How to Find Interns for Your Small Business

You have done your research and know how to structure a successful internship program. And per the U.S. Department of Labor rules, you’ve determined that you will need to pay any interns you bring on board. But, do you know how to find interns who want to work for you? What are you hoping to accomplish during the intern’s tenure? Do you need the intern(s) to already have certain skills?

Internships: Making it a “win-win”

The right intern will want to learn from their experience at your company, and they will work hard to impress you. The intern is hoping this job will help them get their dream job (win!). You will get the help your small business needs without taking on a full-time, permanent employee. And you’ll have the satisfaction of “giving back” by providing the right intern with a meaningful work experience.

How to find interns using the right job description

The best way to find interns is to make your job description do some of the work for you. Communicate the expected length of the internship (just for the summer?) and the specific tasks or projects the intern will complete. This will give candidates an idea of what they will be learning (and adding to their resume). The intern is looking for a learning experience instead of putting in hours at a job unrelated to their future plans.

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5 places to find interns

Depending on your industry and the nature of your internship, you can choose from these five places to find the right intern (or guide the intern to find you!).

  1. Your website and social media. This is a great place to start because it’s where people with an interest in your business will already be looking. And it’s free! Besides, letting people know you want an intern indicates that your business is growing.
  2. Referrals from family and friends. In addition to being another free option, personal referrals have the advantage of being “pre-screened” by someone you trust.
  3. Local colleges, tech schools, or maybe high schools. Start with their career counseling center or guidance office. Since internships are learning experiences, the school might require an evaluation or proof of work from you at the conclusion of the internship. The additional paperwork may be worth it if the school can match you up with a qualified, motivated intern.
  4. Intern and career websites. If you only look for local college students, you will miss out on all the students who are studying away from home but need their family’s free room-and-board for an internship. To help them find your open internship, you can use websites like Looksharp or that are specifically designed for college students and businesses. These websites may charge for listing your open intern position, but the sites also offer free resources, like sample job descriptions, for you. You can also use job boards or career sites. Interns may even find you by doing a simple Google search. Lastly, the DOL has their Summer Jobs+ Bank that was set up to help youth through age 24 find summer employment, and allows employers to list jobs.
  5. Job fairs. Local job fairs may be sponsored by a career website, a college, your chamber of commerce, etc. You may need to pay a fee to participate. As a small business owner, you probably need to be 10 places at the same time already without adding the hours you’d need to spend at a job fair. So consider the cost, the networking opportunities, and the probable attendees before committing to a job fair.

Keep in mind that …

Even if the internship is just for the summer, you still need to go through your normal hiring process, complete the required government paperwork, pay taxes, and follow any safety regulations or other labor laws. Also, your state may have its own mandates for providing workers’ compensation coverage, etc.

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This article has been updated from its original publication date of May 6, 2016.

This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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