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Hiring students as part-time or short-term employees
February 1, 2000
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/18960

Where can you find part-time or short-term employees who are motivated, computer-savvy, eager to learn, interested in start-ups and cheap to hire? Try your local college campus.

Hooking up with students is easy, thanks to JobTrak Corp. (http://www.jobtrak.com), a Los Angeles company that functions as an online meeting place for employers and students. More than 850 colleges participate, and nearly 441,000 jobs and internships were posted last year.

The secret to finding student workers is targeting the right campuses. "Schools have reputations for being leaders in different industries. There are technical schools, schools with marketing programs and schools with good entrepreneurial programs," says Ken Ramberg, 35, co-founder of JobTrak.

College career centers have a wealth of information about their school's specialties, their students' skills and local wage rates. If the college isn't affiliated with JobTrak or a similar service, its career center will post job openings for you on a bulletin board.

Colleges generally don't impose special requirements on employers offering jobs to students, but for internships, you may need to meet certain criteria. Students may have to attend classes, write papers on your industry or company, or do other assignments related to the internship. A reasonable amount of cooperation and assistance on your part is expected.

Student wages vary widely, depending on the location, the industry, the skills sought, and the local employment outlook. A student with specialized high-tech training might command a high hourly wage, particularly in a tight labor market. Some students earn a flat fee. Interns are often unpaid or receive academic credit.

Students are subject to the same federal and state labor laws as other workers and should be classified as employees or independent contractors. Requirements for wages, worker's comp and other labor laws applicable to students vary among the states. Contact your state department of labor for information.

Students are generally motivated, dedicated and reliable, but they've also got demanding lives and shifting priorities. They can get distracted by term papers, exams and campus social events, plus they're only on board for a limited time. Students have the ability to handle tough assignments, but don't delegate anything mission-critical to your business.

To minimize distractions, recruit graduate students. Cooking.com (http://www.cooking.com), a start-up online retailer in Santa Monica, California, hired an MBA candidate as a full-time intern last summer, paying her a weekly fee. When school started, she stayed on as a part-time employee. Three other MBA students researched a class project at the company and offered valuable suggestions for improving product management workflow.

Graduate students require less supervision because they're older and have more work experience than undergraduates, says Tracy Randall, 32 co-founder of Cooking.com. "I recommend [hiring students] if you're in a city that has a good business school," she says. [Look for] students [who] have an entrepreneurial bent and see themselves going into an entrepreneurial environment. By soliciting the school, you get high-quality people who can add a lot of value to your business."


Marcie Geffner (mgeff@gte.net) writes frequently on business issues.

Real World

Unlike older employees, students generally aren't seeking money, perks or promotions as their rewards. Rather, they want meaningful opportunities that'll help them learn and build their resumes before they graduate. "Students don't want a glorified administrative position. They don't want to lick envelopes or do filing. They want to be challenged," says Ken Rambers, co-founder of JobTrak Corp., an online student employment service. Of course, a certain amount of grunt work comes with every entry-level job, but make sure the job offers some challenging work as well.

Also be aware that students want (and need) more supervision, coaching and feedback than older employees. Don't leave a student worker alone in a back office with a pile of paperwork and expect him or her to plug away at it all afternoon. "[Students] need a clearly defined assignment," says Ramberg. "Meet with them regularly to make sure they're happy, fulfilled and doing [a good] job for you."