Internships are a vital component of a student’s college experience, allowing students to bridge their academic knowledge to the professional world. Research shows that internships, as a high impact practice, lead to higher levels of learning success for students. At the same time, internships provide significant value to employers, facilitating early identification of talent for entry-level opportunities. Because of the investment for both students and employers, we offer the following best practices for a successful internship:
As you begin planning for an intern, identify the potential projects and experiences that will be available to the intern. With your organization’s goals in mind, consider the knowledge the intern hopes to gain about your profession, organization, and networking in general. Identify possible supervisors and mentors for the intern. As you are formulating the experiences for the intern, begin noting the skills and competencies you will be seeking.
Compensating interns will not only help attract the best talent, it will also help attract a larger, more diverse group of applicants, including those who may be unable to take an unpaid position. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor has a "primary beneficiary" test to determine if an individual can be classified as a legal unpaid intern.
If you are unsure what to compensate your interns, options vary, but the CCD recommends a pro-rated salary comparable to an entry-level employee at your organization. If a full-time, entry-level position receives $40,000, consider pro-rating that payment over the 2-3 month period they will work for you.
Once you are ready to begin recruiting your intern, you will prepare a Job Description. The document should briefly describe the tasks, responsibilities, and expectations you have for the position while outlining the skills and experiences necessary to be successful. Your description could also emphasize the educational experience the student will receive. Finally, identify the timeline and length of the experience. For a sample job description, please click here.
After completing your job description, you can log into Handshake, Rice’s online career management portal, and post your internship opportunity. Handshake will also allow you to select candidates to interview, which can be done at Rice or virtually. You can work with the CCD to target student leaders and clubs with students that have an affinity for your opportunity.
Though many employers are concerned about hiring international students for internships, federal regulations permit the employment of international students within certain limits. The only cost of hiring international students for internships is the time and effort to interview and select the best candidates for the job. The Office of International Students and Scholars at Rice handles the paperwork involved in securing work authorization for international students at the request of the student.
After you’ve hired an intern, you’ll want to provide the intern with information to successfully launch the experience:
Confirm start date and end date of the internship
Share typical working hours and identify if the intern needs to track hours
Provide public transportation and/or parking instructions
Give the name, position, and contact information of the direct supervisor, if not you, and the person the intern should report to on the first day
Explain the dress code and any other important practices or policies
Arrange any pre-internship paperwork (i.e., payroll); documents to bring on the first day (driver’s license, passport)
Prepare a Day 1 Orientation that acclimates the intern to the workplace, including work areas, restrooms, lunch and break times, and any other policies and procedures to be addressed
Set up IT details in advance and schedule time for training on software programs
Facilitate a discussion about what success looks like. Work with your intern to identify specific learning goals and work assignments. Discuss both parties expectations and share how the intern’s performance will be evaluated
Once your intern has made it past orientation and has started working on projects, there are a number of ways through your role as the mentor that you can build a successful experience. Introduce your intern to your direct colleagues as well as to key contacts and others within the organization. You may also encourage your intern to set up informational interviews with your colleagues to help the intern gain a broader perspective of the organization, industry, and career paths. Communicate often with your intern, to check in on your intern’s progress, offer training or suggest feedback. Find opportunities to bring your intern to meetings, conferences, and training to expand the intern’s understanding of the profession. Facilitate networking opportunities for your intern.
Finally, schedule a mid-experience and final evaluation of the intern’s performance against expectations. An exit interview and follow up will enable you to understand your intern’s view of the experience that will help you continue to recruit strong candidates in the future and further strengthen your internship program.