The Savvy Startup's Guide to Recruiting Interns

Before you do any outreach, formulate a well-developed project-based plan with clear goals and timelines.

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By Allyson Willoughby

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When your new company is short on cash and in need of workers, an internship program is a great way to bring in smart and hungry people who are eager to learn and help your business grow.

While some might consider interns a minor role, but either way, recruiting the right intern can have long-term benefits on your organization.

Not only can a top-notch intern contribute to the productivity of your office, but he or she can also become a valuable member of your recruiting network for years to come -- as a future employee or a referral source to other top-flight students and job candidates. So before you undertake the important task of recruiting interns, consider these four tips for success:

Related: How to Run an Awesome Unpaid Internship Program

Develop an internship plan. The best interns are looking for a valuable work experience, and they don't want to waste their time with an unorganized or disjointed internship experience. Before you offer a student or recent grad an internship, make sure you know exactly what that internship will involve.

For instance, the best internships are project-based with clear goals and timelines. Sit down and talk with staffers to determine which departments could use interns and how many they can realistically use. With those department staffers, brainstorm potential projects that an intern could work on and realistically complete (or at least complete a portion of) during a semester's worth of work. Consider modeling your program after one of these firms highlighted on a list compiled by my company, Glassdoor: 25 Highest Rated Companies Hiring Interns.

Related: The 25 Highest-Paying Companies for Interns

Make the work meaningful. Ask yourself what potential interns will gain from their experience with your company. In addition to possible income, the best interns will expect to receive work experience, connections, knowledge and skills that they can leverage to help them get their next jobs.

Many interns hope to get an opportunity to contribute to or create a work product that they can show other potential employers. Regardless of how much you decide to pay your interns, make sure you can articulate why this opportunity is valuable to them. If you're going to offer something unpaid in exchange for college credit, don't forget to check to make sure you're in compliance with labor laws.

Related: How to Create an Internship Program That Works

Use internship recruiting sites. Once you've determined how the internship will be structured and the value it will offer to potential interns, start communicating the opportunity online, just as you would with other job openings. But in addition to posting it on places such social media sites, job search sites and your company's careers site, check into internship-specific job sites or go directly to university career centers.

Build relationships with higher education venues. Especially if you're interested in hiring local talent, go close to the source: the colleges and universities located nearby. Get to know faculty members in the departments where you're most likely to find interns that fit your needs, as well as professionals in the career center.

Invite these people to lunch or to take a tour of your office, provide guest speakers from your company for their classes or career programs, and participate in campus career and internship fairs. When you need an intern, ask your higher education contacts for referrals.

By taking some of these steps to find the best interns, you may be helping yourself and your employer in the long-run by identifying top talent early on and bringing them into your organization.

Related: Win the Talent War by Opting for Transparency

Allyson Willoughby

VP of People, Glassdoor

Allyson Willoughby is senior vice president of people and general counsel at Glassdoor. She leads the company's human resources and legal departments.

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