Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.

Earlier this year, the DOL replaced its rigid six-factor test with a seven-factor “primary-beneficiary test” for determining whether interns are employees. The new test is considered more flexible because not all seven criteria have to be met for an internship to be unpaid. Rather, the DOL will consider the “totality of the circumstances.”

Despite the change, unpaid internship programs still must primarily benefit the intern. Consider whether the tangible and intangible benefits to the intern are greater than the interns contribution to the employers operation, said Donald Lawless, an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg in Grand Rapids, Mich. “Is the intern practicing a skill in a professional environment, or is the employer taking advantage of unpaid labor?”

Working with an educational institution can be particularly beneficial because the school will likely have a list of internship content criteria and skills that interns should master during the program, said Rebecca Aragon, an attorney with Littler in Los Angeles. Schools will want to maintain the integrity of the program and measure outcomes.

If an employer isnt partnering with an educational institution, working with a students academic schedule can be helpful, said Lauren Sobaski, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Kansas City, Mo. One factor the DOL considers is the extent to which the program accommodates the interns academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.

Lawless suggested that employers prepare a one- or two-page internship plan. “It doesnt have to be a curriculum, just a plan,” he said. Employers should identify the types of experiences they hope interns will have and meet with interns every two weeks to make sure they are meeting the programs goals.

A for-profit business should start with the presumption that interns need to be paid and then build a case using the relevant factors: that the program is for the benefit of the intern, that it is educational and that the business isnt getting an immediate gain from the program, Sobaski said.

Litigation can be costly for employers, even if a court ultimately rules that the unpaid internship program was valid. By the time an employer gets the court order saying the program was valid, the business will usually have paid more in attorney fees and lost time for the HR department than it would have by simply paying minimum wage, Aragon said.

Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.

How To Hire An Intern Legally

How to hire an intern

When you have a well-structured internship program, youre more apt to benefit from all an intern can provide. Knowing how to develop an internship program and how to hire an intern, in particular, can help you find qualified candidates to add to your workplace. Here are the steps to take when hiring an intern:

1. Determine your internship program needs

Before you start looking for or hiring an intern, develop your companys internship program. Establish your internship programs objectives and work alongside the supervising manager to determine your companys needs and to get their input regarding the job description.

Consider what you want an intern to do at your company. For example, you may want them to run errands or file paperwork each day. If you plan to offer a project-based internship, determine what project you want them to work on during their internship and how learning or developing the skills needed for the project can help them in their future career.

2. Consider the hours you want them to work

Determine the type of hours youre looking for in an intern. Keep in mind that most unpaid internships align with the academic calendar, while paid internships typically offer you greater scheduling flexibility. If you plan to hire an intern thats still in school, consider hiring them to work five to 20 hours per week during the school year or 20 hours per week during the summer months. If a prospective intern decides to take a break from their academic studies, you can even hire them on a full-time basis.

3. Establish performance criteria

Make sure to establish performance criteria and remind the supervising managers of the importance of offering interns regular feedback. Reviewing an interns performance helps with their professional development and allows you to clarify both whats expected of them and what constitutes a quality work performance.

4. Consider the details of your onboarding program

Make sure you have a comprehensive onboarding program. When you have a thorough orientation program, your new interns are more likely to understand their place at the company and whats expected of them. It also helps them have a successful start at your company and ensures consistency in the workforce.

Ensure your program covers the basics, gives them company insight, provides them with a tour of the building and introduces them to their new colleagues. Its also important to inform them of company polices and the dress code. Overall, take the time to sort out all of the training you plan to offer your interns once theyre hired.

5. Assess your budget for hiring an intern

Before you begin the recruitment process, determine the budget youre working with. If youre a small business owner, you may find that its not necessarily cheaper to hire an intern if you have to offer them the minimum wage.

Its also worth noting that you may not have to pay your interns if the internship fulfills an academic requirement where they receive college credit. Keep in mind that your internship needs to follow strict guidelines set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If youre a non-profit organization, you can offer an intern an unpaid volunteer position. If youre a for-profit organization, youre subject to FLSA rules that determine whether you have to pay your interns. In addition, some states have specific rules regarding when you can substitute school credit for an interns volunteer hours.

Make sure you know your budget ahead of time to help you determine whether you plan to offer compensation and, if so, how much. In addition, make sure youre compliant with the FLSA internship rules and regulations. Consult with your local labor law attorney before finalizing the details of an unpaid internship program at your company.

6. Appoint direct supervisors for each intern

Before you advertise an internship opening at your company, select a direct supervisor for them to report to. The supervisor will assign their projects, work with them through the training process, answer their questions and provide them with performance reviews. Keep in mind that the supervisor you select needs to be available to the intern, whether through scheduled meetings or otherwise.

7. Advertise your internship opening

If youre interested in hiring an intern, consider the various places where you can advertise an internship opening at your company. Make sure to consider which channels can help you reach the most qualified candidates. Here are some different ways to advertise an internship opening at your company:

Consider advertising your internship on a job site like Indeed. Using a traditional job site allows you to not only post your internship opportunity, but also lets you take advantage of the various applicant tracking tools to help you monitor your outreach. You can also advertise the internship on niche job boards such as those that focus on interns or students looking for professional experience.

Advertising on college careers pages allows you to reach prospective candidates who are currently enrolled in school. If you advertise on a colleges career page, consider the skills youre looking for in an intern and the schools that train students with these skills.

For example, if youre looking for an intern at your law firm, search for schools that provide students with legal training. Contact the college career center or a faculty adviser for a specific department at a school. They may connect you with a student who fits the description youre looking for. In addition, an adviser can help you set up the internship to provide both your company and the student with the greatest chance at success.

Consider your current employees and the universities they come from. Reach out to the alumni groups from these universities or colleges and see if theyre interested in applying. They may also know of qualified candidates they can put you in touch with.

Use social media to advertise an internship opening at your company. Doing this allows you to reach a wide audience and makes it easy for other users to share your job post. In addition, using social media not only shares the news about your internship program, but it also alerts the public about your other job openings.

Ask your current employees if they have anyone in mind who can fit the internship role youre hiring for. They may have a former colleague with the skills youre looking for that they can recommend.

Attend job fairs to help you find new recruits looking to start their careers with an internship. Attending a job fair can even help you promote your company, which can lead you to prospective interns in the future.

8. Find and hire qualified candidates

Once youve had a suitable amount of applicants, go through the applications and find qualified candidates. As you review their resumes and applications, make sure to find an intern with an eagerness to learn. In addition, look for applicants who pursued a major relevant to your company and who may want future employment with your company.

Its also important to keep your future hiring needs in mind as you hire interns. Consider which applicants have the potential to provide your company with value in the future and which ones you might want to consider hiring later on. Once you interviewed various candidates, select an intern that best meets the requirements youre looking for.

Why should you consider hiring an intern?

While internships provide recent graduates or lower-level employees with valuable work experience, they also present many companies with benefits. For example, hiring an intern can save your company money since an internship allows you to hire an entry- or lower-level employee for less than you would a regular employee. Here are other reasons to consider hiring an intern:

Tips for hiring an intern

As you look to hire an intern, look for ways to improve the process. Use these tips to help you hire an intern:

Follow a thorough recruitment process

When you recruit your interns, follow a process thats similar to the one you used for your other employees. Make sure to thoroughly review their resume, select qualified candidates with enough interest and relevant knowledge and conduct structured interviews to help you assess their skills and training needs.

Offer paid internships

While you dont necessarily have to offer monetary compensation to your interns, its certainly beneficial to do so. When you offer paid internships, it shows both current and future employees that you value your interns enough to reward them.

Focus on their skills in the job description

Though most job posts focus on various job duties, internships often focus on a particular set of skills. When you write a job description, focus on the skills youre looking for in an intern. Since most internships focus on a particular project, consider the particular skills interns need to complete the project.

Acclimate your interns to your company

Once youve made your hiring decision, make sure to invite your interns to your companys various events and meetings. When they participate in these occasions, the better understanding they have of your company and the more comfortable theyll feel in their new position. When they feel comfortable at your company, the more theyll contribute to its success.

Regularly evaluate your internship program

Learn from past hiring experiences and continuously work to improve your internship program. It also helps to get feedback from your interns. Ask them what they learned during their internship and what they thought about your workplace. Getting input on how your internship program helped them and how you can improve can help your future interns get the most out of your internship program. Ultimately, make sure to review and upgrade your program often and ensure its beneficial for all parties.


What does it mean to hire an intern?

Internships at the State of California are unpaid positions providing students with practical experience. The department can offer internships to students as volunteers or for academic credit. Departments employ interns during the school year and also in the summer.

How do you hire someone as an intern?

Since some interns may fall under that category, read our guide to hiring minors to ensure compliance.
  1. Determine Your Needs. An internship is generally project-based. …
  2. Find Interns. …
  3. Review Resumes & Interview. …
  4. Hire Your Intern. …
  5. Pay Your Intern. …
  6. Pros and Cons of Hiring an Intern. …
  7. Bottom Line.

What is the point of hiring interns?

Hiring interns for your small business can provide mutually beneficial work and learning experiences. These programs are designed to help students ready themselves for careers, but many small businesses find they are just as helpful to the company– as long as they are conducted respectfully and honestly.

How do I find and hire an intern?

Here are some places to find quality intern candidates:
  1. Post on your company’s careers page.
  2. Share the job post on social media.
  3. Ask for referrals from family and friends.
  4. Post on career websites and internship boards.
  5. Attend job fairs.
  6. Reach out to local schools.
  7. Post on local outlets.

Do interns get hired?

Thirty-seven percent of unpaid interns got job offers, according to the data. That’s just 1% better than graduates with no internship experience, 36% of whom got job offers.

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