A Few Rules for Successful Internships

By Amy Maingault Mar 3, 2008

With the summer internship season upon us, it's a good time to think about making the most of summer interns-but that doesn't mean palming off work that other employees are trying to avoid.

Interns are looking for meaningful experience that is related to their field of study, and a successful internship program for both parties only occurs if you're willing to provide work that will look good on an intern's resume.

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind:

  • Consider carefully what qualifications you want your interns to have. To entrust an intern with meaningful work, you need to consider what kind of credentials the intern will need to perform. Specify whether an intern should have completed specific coursework or a certain number of years of college.
  • Keep an eye on expenses. Although interns aren't usually as costly as regular employees, there are expenses involved. Recruiting can be costly, especially if you need to attend job fairs at various colleges.
  • Be aware of the legalities. Most interns qualify as employees under various employment laws and are subject to minimum wage and overtime laws, workers' compensation coverage and possibly unemployment compensation. You may want to consult your HR staff to structure or revise benefit plans to exclude interns from benefits that aren't mandatory.
  • Ensure ahead of time that office supplies, computer access and workspaces are available.
  • Plan for time to supervise your interns. An intern is no solution to your work overload if you don't have the time and energy to oversee the work that a successful internship requires.
  • Set aside time to provide ongoing feedback and to conduct a formal performance review.
  • Ask your HR department for ongoing support. It's important that the HR department be available for interns who have encountered problems and for managers who are handling issues with interns.
Amy Maingault, SPHR, is an information specialist in the SHRM Information Center.

Terms of Use: Advice for Supervisors from the Society for Human Resource Management © 2004 Society for Human Resource Management. Members of SHRM are authorized to distribute copies, excerpts or e-mails of this information for educational purposes internally within their organizations. No other republication or external use is allowed without permission of SHRM. The information is not intended to serve as a substitute for legal advice.

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