Learning & Development, Recruiting

The Benefits of Hiring an Intern Before Offering Full-Time Employment

Hiring an intern is a valuable way to develop leadership programs, delegate tasks, seek out future talent, and improve the overall structure of your company. But what should you look for in an intern, and how should you set up your internship program for long-term success?


From developing a mutually beneficial internship program to finding the best fit, college career platform, Barefoot Student, explains what you need to know about hiring a student intern.

Why Hire an Intern?

From a student’s perspective, an internship provides on-the-job experience, professional connections, skill development, and résumé-boosting—but interns offer plenty of reciprocal benefits for companies, as well. Hiring an intern can help you:

Strengthen company culture. When your company is taking on fresh, new faces—and developing processes for training and supervising them—it’s also strengthening its internal processes. Taking the time to promote your organization’s mission and goals, further develop training programs, and delineate leadership tasks is healthy for your current staff and company culture.

Save time on new hires. Recruiting and onboarding new team members is a timely and costly process—especially when you’re focusing your company’s talent acquisition on both full-time employees and interns. Instead, why not pool your resources?

Did you know 74% of organizations offer full-time employment to some of their past interns? Treating your interns as potential full-time hires not only will improve their personal motivation and work ethic, but it will save your team time and costs when it comes to expanding your team.

Plus, an internship is the perfect time to see who would make an ideal candidate. In one survey, 90% of companies who later take on their interns full-time are highly satisfied with the decision.

Develop mentoring and leadership opportunities. Internship programs benefit your full-time employees by offering them opportunities to train, teach new skills, share subject matter expertise, manage projects, and evaluate performance. While they’re training your interns, your company is gaining future team leaders and supervisors.

How to Set Up an Internship Program

Whether you plan to offer an internship program online, on-site, part-time, or full-time, make sure to:

Offer paid positions. While college students might be willing to complete internships just for the work experience, unpaid internships have a negative effect on your company’s morale—and the economy. Show your interns you value their contributions by fairly reimbursing them for their efforts. Remember, you’re also contributing to their education, and potentially investing in a valuable future employee.

Set up a specific project. In a recent survey by Noche on internship pay and practices, only 59% of employers reported providing interns with a defined job description or set of responsibilities. Taking on an intern without providing specific tasks is a disservice to everyone—it won’t help your interns learn, and it’s a waste of your organization’s resources. 

Interns aren’t just around for coffee runs. Show them you trust and value them by assigning real responsibilities, and let them make it worth your while.

Treat it as a learning experience. Don’t expect your interns to come to the team with a full lineup of industry knowledge or skills, don’t abandon them on projects, and don’t be too hard on them. While it’s important to trust your interns with projects and responsibilities, do keep in mind that they’re learning—and it’s your responsibility to teach them. An internship program is a learning experience for both your intern and your organization.

How to Recruit Interns

You know how and why to offer an internship program, but how can you spot the perfect candidate, and where should you look for interns?

What to look for in an intern. The qualities you need in an intern really depend on your company culture and goals. Set up an “ideal profile” of your expectations before you start searching, and consider important points like:

  • Related college majors
  • College grade level
  • Hard and soft skills 
  • Interests
  • Past experience
  • Professionalism and dedication
  • Availability
  • Future hiring potential

You get to decide what qualities are negotiable—but remember that passion, work ethic, and willingness to learn are good indicators of a high-quality intern candidate. To learn more about hiring interns or college graduates, click here.

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