What your startup should know before hiring interns


Thinking about adding interns to your startup staff?

Oftentimes, this is a great idea. Interns can bring fresh, new ideas and a unique perspective to your startup.

They are usually inexpensive, and very often they're young and flexible. You'll find they're willing to learn many different aspects of your business and pitch in where they're most needed.

As an added bonus, if they really work out, you can add them to your staff permanently.

Yet, there are some important guidelines to follow when doing this.

Here's what your startup should know before hiring interns.

Decide if you'll pay them

The U.S. Department of Labor specifies some rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act when it comes to hiring interns.

While you can hire both a paid and an unpaid intern, you must meet certain criteria if you don't intend to pay your interns.

If you meet all of the following specifications, you aren't required to pay your interns:

  • You train the intern in a way that mimics the training the intern would receive in the educational environment.
  • The intern is the primary beneficiary of the internship.
  • Your intern doesn't replace your employee.
  • The intern is closely supervised.
  • Your startup doesn't benefit directly from hiring the intern. You may even find it hinders your work.
  • You don't promise the intern a job at the completion of the internship.
  • The intern knows that he or she is not due a salary.

Then, pay them

 If at all possible, try to pay your interns at least a small stipend.

You'll find they're more dedicated and feel more valued if you offer this to them.

Not only does this make your internship more attractive to them, it helps motivate the intern.

Interns are more likely to devote their time and talents to a paid internship because they feel like they are part of the team.

Know where to find interns

Finding the best interns can be tricky.

While you can post the job on employment boards and your website, your best bet is to partner with some local universities.

Visit with the department heads that best align with your needs. These people can help you locate the most qualified interns.

In addition, if you work with schools and create internships that work within their programs, you'll find that students often get college credit for their internship with you.

Also, once you've established an internship within a university program, students will be more likely to apply.

Work with the school to determine the specifics with regard to college credit and a stipend.

Lay out the purpose

Before an intern agrees to work for you, you want to make it very clear what the benefit is.

An intern either wants to be paid, or an intern wants to learn something that's clearly valuable for a future career.

For example, if the intern expects to learn valuable graphic design skills at your startup, you'll find this person less likely to take an internship that involves data entry.

So, make the internship enticing. Sell it just as you would a full-time job with your startup. You do want great interns, so write your descriptions accordingly.

Final thoughts

Hiring interns for your startup can be a positive for both the intern and your company.

They're eager to learn and willing to help where needed.

Internship programs also offer your employees the opportunity to mentor young people and fine tune their own skills in the process.

Do make sure to assign each intern a formal mentor. This person is responsible for managing, tutoring and training the intern.

It's also best practice to establish a formal performance review process for your interns.

This gives you both a chance to review the internship relationship to make sure the intern is getting everything out of the experience he or she hoped. You'll both grow through the review process while helping the intern learn how to set and manage goals.

Are you a new startup ready to succeed? Are you looking to get your new business off the ground and watch it rise to success? We are here for you. We can help answer your questions and guide you through the process. Outsource your HR duties, finances, payroll and more to us. Contact Escalon today to get started.

Image: Dai KE on Unsplash

Brad Hart - Change a habit, change your life
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