HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development, Recruiting

Internship Best Practices

With college intern hiring on the increase, it’s a good time to review internship best practices.

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Although internships vary greatly by industry and company, paying attention to these key points will help ensure that both employer and employee get maximum value from the experience.
The duties of the job are clearly defined. An internship position is a job like any other, and as such it should have a clear set of tasks and responsibilities. Ideally, there should be a written job description for the position.
Outlining responsibilities, and putting them in writing, will help eliminate any ambiguity about the job. It will also allow for a more accurate assessment of the intern’s job performance.
Without clearly defined duties, the intern is likely to become a floater who is relegated to insignificant tasks like fixing copier paper jams and cleaning the coffeemaker. For the intern, a job experience without a clearly defined job isn’t conducive to learning. For the employer, the internship becomes a waste of talent and money.
The intern understands how job duties support the department and/or business. When job duties are outlined in connection with the bigger picture, they take on more significance. For example, explaining the purpose behind filling out a form for each transaction shows that it’s not meaningless paperwork.
Connecting the dots helps highlight the value of tasks for any employee, but for an intern this kind of information is especially important. An internship is a learning experience. With this in mind, the employer should focus on educating the intern.
The position provides meaningful work experience in a particular field. Just as an internship provides insight into a department and/or company, it should likewise provide insight into an industry or particular field.
Training, for example, might be approached from the standpoint of whether a procedure is company policy or mandated by industry regulations. Similarly, it can be helpful to contrast business practices with those of your competitors to provide an overview of the industry.
Taking the time to do this allows for a fuller experience on the part of the intern, while also providing context that will help this entry-level employee learn and grow.
The job, although entry-level, points the way to career path options. The intern working at your company wants an on-the-job learning experience, but he or she is also exploring a career. With this in mind, make sure the job begins to build a foundation for other opportunities, within the company and within the industry.
The salary is competitive for the work. Internships should be paid positions, so that as an employer you don’t run afoul of the law—and because paying people who work for you is the right thing to do.
An intern, while not an experienced professional, brings skills to the workplace and is expected to perform job tasks. It’s not unreasonable for this person to expect a salary, and one that is adequate. A competitive salary will help you attract a quality candidate, while reflecting favorably on the internship experience.
Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.