Summer is here, business is picking up and you’re not quite ready to hire a full-time employee just yet. But your regular employees are chafing under all the extra work they’ve been doing (and you’re wondering how you’re going to get it all done while fitting in everyone’s scheduled summer vacations). Could hiring a summer intern be the solution to your problems? That depends. Review this list to decide whether an intern would ultimately help or hurt your business.
Hurt Your Business
Interns aren't free labor. If you try to get away with not paying an intern who deserves to be paid under Department of Labor guidelines, you could end up hit with a lawsuit that could cost you a lot more than you save. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires internships to meet six criteria in order to be exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay laws:
- The internship must be similar to training that would be given in an educational environment.
- The internship is for the benefit of the intern.
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under the close supervision of the existing staff.
- The business derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
- The business and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
All six of the criteria must be met, or the intern will be considered an employee who has to be paid the applicable minimum wage and no less than time and a half for all hours over 40 worked in a week. In addition, your state may have other laws that supersede federal laws; check with your state’s labor department to learn more.
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Interns require a lot of time, prep and feedback. Do you have time to provide the training, support and feedback a summer intern needs? Remember the DOL requirements that an internship must be a learning experience—you can’t just throw an intern into the deep end of the pool and hope he or she can swim. In addition, consider that some interns may never have held a job before and might need guidance in simply getting used to what’s expected in a business setting. This takes time and resources on your side.
Finally, as members of the millennial generation, college-age interns expect a lot of feedback on their performance. You can’t just say hello to interns on their first day and goodbye on the last day—you, or your managers, must have time to provide lots of support. If you aren’t able to do all this, your intern will be a disappointment to you—and your internship will be a disappointment to him or her. That will hurt your business in future attempts to land interns.
Help Your Business
Test out a new position, and possible full-time employee. If you are on the verge of hiring an entry-level position, a summer internship can be a good testing ground—not only for the intern, but for you. You can train them on the job's duties and, if they excel, offer them the job when summer’s over. This is a common practice—a study last year by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that about 60 percent of 2012 college graduates who took part in paid internships received at least one job offer from a company they interned with, and 62 percent who took jobs with the companies they interned with still worked there five years later.
If this is your goal, you’ll want to hire recent graduates (so they’re available to work full time after summer ends) and you’ll probably want more than one (as grads, they’ll probably be job-hunting and may get job offers from other firms before you’re ready to make an offer yourself).
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Learn new skills, spark new ideas. If you need skills that college-age students typically excel in, like social media or Web design, a summer internship could be the perfect solution. No, you shouldn’t set an intern loose to manage your company’s social media presence, but an intern can help train older, less tech-savvy employees in the nuts and bolts of social media, while learning from their guidance what is (and isn’t) appropriate for achieving your business goals. Young people often have lots of creative ideas that can spark new solutions for your company.
Ready to hire an intern? The best way to find one quickly is to contact local colleges and universities. They’ll be able to help match you with local interns who can meet your business needs.
Read more articles on how to grow a business.
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