Is it a good idea to hire interns? What are the risks of hiring interns? How do you avoid the horror stories?
Read on to find out. Did you know that hiring interns and full-time staff is easy with our online applicant tracking system? Recruiteze is free recruiting software that helps you save time and money.
Is Hiring Interns a Good Idea?
From the employer perspective, hiring interns can make sound business sense.
There’s an obvious and immediate financial benefit, first of all. Interns are inexpensive. It’s highly unlikely that you’d pay an intern the same salary and package as you’d pay a full-time employee, even at entry-level.
Many organisations will proactively seek out ‘fresh’ talent because of the new skills, perspective and experience this brings into the team. Obviously graduates offer a rich talent pool, but interns offer a very viable alternative for a couple of reasons.
Graduates offer a rich talent pool, but interns offer a very viable alternative for a couple of reasons
In particular, graduate talent can be expensive. Particularly in certain industries and sectors, you can wind up paying graduates a significant sum – before they’ve ever tangibly proven themselves.
If you consider things in that light, hiring graduates can seem a little arbitrary – certainly in some industries. For many sectors, graduates don’t actually learn the skills they need to do the job at university – they learn the skills they need to earn a degree.
That’s certainly laudable, but for employers who wind up paying extravagant (comparatively) salaries for unproven talent this might be galling.
Enter interns. Many graduates will look for intern roles while they’re studying, which gives employers the perfect opportunity to get a graduate caliber candidate for less than an actual graduate.
Moreover, hiring interns enables employers to shape that candidate into the exact mould the business needs, early-on. By offering bespoke training and development, the employer can carve themselves out talent that is truly valuable.
This is an obvious benefit in a talent tight market, particularly in sectors where top tier candidates are increasingly in-demand.
All of this occurs, bear in mind, without the business risk. Both sides are able to ‘try before they buy’, to see if the relationship is going to work out on both sides.
With internships, both sides are able to ‘try before they buy’
As HR professionals well know, there is little more important to the hiring equation than cultural fit. Hiring an intern allows a company to suss out whether that hire will really fit in, whether they’re really adding value, and whether they’re worth bringing into the team full-time.
If you do decide to offer a permanent job, you’ve also increased your chances of making a successful hire. That intern is likely to have an increased sense of loyalty to your business, and a stronger sense of whether this is what they want too.
Not only does this mean they’re more likely to accept a role with you than a competitor (if their experience was good, that is!), it means they’re likely to work out longer term too. Global talent leaders continue to rank quality of hire as the most important hiring metric, which makes hiring interns an obvious positive step.
The best-case scenario for the employer is this. You hire a university student as an intern. They possess almost all the skills of a graduate, but because they haven’t de facto graduated yet, they’re a fraction of the cost. You invest the money you’ve saved in their training and development and they become embedded in the nuances of your organisation.
By the time their internship is over, you’ve got a trained, strong cultural fit candidate who knows you, likes you and wants to continue working with you. They graduate, and progress into a full-time role with you – where they can instantly hit the ground running and make your increased investment in their salary and compensation package worthwhile.
When you put it like that, hiring interns seems like an obvious choice… but it’s not all rosy.
What Are The Biggest Problems With Hiring Interns?
One of the biggest problems companies find with hiring interns is finding the right caliber of candidate. It’s all well and good to paint the best-case scenario, but all too often that’s not what happens. It can be near-on impossible to assess someone’s ability when they have no practical experience and are unproven, so hiring interns can be a bit of a shot in the dark.
Finding someone skilled enough to do the work, and skilled enough to continue to learn and grow, can be a challenge.
The second major problem many companies have is motivating the interns they hire. The stereotype – that interns input data and make coffee – might not be quite true, but it’s not too far from the truth either.
The stereotype – that interns input data and make coffee – might not be quite true, but it’s not too far from the truth either”
Low-level, bottom of the totem pole work can be uninspiring. It can be difficult to motivate and engage interns to do this well, particularly if they’re training to be skilled graduates. Understandably we’ve all had to do our time, as it were, and everyone has to start at the bottom – but you find yourself in a bit of a Catch-22.
Ideally, you want to hire the best possible interns. Put bronze in at the top of the funnel, and by the time they’ve completed your internship (so the theory goes) they should come out gold. But top caliber candidates will have little to no interest in doing menial, poorly paid work.
Even if you offer growth opportunities, motivating employees who know – even if they don’t complain – they’re being underpaid can be a challenge.
This leads us to another problem. Interns often require more managing than full-time employees would. To motivate them, to teach them, to engage them – these things can take time. This can be frustrating for internal management, and can be a real time-suck.
Interns often require more managing than full-time employees would”
Finding internal managers who are willing to invest time in managing and growing your interns can be a major problem. Hiring interns means overcoming prejudice on all sides. Interns can feel that this is ‘just’ a temporary role and are unmotivated and uninvested. Management can feel that your intern is ‘just’ a temporary helping hand; not worth their time and effort.
The worst-case scenario is this. You hire an intern based on little other than gut feel. They lack proven, practical experience for you to judge them on, so you’re hoping they work out once you bring them on board. Once they start, they struggle to get to grips with the task, and require constant hand-holding.
You’re saving money on their salary, but they’re adding little to no value in the workplace anyway. They’re unmotivated, and keep slacking off. There’s little you can say to them, and your internal management have little interest in handling the situation.
Both sides end up resentful, and they leave and spread the bad word about your company. They feel that you made no effort to train, integrate and inspire them; you feel they were unskilled; unmotivated and uninspiring.
Clearly hiring interns can have its hurdles, and the ideal world scenario is often far from the truth. Hiring interns can be a massively beneficial strategy, but there are some things you need to bear in mind to make the strategy work for you…
How to Make Hiring Interns Work For You
One of the most important things you can do is set out your expectations from the outset. Are you looking for extra hands on deck right now, or is this part of a longer-term hiring strategy? Are you just looking for someone to do the job or are you willing to truly invest in these people like the future employees you hope they’ll become?
There’s no wrong answer here. If you just need someone for a few months, that intern will still gain valuable career experience – even without a job at the end of it. You can even make notes in your online applicant tracking system, like Recruiteze, to stay better organized.
What you do need to do, though, is communicate that expectation clearly. Not doing so will result in nothing except misery. With 59% of global HR leaders identifying the importance of employer brand, this is an obvious mistake to avoid. Aim to create brand evangelists, even if you’re only hiring temporary interns for a two-month period.
Aim to create brand evangelists, even if you’re only hiring temporary interns for a two-month period
Businesses who hire interns really successfully do so because they’re shifted their mind-set. If you view internships as being a one-way street, you’re making a mistake. Rather, approach hiring interns as a mutually beneficial relationship, and look for ways you can add value to your interns.
Sure, if you’re looking for a long-term hire then training and development is an obvious choice. But you shouldn’t ignore T&D if your interns are only short-term either. Look at offering a rotation, or a senior mentor.
Offer as many opportunities for your interns to get stuck in as possible. It’s an opportunity for your business to share perspectives (you might just learn something!) but it will reap dividends in terms of the intern experience.
Even if you’re not right now, one day you might be looking to hire interns as a long-term recruitment strategy. Trust me when I say you won’t have much luck if you’ve already got a negative reputation for how you hire and handle your temporary help.
This is the real key when it comes to hiring interns. This isn’t a quick fix, a short-term solution or an easy out – even if you do only need a short-term solution. Approach hiring interns as you’d approach hiring a full-time employee. Your recruitment efforts are one of the most important aspects of your business strategy, and that applies to hiring interns as much as it does Directors.
Don’t treat the bottom of the ladder badly. After all, the top of the ladder can’t stand upright without the bottom rungs.
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