Should You Hire an Intern?

Julie Bawden-Davis

Business may be booming, but like 33% of small business owners surveyed in the 2015 Small Business Success Study, you may not be hiring. If money is tight, but keeping all of the small business balls in the air is a challenge, consider hiring an intern.

Often students, interns work for a stipend or even for free in order to gain valuable experience and resume credits.

Advantages to Hiring an Intern

Low-cost/no-cost labor. Many students are fine with little to no pay in exchange for the opportunity to work in the profession they’re studying.

Motivated workers. Interns tend to be enthusiastic about getting real world experience. Because their primary motivation is to learn, many top students opt to work for small businesses, knowing they’ll most likely get more hands-on training than in larger organizations.

Fresh perspectives. The younger generation can shed light on up-and-coming ways of marketing and give you valuable insights into your market. They also tend to be well-versed in areas that may confound you, such as social media.

Increase your productivity. Offloading minor, time-consuming tasks onto an intern gives you time and energy to pursue those areas of the business that deserve your full attention, such as marketing, product development and the bottom-line.

Find future employees. You might not be ready to hire right now, but an intern who works out well may make a valuable future employee. This also saves you a great deal of time and money in hiring and training.

Help students. Chances are you were once a student. Hiring an intern gives you the opportunity to give back and enrich the life of a young person. Mentoring can be a rewarding experience.

Steps to Hiring an Intern

Having a plan for bringing an intern into the fold ensures the internship runs smoothly and that you make good use of the person’s skills.

1. Identify appropriate functions. Knowing you need help isn’t enough. List the various tasks an intern could perform for your business. Consider short and long-term assignments.

2. Decide who will manage them. Who will supervise the intern? If you will be doing the guiding, consider when and how you will fit that task into your schedule.

3. Determine compensation. You generally aren’t required to pay anything to interns, but some small business owners offer a stipend to cover costs like transportation. The Small Business Administration also points out that unpaid workers can’t legally perform certain tasks for your company.

4. Advertise the internship. Post the job opportunity at the career development centers of your local colleges, trade schools and universities. Also put the job online at sites such as, Youth.Jobs and

5. Hire with care. Be rigorous in your review of student applicants, but also keep in mind that this may be the student’s first “real” job interview, so nerves may be an issue.

Hiring an intern can give you the extra time you require to take your small business to the next level. On your way, you can give a future leader a great start.


Next Steps:  Are you looking to manage your employees more effectively but don’t have time to keep up with the latest research and trends in talent management? We’ve got you covered with the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter. Sign up today and start receiving the weekly newsletter chock full of the latest tools and resources to help you run a successful business.

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