Employer internship guides

FAQ and Guide on How to Hire Interns

Brown_arrow_21 Written by Nathan Parcells on Nov 24, 2010

Quick Answers to Everything You Need to Know About Hiring Interns

Q: How long is the average internship?

A: An average internship is 3-4 months coinciding with a student’s typical semester or summer.  A key factor in determining proper internship length is that an internship should be long enough so that an intern can get into the rhythm of the position and complete deliverables that are valuable to you and them.  If your position is only for 5-10 hours a week consider a 6-8 month long internship.
Season Beginning Date End Date Avg. # of Hours / Week
Fall Mid-September Mid-December 10-20
Winter/Spring Mid-January Mid-April 10-20
Summer May Mid-August 20-40+
Note: Dates Vary Depending on Individual University Calendars and Semester Lengths

Q: How many hours a week is the average internship?

A: During the summer full-time positions are common.  During the school year a position should be no longer than 15-20 hours a week.  The time commitment should reflect how substantial the position/internship project is -- you should be able to easily fill up the interns’ hours with projects related to the position description. (See Chart Above)

Q: How much should I pay my intern? PART 1: Wh at is the Law?

A:  This is a hot topic right now.  The department of labor points to the 6 point standard (here) including Point #4, that states that any intern who provides value must be paid at least minimum wage.

The intent of the law (and reading between the lines of what is being enforced) is that unpaid interns cannot be used to replace current employees and cannot be used to do ad hoc, non-educational work. In general, unpaid interns are held to a much higher standard in terms of what they get in educational benefits and experience. Organizations who offer a highly educational experience, and offer alternative compensation, such as credit, a stipend, or other benefits are generally seen as in compliance.

NOTE: While credit is used as an alternative compensation by many companies it is not seen as valued compensation by most students.

Q: How much should I pay my intern? PART 2: How to be Competitive?

A: The most important benefit you can offer an intern is a highly educational experience that offers access to top level employees, and industry experience.  That being said payment is very important to set your position apart from the status quo and attract the best candidates.

Position Type Competitive to attract the top 25% of students Highly Competitive to Attract the Top 5% of Students
Communications/PR Minimum Wage $12 -$15 hour
Marketing Minimum Wage $12 - $15 hour
Computer Science/Engineering $12/hour $15 -$22 hour
Graduate Business Student $12/hour $15 - $20 hour
Non-Profit Unpaid/Stipend $12/hour
Q: What are the benefits of paying my intern?

A:  You will get a much higher quality of applicants for two reasons.  First, not paying your intern immediately excludes a large number of college students who need some level of payment to consider internship employment.  Second, the best students have a lot of options to choose from and most can find positions that are exciting and offer some payment.

Another major benefit in paying your interns, is that research shows that companies who pay their interns have a significantly higher chance of retaining their interns as future employees (the long term value of which may be well worth the upfront cost).

Q: What is work-study and how can it reduce my internship salary costs?

A: Work-study includes federal and state programs dedicated to contribute to the salaries of financial aid students.  If you hire a student who is eligible a large percentage of your internship salary can be reimbursed through one of these programs often upwards of 75%.  To learn more see our work-study calculator and work-study FAQs in the resources section.

Q:  If I want a summer intern when should I start looking?

A: The most competitive Fortune 500 companies do their heaviest recruiting during January when students return from Winter Break (some even begin during the fall!).  Most smaller companies conduct their summer intern search in March or April and plenty of good candidates are still available at this time (just don't wait until May!).

Q:  When should I post my internship?

A:  Students are ALWAYS looking for internships.  That being said structuring an internship around typical internship seasons coincides with when more interns are looking for internships and improves your odds.  Below are some dates throughout the calendar year that match student search periods:

Date to Post Expected Start Date (Season) Student Search Volume
Early August Mid-September (Fall) Low/Medium
September – November Mid-January (Winter/Spring) Medium
Early to Mid-January May (Summer) Medium/High
March May (Summer) Very High

Q:  What benefits are students most interested in that I should highlight in my posting?

A: In this general order:

1.)    Challenging work scope and a well-defined internship project

2.)    An engaging company culture and competitive organization

3.)    Access to high level executives and industry leaders (opportunities to network with various individuals in the office)

4.)    Professional Development Training whether in skills or industry specific software (For example Salesforce, QuickBooks, Basecamp, and more)

5.)    Monetary Benefits (salary, stipend, travel expenses)

6.)    Interesting Perks (Company trip to Orlando expo…)

Q: What are some example internship titles that are interesting to students?

A:  Here are a few (should give some ideas on how to write something appealing):

  • Social Media Campaign Manager at a Fast Paced Startup
  • PR Account Manager at a Leading Green Business PR Firm
  • Well Paid Developer at a Privately Funded Startup
  • Community Outreach Coordinator for International Non-Profit
  • Get Published as a Research Intern for an Environmental Non-Profit

Q: Where can I go to hire interns?

A:  There are obviously a lot of sources to find interns, but we have noticed a huge delta in value between good and great interns.  If you have a highly niche role you may consider speaking at university classes or clubs and if you have a low-skill role you could consider posting on a site like Odesk and Craigslist.  Otherwise, IntenrMatch has now partnered with hundreds of universities to do all this work for you so can simply go to here to post a listing and hire an intern!

Image provided by thedz_ under the Creative Commons license

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