What do you think of when you hear the word “intern?” Does it give you flashbacks to your internship where you spent more time running errands than doing actual work? Well, times have changed. Interns in today’s business climate are valuable resources and excellent entry-level help that can keep your small business humming as long as you pick the best candidate.
So how do you pick the right person for your business? Is there a foolproof formula that ensures you get the “rock star intern” everyone talks about? Sadly, no. But with a well thought out intern program, you can find someone that will become a valuable team member for the limited time they’re working for you.
First off, let’s squash a few myths about interns and what is required of you as a business owner. Your business doesn’t have to be registered to take on an intern. There are certain rules you need to follow if your candidate is looking to get college credit; but for someone looking only for experience and a mentor, you can set your own rules.
The second biggest misconception is if you’re not providing college credit then you have to pay your intern. This is a bit of a sticky one, that’s why the United States Department of Labor has six criteria to determine if an internship can be unpaid. Familiarize yourself with those six items if you are planning to offer unpaid internships.
The third myth is you have to wait till the start of a semester to get an intern. There is no rule stating there are only one or two windows of opportunity to find interns, and with more post-grads looking for internships you might get a more experienced/educated candidate if you look for interns year-round.
Now for a few tips on how to get the right intern to come through your doors:
Be a guest speaker — Speaking to a group of college students will get you, and your business’s name in front of prospective interns. One of the ways you can make these speaking engagements happen is by becoming friendly with professors that teach in the field your business is in (i.e., if you’re a restaurant owner, try to get in front of a culinary arts class). Reaching out to student advisors is also a great way to get the word out about your internship opportunities.
Go digital — There are a number of websites that will do the initial scouting of interns for you. Looksharp.com, Glassdoor.com, and Idealist.org are places where prospective interns search for openings, making them the perfect places to post your open internships.
Do your due diligence — Don’t get transfixed by the first person to walk through the door. Yes, they may bring an energy you believe your business is lacking, but you want to do as many interviews as you would for a paid position. You don’t want to hire the wrong person because you didn’t invest enough time in the process.
We hope these tips help in your search for your own rock star intern. Good luck on your search!