Should you hire an intern this season or forgo the concept altogether? This can be a tricky question. On one hand, seasonal interns can prove helpful in a small business setting. They can assist with non-critical tasks around the office, add young spirit into a company and cost a business owner next to nothing.
On the other hand, bringing on a seasonal intern can also turn into a nightmare if not managed properly. Here are a few practices to avoid.
Mistake #1: Launching a program without a plan
Hillary Clinton once famously said, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” She was right.
Fight against failure by sitting down with your management team and hashing out a detailed description of your internship program. What will your intern do on a daily basis? Will the person shadow a high performer or member of the management team? Will there be enough work for that person to do for the entire season or should you hire them part-time? Who will manage their day-to-day progress? Post an internship ad only after you’ve established a firm plan.
Mistake #2: Hiring too young
Not all interns are created equal, especially when it comes to age. The younger the intern candidate, the more likely they may treat the experience like summer camp. Business owners are smart to pay attention to resumes that come in from people in late college (juniors or seniors) or older.
Planning to soon beef up your staffing levels? Is so, silently treat the internship like an extended job interview and consider asking them to apply for full-time role after graduation.
Mistake #3: Forgetting to check compensation laws
Be careful when you hire an unpaid intern. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act, businesses can only hire an unpaid intern if the job description fits every one of the following criteria.
- Training needs to focus less on your business’s operations and more on the specific skills your program offers (i.e. sales, accounting, marketing). Training should be academic in nature.
- Training should be designed to help the intern regardless if that person stays on with your company full-time or not. Training should solely benefit the intern.
- Interns should not displace normal staffers. Instead, interns should be a welcome addition to a team, not a vehicle to avoid paying overtime to regular employees. (Read: Interns shouldn’t be picking up the slack of day-to-day operations.)
- Businesses with unpaid interns should derive no benefit from the activities of the intern. The benefit should be only work experience for the intern.
- Interns should not be guaranteed a paid job after the completion of an unpaid program. This presumes the intern was exploited for free labor.
- Unpaid means unpaid. Business owners are advised not to give money to an unpaid intern in return for training or time worked if/when the intern is hired full-time.
Mistake #4: Failing to offer (consistent) feedback
Most interns come straight from school where they were on the receiving end of constant feedback from teachers and counselors. This is the environment they are used to (and probably thrive in), so try to touch base with your intern on a regular basis to see how he or she is doing in your program.
Institute a 10-minute stand-up meeting every morning with your intern. Make the meeting informal. Discuss your expectations for the day, the prior day’s happenings and any successes/items to improve upon and then give your intern time to ask questions and provide you with feedback.
Yaniv Masjedi is the vice president of marketing at Nextiva (@Nextiva), a leading provider of cloud-based, unified communication services. In his role, Yaniv manages the firm’s marketing and branding efforts by working to create strategies that drive awareness, strengthen the Nextiva brand and share the story of the company’s unique customer-centric culture (dubbed “Amazing Service”). Keep up with Yaniv on Twitter @YanivMasjedi.
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