It’s no surprise to see polytechnic students and undergraduates investing their time and putting themselves out in the workforce for an internship program.
At the same time, companies hire interns to obtain a new perspective on their business and let’s not forget how good they’re in the questioning process. Plus, who doesn’t love this generation of tech-savvy youth professionals who’re up-to-date on the latest trends?
Why does this matter?
Unfortunately, not all internships are ‘great’ or a ‘good opportunity’ to obtain experience – especially when an internship goes wrong. There’re companies out there who overwork their interns and delegate an unreasonable amount of tasks or restrict them to tasks that no one wants to do throughout the internship.
Students see this as an opportunity for them to turn their interest into passion, enhance their abilities and develop skills and even strengthen their technical competencies. Therefore, how should you plan your internship program and how can you attract better, qualified interns?
At HerdHR, we had our fair share of interns and we want to share with you useful and relevant ways to build and improve your internship program including several don’t dos.
Ask Yourself – What Do You Need Help with?
Before recklessly jumping into the decision to hire an intern, ask yourself these questions: Who’ll be in charge?
- Who’ll be in charge?
- Does he have the time to mentor the intern?
- What is your purpose of hiring an intern?
- Are you willing to spend the time and resources to guide the intern?
This gives you an outline of whether your company has the ability and resources for another pair of hands. If you decided to hire one, determine the type of help and a list of projects you’ll need assistance from. Don’t make the rash decision of hiring because you ‘think’ you need help. You need to be sure about it.
Speed Up the Interview Process
Your time is important. Interviews are a long process. You wouldn’t want to spend several hours a day replying emails, phone calls and even having to conduct long interviews. What you want is to simplify and shorten the time you spend interviewing the intern.
Once you’ve selected suitable applicants for an interview, don’t stop there. Ask them to check out your company website and social media platforms for them to get comfortable and know what to expect if they do get hired. Send them pre-interview materials that’ll help them prepare for the interview. This will save you time explaining straightforward subjects like what your company does, what the culture is like and what to expect of this position.
Now you can focus on more important matters such as finding out the intern’s expectations of this internship. What he wants to learn and gain out of this internship will be revealed, so listen carefully. You have to work your internship program around these expectations. Of course, revealing your professional expectations of an intern is essential too. At times like this, being honest and transparent will make you a reliable company to work for.
If you want to eliminate the irresponsible and non-committed applicants, give them a piece of assignment after the interview. Don’t assign the assignment to those who failed the interview because it’s unfair to them. Give it to those who you plan on hiring and you have a winner.
Prior to the Start Date
How your internship program acts at this point says a lot of about the company. It shows your attitude towards the intern and how interested you’re in the internship program to make this work. Whether or not you want this to go well, you need to act first.
Come to An Agreement with the Salary. This should be straightforward. Don’t skip out on sensitive matters like salary or try to take advantage of the intern by offering an unreasonable amount. If you have a budget, negotiate and see what else you can offer to make the internship program more appealing.
Ensure that the intern’s work space is set up and ready. They should be located to a seat that’s close to their supervisor. Desktop, phone, notebooks and stationary should be prepared for the intern beforehand.
Create any communication accounts used by the company and granting permission to social accounts they may require access to. They’re going to be a part of your company. All forms of communication and work belongs to the company. You wouldn’t want others to have access to your company information from your intern’s personal email account.
Follow up with the intern on his start date, reporting time, dress code and any reminders that’re helpful! You don’t want the intern to feel forgotten about. Make him look forward to the internship program by being welcoming and approachable. Let him know that you’re more than happy to answer any questions he may have about the internship.
Inform the rest of the team. The intern shouldn’t be greeted with blank or puzzled faces. Send an email informing the team about the arrival of an intern, the internship period, who’s he reporting to, his job responsibilities and some basic background information.
Plan ahead! Don’t wait until the first day when the intern asks you what he’s supposed to do and you find yourself blanking out. You want to look professional and organised in your work. Spare time beforehand and come up with a to-do-list that’ll benefit and bring value to both the intern and the company.
Tip: Allocate more tasks than what you already have. You may be surprised at how efficient interns can be.
The Internship Experience
This is the focal point of the internship program. The intern wants the internship experience to be fulfilling, engaging and he wants to be able to develop skills that’ll benefit his professional development. And so do you. Internships have to be mutually beneficial. As a company, you’ve the resources and ability to help the intern get to a place where he wants to be, and the intern has time, potential and dedication to assist you in the company’s growth. Sounds like a perfect match right?
Hold that thought and look at these three problems we believe should never happen in any internship.
Not delegating actual work. Many companies out there are afraid to assign huge responsibilities and challenging tasks to an intern. Why? They don’t trust the intern. This doesn’t mean to drop all responsibilities on the intern’s plate. You should allow them to contribute and assist you in as many ways as possible, not outcast them to coffee duties or paperwork all the time. It’s called experience for a reason. Let them experience the true essence of what they signed up for with actual work!
Expectations, Expectations, Expectations. Sometimes, people forgot that interns aren’t full-time employees, so don’t expect them to act in certain ways. They’re new and curious to their surroundings. This is obvious yet so many people tend to forget when something goes wrong is, they lack experience. There’re times when they may be ignorant about their mistakes. For example, don’t expect every task given to them to get done correctly or worse, expect that they know what they’re supposed to do in order to get the work done.
Lack of Respect. Sad but true is that there’re people out there who think they can disrespect interns just because they’re new to the workforce. So what happens? Workplace bullying and sexual harassment occur. Authority gets into these people heads. Which is why because they’re new to the workforce, the more reason we should be treating them well, guiding and taking care of them. Be kind and responsible.
By ensuring you don’t demonstrate these mistakes, watch your interns actively contribute and actually enjoy what they do at your company.
Structure the Timeline of the Internship
What does this means? Your internship program should be planned accordingly to the intern’s availability period. Typically, internships are 3 months long so you want to work towards catering to the intern’s course of study and delegating projects that’ll help him build his portfolio and work that actually make a difference. Internships should carry an educational component for undergraduates.
This is where you can set goals for the interns to meet that matches with the company’s goals. It’s advisable to run through the internship program you had in mind with the intern to give him an idea of what to expect, his tasks, its purposes and how he can prepare for it. This allows the internship program to run seamlessly and on track. You wouldn’t want the intern to end his internship without completing any of the projects he’s part of. This makes his experience look weak and invalid.
At the end of the internship, have the intern fill in a feedback form to evaluate your internship program to determine the quality of it. This is the perfect opportunity to measure whether goals were met, gain valuable and insightful feedback on the overall internship program.
What could have possibly gone wrong during the program that you can remove or work towards on improving it? What’re some things that made you receive compliments so you can continue to implement them? These answers are like gold and you should listen and take them seriously to tweak and make changes accordingly in order to ace your internship program.
Management of the Intern
How you manage the intern gives him an overall impression of your company. Imagine yourself as a new, curious and passionate individual. How would you like to be welcome? How would you want to be integrated into the company’s culture? Put yourself in the shoes of an intern and start taking action.
To begin, make the intern feel comfortable and introduce him to the rest of the team. Don’t just stop here. Invite the intern to join your team for lunch, and have a good chat with him on what he may be curious about and be nice and humble. When you make the effort to build a relationship with the intern, it gives him a sense of belonging to the company, allowing him to fit in quickly.
The structure of your internship program will likely be the utmost important influence on an intern’s impression of your company, and thus defining the chances of he returning. If you want to keep these talented individuals, you have to set expectations right and delegate the right tasks to them.
The mentor should pay attention and guide the intern in understanding his role and responsibilities throughout the internship. They should do this with patience and dedication. It’s also important for the mentor to actively involve the intern in shared projects so that the intern have a chance to showcase his work and contribute to the team. He might just be able to brainstorm brilliant ideas for the company!
When you give the intern his first task, you’re signalling and giving him an idea of what other similar tasks he may be expected to do in the future. If there’s little or nothing to do, it leaves the impression that he’s able to slack off and would be spending the rest of their time doing an easy, or even mundane job. This is something you should avoid in doing which brings us back to planning ahead and aligning his tasks accordingly to his availability period.
However, not all internship programs have the ability to do so. Every internship is structured differently, in terms of the nature of work, remuneration and goals. Whether or not an internship program will suit an individual, differs. Undoubtedly, internship programs offered by Multi-National Companies (MNCs) are always highly sought after. Some might even be willing to accept an unpaid internship, just to experience how it is to work in an MNC that they’ve dreamt of all their life.
This may be disadvantageous for budding firms. Being in a lean stage, without an established brand name in the industry, may deter students from applying to a startup internship program. Thus, startups should spend more time in building and crafting their internship program so that they can compete against large corporations, and bring out the very best in their interns.
However, don’t hire an intern (for the sake of the company and the intern) for any of these reasons below:
You ‘think’ you need help. You’re overwhelmed with work piling up everyday. Does that give you the perfect reason to hire an intern? Maybe. But what if you’re making yourself busy on purpose? No one is that busy unless you make yourself to be. Learn to focus on doing one thing at a time. And if you’re really busy, you wouldn’t be the right person to supervise the intern. Only when you’re willing to spend time and resources, it wouldn’t do both parties any good.
Everyone else is doing so. The typical reason for you to hire an intern is because other companies are doing it and well, it’s cheap and you want to make full use of it. Interns are not replacements or the ideal candidate for any full-time positions in the company. They’re students who require guidance and training to experience their interest. This should not be taken lightly as they should set goals to meet and pick up new skills for their future career.
Lack of direction. Zero goals. You wouldn’t want to work for a company that doesn’t know what’s going on and doesn’t measure goals. Neither will the intern. Just because you need additional help doesn’t mean you should hire interns. Instead, you can consider hiring temporary employees or freelancers to help with your workload.