For recent graduates who lack experience, the value of an internship is obvious: they move from theoretical knowledge to a real work environment. But companies also benefit from good internship programmes, so long as they’re structured to train junior employees.
Here are six factors to consider when hiring interns:
Don’t offer unpaid internships
Unpaid internships send the message to current employees, potential candidates and your customers that certain jobs are less meaningful than others are and should not be rewarded. In addition, unless they follow very strict guidelines, unpaid internships are illegal.
Do opt for a five to six-month internship
Seasonal internships are helpful for specific projects, but consider an intern’s onboarding period, as well. Like all employees, interns require some time and training to adjust to their new workplace. You may only scratch the surface of your intern’s potential with a two-month programme.
Don’t rush the recruitment process
Interns should follow a hiring process similar to the rest of your employees, despite their lack of experience. Select the most qualified interns: those with interests and knowledge related to the positions you’re hiring for. Tests, assignments and structured interviews will help you evaluate entry-level candidates’ skills and training needs.
Do acclimate interns to your company
Make sure interns are invited to participate in company events and meetings. By participating in regular company events, your interns will better understand how your company works, which will be helpful if you decide to offer them a job after their internship. The more comfortable interns are with your company culture, the more they will be able to contribute to strengthening your business.
Don’t expect interns to know everything
Classroom learning is usually conceptual but good internships help students to apply their academic concepts to real work situations. Daily, routine work tasks (e.g. how to use business tools) may not come naturally to someone with no work experience. Spend some time to guide interns by providing them resources and training.
Do prepare a specific project
Before you offer someone an internship, think about its desirable outcomes and compile a list of tasks you want to assign the intern. Identify the needs your interns will fill and design a systematic approach to help them reach their goals. Designate an employee who will mentor and develop interns along the way.
Don’t ask for too much or too little
Keep a balanced workload for your interns. If you assign them too many tasks, they are likely to be stressed and make mistakes. On the other hand, having almost nothing to do throughout an internship is frustrating for interns and doesn’t benefit your company. If interns finish their daily tasks early, let them shadow coworkers to learn how to manage advanced projects.
Do evaluate your internship programme
Good internships are like good academic courses. Interns and employers should both learn from the process. Ask interns what new knowledge they acquired, how they collaborated with their team and what their impressions are of your workplace. And get input from your employees on how the internship programme helped them, or ask for guidance on how your internship programme could be improved.
To get the most out of your internship programmes, make sure your workplace prioritises training and development. Development goes both ways though; regularly review and upgrade your programmes to ensure they’re well-designed and beneficial for everyone involved.
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