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Hiring Interns: A Guide on How to Recruit and Select Interns
6 min. Read
Establishing a small business internship program can offer many potential benefits. Often college students or recent graduates can bring fresh perspectives, while training interns offers a unique management opportunity for current employees. But bringing on an intern for your business, like any other process, requires careful consideration. Let's take a look at not only how to find interns and potentially add to your future talent pool, but also identify potential internship requirements and best practices to be mindful of before starting such a program.
Determine Timeline, Budget, and Team Needs
A business may initially consider bringing on interns for a specific upcoming project or initiative. In such cases, it's a good idea to outline the project's scope and requirements, identify necessary tasks, and which skills are required. For example, a summer-long technical project may warrant bringing on interns who are computer-savvy and demonstrate strong attention to detail.
Another consideration is your budget, if any, for bringing on interns. Some internships should be paid while others may be unpaid, such as students receiving college credit in lieu of monetary compensation. There are many state and/or federal wage and hour rules to consider if you decide to bring interns into your organization. At the federal level, there are multiple factors that determine whether interns in the for-profit sector may be paid or unpaid by focusing on the primary beneficiary of the relationship. These factors include:
- Whether the internship provides training similar to what the intern would receive in an educational institution;
- Whether the internship accommodates the intern's academic commitment(s) and calendar; and
- The understanding of all parties concerning compensation, among other criteria.
When this analysis indicates that an intern would also be an employee, the intern is entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Additional state and local laws could provide additional clarification on internships.
In instances where interns are paid, these wages should be factored into your budget for an internship program. This will also require your interns to complete any necessary new-hire paperwork, such as Form I-9, Form W-4, and any other employment forms required before they begin work.
You may want to consult with an HR professional or legal counsel to ensure your internship programs and supporting agreements comply with federal, state, and local wage and hour laws.
Connect with Local Colleges
Once you've outlined business needs for bringing on additional help, where can you find interns? Colleges and educational institutions are great places to connect with students who are ready to get some hands-on work experience. Cultivate relationships with local colleges and universities by reaching out to the institutions' career development centers, advertising internship openings on their job boards, and attending job fairs.
Communicate Your Internship Opportunity to Students
Similar to recruiting an employee, reaching out to a potential intern requires communicating about opportunities via thorough descriptions. This is where you can outline responsibilities, the type of work they will take on, timeframes (e.g., May-September during a school's summer break), whether the internship is paid, and other pertinent information. Much like crafting a job description for an employee, make sure you can answer questions such as:
- What are the goals of the internship and what specific duties and functions will the intern take on to achieve them?
- Is there any previous skill set or current program of study the person needs to succeed in the role and add value?
- Where will the person work, and during what hours?
- Which team will the intern support?
- What tools, software, or technology resources will the intern be provided with to achieve the goals of the internship?
- Is there the opportunity to bring an intern on as an employee following the completion of their internship?
The more detailed your description, the better you can communicate your needs and find the right intern. Otherwise, unclear expectations can lead to interns bouncing back and forth between teams, sitting idly with nothing to do, and developing a less-than-favorable impression of your business.
Once you have a solid description for an internship opening, post the listing with local colleges, as well as on websites that post about internship opportunities, career pages, and social networks. Encourage current employees to also reach out to their alma maters to help spread the word.
Start the Intern Selection Process
A thorough vetting process, much like hiring a full-time employee, is crucial to selecting an intern. The intern selection process may involve initial phone screenings to weed out unqualified applicants, in-person interviews to assess their capabilities, and even a meet-and-greet with the team to get a sense of future dynamics. Anyone involved in the interviewing and selection process should be mindful of the fact that this person likely has limited (or zero) job experience, so questions should reflect this. They may include:
- What do you hope to learn as an intern?
- What made you interested in your current field of study?
- What are your future career aspirations?
- Can you talk about a recent school project you worked on?
Anyone involved in the interview process should also be mindful of questions to avoid, including anything related to an individual's race, ethnicity, religion, or gender; citizenship status or place of birth; any physical or mental disability; or whether the candidate is pregnant.
Make an Offer
Just as you would extend an offer letter to a potential employee, make an offer in writing to an intern, whether it's paid or unpaid. Details to consider including in the offer letter:
- The name and location of the business
- The internship's start and end dates
- The amount of compensation you are offering if it's a paid internship (or alternatively clearly stating that the position is unpaid)
- The intern supervisor's name
- The deadline for accepting the internship
Do Interns Get Paid?
Many internships offer some form of compensation, but unpaid internships may exist in situations where the intern is the "primary beneficiary" of the agreement, per the DOL's primary beneficiary test. State and local laws should also be taken into consideration when determining whether an internship is paid or unpaid.
Do Interns Get Benefits?
While interns are generally not eligible for most company benefits, those who qualify as employees under the FLSA are typically eligible to participate in company benefit plans. As of May 2017, organizations with 50 or more employees are required to offer health benefits to any individual working 30 or more hours per week once they have satisfied a waiting period. The law doesn't specifically outline guidance in regard to interns, but if they work 30 or more hours per week and have satisfied the waiting period, interns must be offered coverage. Make sure to review your company policies prior to bringing on any interns.
What's the Difference Between Intern vs. Employee?
As stated above, there are federal and state guidelines that help organizations classify an intern vs. employee. But at the basis of an internship policy, an internship's purpose is to provide a student or recent graduate with training for a specific period of time similar to what would be given to them in an educational setting. The experience is for the benefit of the intern. On the other hand, an employee is hired to perform specific tasks for the benefit of their employer in exchange for compensation and benefits.
Do Internships Always Lead to Jobs?
Not necessarily. Internships are a great way for students to build connections within a company, demonstrate their abilities, and generally get their foot in the door. But there is no guarantee that an intern will receive a job offer.
Can a Company Revoke an Internship Offer?
An employer has the right to rescind an internship offer for almost any reason, unless it's based on discriminatory factors such as gender, race, etc. If the individual fails a background check or drug test, this could also lead to a revoked internship offer as part of the company hiring policy.
Can an Intern Get Fired?
It's possible for internships to end prematurely, but how businesses choose to handle subpar intern performance can vary. Some businesses will simply wait out the duration of the internship and wish the student well at the end of it. Others may choose to dismiss an intern before their last day. That said, internships are learning experiences, and it's important to provide opportunities for interns to learn from their mistakes. However, actions such as continually showing up late (or not at all), stealing or committing illegal acts, or exhibiting inappropriate behavior may all be grounds for immediate dismissal.
How Long is an Internship?
Internships last for a specific period of time, typically anywhere between a few months to half a year. An internship that lasts for a short duration, such as during a summer break, can be beneficial if there's a project that will have a definite end date. At the same time, a longer internship offers more time for training and additional opportunities to further develop an intern's skills.
Get the Most from Your Internship Program
An effective internship program can help students and recent graduates see what it's like to work at your company, explore different departments, and gain valuable work experience. And with today's competitive hiring landscape, interns can offer a helping hand to over-capacity departments, and be a great strategy for building a solid candidate pool for future job openings.
12 Hiring, Recruiting, and Talent Acquisition Trends for 2023
6 min. Read
With 2023 here, attracting and retaining talent remains a top priority for many business leaders. That's largely due to lasting impacts on the professional landscape over the past few years: work environments have been greatly reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees are continuing to reevaluate their priorities and values, and mass resignations and a highly competitive talent marketplace have created both challenges and opportunities for employers. With so much at stake, let's review what recent hiring and talent acquisition trends have emerged, and how leveraging them this year can help your business. Read on to learn more.
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Recruiting and Talent Acquisition Trends
The future of effective recruiting will center around speed, proactivity, and intentionality. Recruiting trends shed light on the importance of actively searching for candidates for specific positions and creating groups or categories of candidates to be ready when specific jobs become available. Proactive recruiters will be first to the table with ready-now candidates in an attempt to make their placements quicker, beating out the competition. This will require building relationships, using all available channels to find and connect with potential new hires, making great first impressions, and building healthy and inclusive environments.
Focusing on More Efficient and Proactive Recruiting with HR Automation
Technology can be a great resource for everything from finding new employees to pushing out communications. While many businesses still struggle with finding great talent, there's a growing — and likely lasting — trend to use HR automation to help reduce costs and increase efficiencies in recruiting processes. Results from the 2022 Paychex Pulse of HR Survey echo these sentiments, finding that while half of respondents said their organizations were not effective at hiring, onboarding, and retention, HR technology is helping to accelerate key parts of the talent acquisition journey.
What makes this trend of using HR automation in recruiting so appealing is the level of integration across the hiring process and a faster process overall. Imagine how poorly a candidate might interpret slow or poor communication from a talent acquisition team, this is where HR automation can help. Some employers are speeding up the hiring process from end-to-end by:
- Using application features that integrate with sites like LinkedIn to expedite the application process;
- Leveraging recruiting technology such as automated screening forms and streamlined communication to quickly vet candidates and keep them in the loop; and
- Video interviewing to connect candidates and hiring managers who would otherwise experience delays and expenses associated with scheduling in-person interviews and coordinating travel.
Please note that automated screening and video interviewing may be regulated by employment laws in some jurisdictions.
Including Social Media as a Recruiting Channel
As businesses use social channels to grow their brands and generate leads, digital recruitment via social media is equally valid for recruiting talent, especially younger hires. Platforms such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor can be integral to the future of hiring. Posting job opportunities and targeting social media platforms may be a very successful way of recruiting talent that can be targeted to your industry and the skills you're seeking in a new hire. You can even narrow searches to specific candidates who are actively seeking new employment opportunities. When your company uses modern recruitment tools like social media to build a relationship with your target audience, you are more likely to attract quality applicants and stay on top of hiring trends.
Creating Diverse and Inclusive Environments
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs can deliver positive business benefits, and HR leaders recognize this. Also, companies are trending toward focusing on their DEI initiatives to improve their company culture which has been shown to enhance talent acquisition. According to the Paychex Pulse of HR Survey, 71 percent of HR professionals said their companies are doing at least one of the following:
- Offering bias and other DEI-related training
- Ensuring that vendors and partners have a proven commitment to DEI
- Making DEI guidelines and documents easily accessible to employees
- Getting help from an HR or DEI consultant
Beyond aspects such as age, race, and gender, companies may also consider flexible work options and customized benefits as part of their diversity initiatives and ensure they are taking an equitable approach to give all workers a fair chance of doing their best work. Using AI and inclusive technologies may help you weed out bias so that you won't miss out on great talent.
Focusing on the Candidate Experience
Adept businesses that focus on the employee experience know that a great experience starts from the first contact as a potential job candidate. It's a phase of the employee cycle that recruiting teams are prioritizing since this experience often sets the tone for subsequent interactions, should the individual get hired. Whether an individual joins the business or not, the trend of prioritizing the candidate experience provides an opportunity for businesses to gather valuable feedback on the application process, interviews, hiring teams, and the efficiency of the entire process.
Building and Using Referral Programs
Knowing that it takes time and resources to find great talent, having strong employee referral programs can prove worthwhile for businesses that choose to build and leverage them. An employee referral program is a structured set of processes that allow current employees to recommend people they know to help fill open positions within their organization. The programs that are well-organized and implemented consistently in conjunction with a company's overall hiring strategy can be an integral part of finding and maintaining a high-caliber workforce. They can also create a win-win-win scenario: the business gets leads on job candidates for minimal recruiting costs, the employee is incentivized (usually through a bonus or monetary reward) for recommending someone who's brought on board, and the job candidate gets a lead on an open position from someone with a connection to the organization.
The future of hiring emphasizes a priority on looking for individuals with a range of skills, your brand's reputation, considering the talent you already have on your team, and benefits and work setups that demonstrate your commitment to employees. Knowing that finding great hires continues to be a challenge for many employers, these trends represent a broad range of approaches businesses can take to bring on and retain motivated and hard-working individuals.
Hiring for Soft Skills
When you're competing for talent in a tough employment market like the one we are in today, evaluate your approach and consider what skills are needed to align with your culture and employer brand, rather than just focusing on the specific job that needs to be filled. For instance, soft skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, and leadership can be more challenging skills to hire for than hard skills that could be learned like accounting, technical support, or cashier processes. A candidate's soft skills can significantly influence their ability to fit in with your culture. Identify some soft skills you want to bring into your organization, knowing you may be able to train a candidate on some of the hard skills required to execute on the job, such as learning your administrative processes and technology platforms.
Emphasizing Employer Branding and Company Values
To recruit and hire the best talent and stand out from the competition, employers may create a candidate experience that is compelling, positive, and distinct. Employees may be looking to join a company aligned with their purpose and values, one that will help deliver meaning in their work. In addition, employees evaluate companies based on their employer brand: what they stand for, how they treat their employees, their company values, opportunities to learn and grow marketable skills, and competitive compensation and benefits.
Tapping into Internal Hires
Looking at your internal talent pools can help fill talent gaps by focusing on upskilling and reskilling current employees to meet changing and future business needs. Often great candidates can be hidden in plain sight when recruitment efforts are focused outside of a company. Intelligent companies are focusing on their future by using internal recruiting as part of their strategic growth.
Providing ongoing opportunities for career development is one of the best benefits your organization can offer employees. It shows your commitment to their career well-being. Today's employees seek opportunities to develop skills that have marketable value both within the future of your business and outside of your employment. Help employees know what future skills are needed for success and provide opportunities to develop their skills sets and career paths to demonstrate you are invested in their growth and development. This will also help you stay abreast of current and impending recruitment and hiring needs to inform your talent acquisition strategy.
Offering Valuable Employee Benefits
Gaining a competitive edge in talent acquisition and retention means that valued and meaningful benefits are now table stakes. According to the Paychex Pulse of HR Survey, organizations largely recognize the role that benefits play in hiring and retention, and have increased the benefits they are offering by an average of 22 percent, compared to what they were offering prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health and retirement benefits, as well as financial and mental health counseling services are a great way to support the physical, emotional and financial well-being of your employees. Rewards and recognition programs, in addition to offering robust learning and development opportunities, can also help employees feel more engaged with your company. Consider conducting regular surveys to gauge which benefits are valued most by your employees, to give your business a competitive edge.
Embracing Remote and Hybrid Work Models
While working remotely became a common operating environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers and employees have determined that it's here to stay — and it's proving worthwhile for business. In fact, the Paychex Pulse of HR Survey found that four in 10 HR leaders with a remote workforce said that remote/hybrid work improves employee emotional/physical/financial well-being, boosts retention, enhances quality of work, and increases productivity. That may be why the number of companies offering remote or hybrid work has increased by 124 percent since before the pandemic, and those offering flexible scheduling have increased by 50 percent.
As a result, the hiring of remote workers continues to place importance on digital hiring trends. Use modern recruiting techniques such as video interviewing, scanning social media channels, and other hiring practices that aren't limited by geographic proximity.
Providing Employee Wellness, Safety, and Support
Another significant hiring trend focuses on employee wellness, safety, and support. Communicating to employees about how you will provide a safe and healthy work environment is critical to bringing on great talent and maintaining a strong workforce. This includes building programs addressing employee work/life balance, mental health, and support for remote workers.
Start 2023 On the Right Foot By Staying Ahead of the Trends
The beginning of the year is a great time to refocus on hiring and recruiting goals, including evaluating work environments, current processes, and other aspects of the employee life cycle. Consider the recruiting and talent acquisition trends mentioned above, which may help you better align your goals as well as provide insights into new approaches to finding and bringing on great talent in 2023 and beyond. Take advantage of hiring services and HR expertise from third-party providers, which together can go a long way toward helping you meet your talent recruitment goals.
Secret Sauce for Retention? Deliver the Career Opportunities Employees Want
6 min. Read
Our latest research has identified that employees want customized, targeted growth opportunities that are personalized for where they are in their careers and their hybrid working styles. And, if you can deliver on what they want, the employees in our survey told us they are much more likely to stick around.
The effectiveness of career advancement initiatives comes down to providing options tailored specifically for your workforce. According to our study, many employers are currently providing the right learning and development opportunities for full-time and in-office employees but have gaps to fill regarding what remote, hybrid, and part-time workers need.
This presentation will share practical ways to offer robust career growth opportunities for employees with varying needs and interests and outline our fact-based research findings on the explicit types of options and skills needed for development.