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Hiring Interns

Diane Bolton

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Thanks to all of you who responded to my question about hiring an intern to work in my office. Hiring a university/college intern entails many possibilities, as well as some obstacles. Consider the following ideas that were shared, based in part on whether an intern will be paid or unpaid.

If unpaid:

  • it's a learning experience (10-20 hrs./wk.)--a professor or dept. coordinator manages the arrangements.
  • consider your intern a "student in training" and pay approx. $200 for expenses.

If paid (by far, the overwhelming suggestion):

  • compensation varies: $5-$10/hr.; flat fee; most recommended $6-$7/hr. for 10-20 hours per week; $500 upon completion of internship (otherwise they may leave prior to completion);
  • a letter of recommendation when internship is completed;
  • pay $500 after 6--8 weeks, then hire at a nominal salary for longer;
  • be aware that you'll go through twice as many interns as planned, so hire two and hope one stays;
  • contact student employment offices at colleges and universities; pay student interns (even though they may be receiving college credit for their work experience).
  • pay $7-$8/hr. for 10-20 hours per week, then offer a 5-10% commission on what they book for you.

Additional Tips:

  • many colleges will recommend or even mandate what an intern may make. Check with the local college student placement office on appropriate compensation;
  • find out what other work or outside activities this student is involved in; this way you will know what else is competing for his/her attention.
  • remember mid-terms, finals Spring break, etc., and then establish mutually acceptable and workable expectations for your intern.
  • be honest with yourself and the intern about which kind of work you are offering, as some students will accept challenges, while others want only to be go-fers.
  • make your intern selections based on references and personal chemistry.
  • have a written job description--not too formal or elaborate. Purpose: clarification of expectations (as well as what you do NOT expect!). Perhaps include a line stating "Assignments as needed".
  • give lots of feedback once you've hired. Emphasize the positive; coach for improvements.
  • key is to give interns real work to do, concentrate on them learning new things, and give them the right amount of supervision;
  • consider this alternative: simply hire a bright student who is recommended by a department you choose. With enough work to do, this may be better. Sometimes hiring an intern brings lots of forms to fill out, responsibilities to meet, student shadowing of the professional, etc. Plus, the student internship usually lasts only about 10-12 weeks, during the academic year.
  • many universities have an Internship Coordinator. Ask them to fax you resumes so that you can select some and then interview the candidate(s).

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