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6 Important Questions to Ask Before You Get an Intern

summer intern

They're hungry. They're numerous. They're close. And they're coming for you.

No, we're not talking about White Walkers.

We're talking interns, and their time has finally arrived.

High school and college students dedicate their summers to finding real-world working experience, whether they're seeking out full-time positions or non-paid internships. The latter offers your company a great opportunity to both educate students about working in the professional realm and gain valuable insight from younger generations with regard to best business practices.

But does your business really need an intern? Or would the process be more trouble than it's worth?

There are a few questions you need to ask before you start looking for an intern. As you examine your budget and your time constraints, consider the following prior to your search.

1. What work could an intern complete?

Having a summer intern is a great way to get some of that extra work done, but - as many who have had an internship in the past can agree - sometimes, they run out of things to do. If you're unveiling a summer project, like hosting a holiday event or rolling out a new promotion, interns can provide invaluable assistance during this time. But you need to have a plan for when they complete their work. Otherwise, you've just got a gaggle of students itching for tasks around the office.

A great way to prevent this issue before it arises is by charting out the exact specifications of their job requirements before they come on board. For example, create a grid that outlines the number of days or weeks that you'll have your interns, then set aside specific, achievable tasks for the interns to complete during that timeframe. If they finish before their projects are done, you can create a backup list of tasks they can help your business with. 

2. What teaching opportunities could my company present?

What many companies don't realize is that internships are two-way streets. While your business can benefit from the extra staff, your interns are looking for valuable real-world experience that can better their professional careers. Take on interns if you know you have something valuable to teach them. You want to go above and beyond merely instructing them how to complete a project - you want to take a more hands-on approach and show them what it's like to actually work for (or run) a business, so consider the ways you could further their experience. Have employees complete shadowing sessions, or host workshops for interns to attend.  

3. How long would I have to train an intern?

Like new hires, your interns need to go through a training process to ensure they comply not only to your business's best practices, but to your corporate policies as well. In a sense, the entire duration you have your intern you may be training him or her - this varies based on the tasks assigned, the number of interns and the nature of their work. If you're not willing to commit to an ongoing training or teaching initiative, you may need to rethink whether your company really needs an intern at this time. 

4. Where would I look for an intern?

Job posting sites - like Indeed, Monster and Career Builder - are great places to start, but if you're seeking that younger, tech-savvy generation, opt for social networks. Set out Facebook ads and encourage your followers to share posts with interested parties. Tweet to your heart's content and set up a LinkedIn posting. If you want students, go old school with your tactics and start contacting individual institutions, like nearby colleges or high schools.

5. How many interns could I keep up with?

This really depends on the size of your company and the breadth of your project. If you've got a set employee whose job entails working with interns, you may be able to handle two or three. But if your company is on the smaller size and you've already got a great deal of work on your plate, it's best to just have one. If you've never had an intern before, start with one - that way, you can discover what works, what could be improved and how your company handles the extra set of hands.

6. Could I offer an intern employment at the end of his or her contract?

Of course! If your intern is a younger student - like a high school or early college one - you may be hesitant to give a firm offer, but interns can turn into excellent employees, especially if you've already trained them in a certain position. If you're not willing to extend an offer just yet, keep their information handy so you can stay in contact regarding potential openings in the future.

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