HR BLOG: Six steps to preparing for an intern

If you’ve never had an intern before, you could be forgiven for thinking you hire one to pass on your wealth of business knowledge, so your legacy lives on after you retire. That, and to have some extra hands on deck to order your lunch when the going gets tough.

To clarify, an intern is usually a student or graduate seeking relevant experience on a fixed-term programme run by an organisation.

The truth is, hiring an intern can be a valuable learning experience for both you and them. Robert De Niro’s character in the hilarious film, The Intern, reminds us that interns don’t always fit the stereotype. They can even teach their boss a thing or two about life.

So, to ensure that both you and your intern get the most from this new experience, it is advisable to have a plan in place. After all, your intern should be treated just like any other employee.

How can employers prepare for hiring an intern?

From recruitment to training, reviews, pay and social gatherings, there is plenty to prepare for when welcoming an intern into your team. Read on for our top tips on things to consider when preparing for your first intern.

Step one – Recruitment

Does your intern ad promote equal opportunities? To welcome a diverse range of applicants, a tip would be to make sure your ad doesn’t discriminate with strict entry requirements. For example, could you forgo the grades if a candidate can show a genuine passion and interest in your industry?

When it comes to the interview process, it’s a good idea to offer all likely candidates the experience of attending a real interview. But perhaps communicate some tips on what to wear or what not to share!

Step two – Contract

You’ll want to cover both your intern and yourself by drafting an appropriate contract of employment for the length of term of the internship. We also advise that you pay your intern at least the national minimum wage to avoid exploitation.

Step three – Training and development

Due to a certain level of inexperience, interns can be vulnerable. And sadly, at times, targets for harassment. So to make your intern feel safe and welcome from the start, be sure to clarify all lines of communication and reporting if harassment should occur.

As you would with any other new employee, give your intern adequate training on workplace health and safety as well as systems or processes that they might be using from day to day.

Step four – Tasks

Don’t be afraid to challenge your intern – and on more than getting your complex coffee colour correct. They are with you to learn and gain valuable experience. If the stars are aligned, who knows you might even be inviting them back for a permanent position in the future.

Step five – Reviews

Let’s face it, there is a chance that it could be a nightmarish induction with your recruit. Real-life intern horror stories include fabricating quotes for press articles, bulk-emailing a personal email to the entire company and even getting locked in the stockroom! If it’s not a smooth start, give them a chance to recover through feedback and guidance. But make it fair and clear how many review steps can be taken before you part ways.

Similarly, if your new intern is off to a flying start, you can be proactive in celebrating their successes to keep them on a winning track.

Step six – Company culture

Friday afternoon beers or work summer socials might not be appropriate for your intern. You could consider adding a fun team-building event to the calendar so that they can feel involved.

If you work in a shared office space, why not catch up with other SMEs to see if there are other interns in the building? A collective effort could lighten the cost or organisation of setting up an appropriate social gathering for the interns.

Alison Schreiber runs The HR Dept Durham and Darlington franchise, and works with a number of businesses across PBP. For more info, visit HR Dept Durham and Darlington or call Alison on 01325 526036 or 07535 853226.