labor Laws

Many of the labor laws that apply to employees, such as workplace discrimination laws, also apply to interns. You must also ensure you comply with workplace health and safety laws. Some states also require that you carry workers’ compensation insurance for interns.  

Related Resources



About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


Honestly unless the unpaid internship is being abused, there doesn't seem to be any benefit to the unpaid internship besides providing a good service to the public and scouting possible talent.
Whether small or large businesses but that businesses need to consider the needs of their markets are trading in commodities. Need to plan development on the scale of your company.
Company benefits an additional help from the inters. The advantages comes into play immediately though the contributors of the intern.An intern is an affordable option for reducing the workload for the your business. Professional Web Site:
Very great post and comments. I started working for myself as a window cleaner at the age of 17. I wish I had a mentor at the time to tell me these things.
This is all great legal and ethical advice on hiring interns. Our company is a big advocate for developing a strong mentor relationship with the intern. It's important that an intern has a meaningful, worthwhile experience while at your organization, no matter the duration of employment. Remember that interns have a very strong word-of-mouth influence. If they have a positive experience working for your company, they are likely to tell their friends about you and recommend your company to future internship seekers. If they have a poor experience, they are just as likely to turn off their friends and fellow students from applying to a similar position at your company.
Good Article. As I am located in Eugene, Oregon home of the University of Oregon and we have a huge internship pool. The $16.21 for grad students seems a bit high in my opinion but then I suppose it really depends of the academic focus of the individual. When we hire an intern we try to set them to a task that not only will assist us but will also help further there learning. We are very straight-forward in our intern offering and have been well received here in our community.
Good post on recruiting & mentoring interns, who can be future leader, if they are nurtured well & exposure to the market. Through internship one can get the real feel of ongoing volatile market. Hence it should be motivated to give youngsters a fair chance to prove their zeal.
Thanks for a great article! Establishing an internship program at your business could be beneficial for your company. It could help you find future hard worker employees and increase productivity. Also, it is way to get back to the community and support the students. A few years ago, we had an intern that we decided to hire one summer, and he was a great employee.
Have your intern sit in on meetings and sales calls. Give them the opportunity to take a first stab at a project, guide and mentor them through it, don’t be afraid to let go of the reins a little, and step in when you need to.
Hiring an intern always beneficial for both students and employer. If you offers summer internship in web development industry, you can polish candidates and can give chance to prove them in this industry after internship. That can turn your process very easier to hire web developer.


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