6 Tips for Hiring Summer Interns

April 5, 2017 Rieva Lesonsky

It’s almost time for schools to go on summer break—and that means it’s prime time for hiring high school and college students as summer interns for your small business. Hiring an intern can be a great way to get the help you need from an energetic student who's eager to learn. However, before you place your ad for an intern, there are a few things you should know.

  1. Know the laws regarding minors. If you plan to hire interns under age 18, make sure you are familiar with state and federal laws on minors in the workplace, such as minimum wage requirements and restrictions on duties that minors can perform or hours they can work. The Department of Labor website has more information about hiring minors.
  2. Be careful with unpaid internships. If your internship is unpaid, it must meet six Department of Labor requirements:
  • The internship must be similar to training that would be given in an educational environment.
  • The internship experience must be for the benefit of the intern.
  • The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  • The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
  • The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  • The employer and the intern understand the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If the internship doesn’t meet all six criteria, your business could be breaking the law and might end up owing the intern back wages and paying fines. Depending on how much time and energy you need to devote to working with an intern, as well as the type of work that you need done, it may be easier in the long run to simply pay the intern.

  1. List your internship. Local colleges, universities and high schools typically have internship programs at their career centers or placement offices. This is a great place to start looking for interns, because you know they’re local. Just be aware there is typically some paperwork to fill out to make sure your internship meets the school’s criteria. You can also list your internship on websites such as Internships.com or Symplicity that specialize in student job listings. 
  2. Have a plan in place for getting the intern up to speed. Your intern will only be with you for the summer. Make the most of that time by developing a plan for onboarding and training the intern so both you and the intern benefit from the experience. Either you or the intern’s direct supervisor should give the intern periodic performance reviews to make sure the intern is on track.
  3. Challenge the intern. Don’t limit your interns to filing papers or going on Starbucks runs. Interns take internships instead of regular jobs because they want to learn, stretch and grow. Try giving your intern ownership of a project or asking him or her to come up with creative ideas for solving a problem in your business. You may be surprised at what youth and energy can accomplish.
  4. Stay in touch. If you find a good intern, add him or her to your contact database. The intern may be able to come back next summer, work part-time during the school year or even become a permanent, full-time employee after graduation.
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