Considering a Summer Internship Program? 4 Questions to Ask First

February 26, 2013

A summer internship program is a way to help students learn valuable skills while allowing them to add value to your company. Part-time or full-time assistance from a student can be a great way to complete backlogs or projects that the current team may not have capacity to work on.
That being said, internships require resources like time and money. It is not a good idea to hire an intern for the sake of hiring an intern. You should only do so when you are absolutely sure your company and the intern can benefit.
Before hiring an intern, make sure you can say “yes” to the following questions:

1) Does our team have enough meaningful work to keep the intern(s) busy for a period of time?

Internships have become much more than coffee runs and cleaning out the file cabinets. In order for an intern to add value to the firm and to gain value from the internship, they need to be assigned meaningful work. This means getting them involved in projects that will impact the company and leverage their skills, while giving them the chance to learn something new.
That being said, you need to determine if your team will have projects for the intern to work on and how long those projects will take. This will help you determine whether you need an intern, how many interns you need, and how many hours per week you can keep an intern busy. Also, keep in mind that an intern will not work as quickly as a seasoned member of the team, especially in the beginning. As a rule of thumb, budget for projects to take 1.5x – 2x longer than they would if you were completing them.

2) Is there a team member with the desire and capacity to mentor the intern(s)?

The mentor should be someone who is interested in management and has time to devote to the intern.

3) Is there room in the team’s budget to pay the intern’s wage?

This is assuming that you will have a paid internship program. Paid internships can range anywhere from $10 – $20 per hour on average depending on the industry, location, and concentration of the work (engineering, marketing, etc.).

4) Is there desk space for the intern, including a computer and phone?

The point of an internship is to give students a taste of the “real world.” It would be hard for them to feel like an employee if they don’t even have a desk to sit at. Make sure to treat them like a part of the team, which includes giving them a space to work.
Interns can be a great asset to your company, potentially even becoming future hires! But be careful not to jump the gun and hire interns without having a clear understanding of what they will be doing and how they will fit into the team. The last thing you want is for the intern to waste their summer in a mindless position that adds no value to the company.

Have you had particular success or cautionary stories hiring on interns you can share?

Senior Talent Manager, Engineering

<strong>Meghan Maher</strong> is Senior Talent Manager, Engineering, actively recruiting top talent for OpenView and its Portfolio Companies. Her tech background has helped OpenView hire for nearly 20 IT and engineering positions. Meghan began her career at AVID Technical Resources, where she was a Technical Recruiter for two years.