If want to give fresh young talent a chance to get involved in your business and help you with key tasks; or you’re looking to assess a graduate or student’s capability before hiring them, offering an internship might be a smart next step for your business.
With many young people, students and graduates looking for ways to expand on their studies and stand out in the job market, it’s also a great way to give back and nurture the next generation of the workforce.
What is an internship?
An internship is a fixed, limited period of work experience offered by a business or organisation to a student, graduate or someone looking to increase their experience in a particular field.
Should you pay an intern?
Yes. You should legally pay minimum wage to your interns unless offering volunteer placements or supporting a higher education student a sandwich placement – see the UK Government’s advice on paying interns.
1. Know what role, skills and personal attributes you’re looking for
Think carefully about how an intern will support your business and what skills, experience and attributes they’ll need.
- How will an intern benefit your business?
- What role and tasks will the intern undertake during their time with you?
- What will their working hours be?
- Will they be based at your premises or work remotely?
- Do you have enough work to offer an intern, and do you have someone who can support and mentor them whilst they’re with your company
Also, think about how your business can add value to the intern themselves. This is very much a two-way opportunity and you should be prepared to support your intern in up-skilling, gaining experience and getting the most out of their placement.
- How will their time with you be structured?
- What will they learn?
- What tasks will they undertake?
- How will they be integrated into the team?
- Who will support your intern on a day to day basis?
These are all key questions to ask yourself.
Once you’re clear on what role, skills and attributes you’re looking for, and what you can offer in return, write a clear ‘job description’ for your internship. This will go miles in attracting the best candidates.
2. Promote your internship
There are so many places to list your internship opportunity online. Many sites will allow you to list your internship for free, so use the ‘job description’ from step one and add it to sites such as:
Traditional jobs websites also allow internships and placements to be listed, so if you want to widen the net, post your opportunity on their websites too.
3. Connect to local colleges and universities
As many interns will be students or graduates, it’s well worth reaching out to your local colleges and universities with students on courses that fit the internship you’re offering to see if they can connect you with a great intern. Most colleges and universities are invested in supporting their students and alumni with getting work experience and will be able to help you hire someone locally.
4. Interview your interns thoroughly
Once you’ve some candidates lined up for your internship, the next step is to interview them thoroughly. This stage is crucial in finding the perfect fit intern. Whilst some interns may look great on paper when you meet and interview them, they may not have the attributes you need or are looking for. Or vice versa.
Shortlist your candidates and be sure to prepare some key interview questions which will help you to determine who would be the best fit. You may also wish to ask them to complete a short task to demonstrate their skills, if relevant.
Do be aware, however, that this might be their first experience of being interviewed and they will be as nervous as the next person.
5. Support your new intern to get the best out of them
The final step, once you’ve found a great intern, is keeping hold of them. And, keeping them happy and motivated! So many work experience horror stories come from a lack of work, direction or support from the employer – and this can lead to disengaged interns who don’t add value to your business and can cause you more energy and resource than what you get in return.
As always this is a two-way street, so nurture your new intern and give them as much guidance and support as you can. Recognise that they may be new to the working world and therefore might need additional guidance or training. A tip that has served many businesses offering internships well is treating your intern like they’re your best friend’s kid – you’ll want to do the best for them and motivate them to become a valuable part of your team and potentially a future employee.
Treating your internship search like you would a search to hire a full-time employee will reap you the rewards and is well worth the time and effort, especially as many interns go on to be full-time employees at the end of their placement and a huge asset to the businesses they get work experience with.