4 Things to Keep in Mind When Hiring Summer Interns

Is your company revving up to hire interns for the summer? Internships are popular for a reason—they give your employees mentorship opportunities and offer a doorway into the working world for the interns you bring in. 

As a recruiter, here are four things to keep in mind as you bring on interns for the summer.

1. Most interns should be treated as employees

Many prominent companies have tried to hire interns without payment, but it hasn’t turned out so well for them. There have been a few high-profile cases where interns sued their companies successfully for failing to pay them and subjecting them to demanding schedules. One lawsuit awarded $140,000 to the former interns.

Bottom line? If you’re a for-profit company, you’ll mostly likely have to treat your interns as any other paid employee—which means following federal and state overtime and minimum wage requirements.

But how do you know if your intern falls into that category? That’s where the checklist below comes in handy.

2. Use the Department of Labor’s unpaid interns test

This test by the DOL helps (for-profit companies) determine whether your intern is considered an employee. If you’re a non-profit company, you’re likely able to have volunteers that don’t follow the same wage and hour laws.

Here are the criteria of an unpaid internship for for-profit companies:

  1. The internship must be similar to training that would be given in an educational environment

  2. The internship must be for the benefit of the intern

  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff

  4. The employee derives no immediate advantage from the intern, and may even have its operations impeded

  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the end of the internship

  6. The employer and intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship

Phew. That’s a long list of requirements. Even then, it doesn’t include other state or local requirements you may find in addition to the federal ones. The bottom line? You’re probably best off paying your interns.

3. Structure will help your interns thrive

This might be your intern’s first time in an office environment, so do your best during the onboarding process to set them up for success. Offer an internship orientation and welcome, along with basic trainings on things you take for granted. For example, when you first began working at an office, maybe you didn’t know about email etiquette or how to book a conference room.

This is also an opportunity to set expectations around the intern’s hours and who they report to, so there isn’t confusion if they’re sick or have a change of plans. Lastly, outline projects with tangible end goals and make time to meet up and check in on progress in between. Everyone in your internship program will appreciate the consistency.

4. Keep in mind that many interns later become employees

According to an Internships.com survey, 69% of companies with 100 employees or more offered full-time jobs to their interns.

As a recruiter, you’re always looking for that next star employee. Building an internship program is a great way to add to your general employee pipeline. It’s also the perfect test run to see if someone is a long-term fit for your company.

Overall, recruiting and hiring interns will expose your team to new ideas and bring a fresh perspective. Although it’s exciting to bring on new people, it’s also important to pay attention to applicable wage and labor laws. Be sure to research employment laws and check with employment counsel to make sure you’re staying compliant.

Justworks has written an eBook on how to build a quality and long-lasting internship program. You can find it for free here.

Kristin Hoppe

Kristin Hoppe is a content producer based in New York City. She writes about how to run a business and take care of your team at Justworks.

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