Tips for Launching a Successful Internship Program

By James Mitchell, Intern Solutions
Special Guest Contributor

Every year, thousands of college students apply for internships to get a leg up on the hiring process. They apply for these programs to enhance their professional skills, form relationships with other employees, and learn how they can contribute to the success of the company. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average conversion rate for interns is 58.6 percent. For interns and businesses alike, there are several factors that ensure a successful partnership. Here are some tips to make the hiring and onboarding process beneficial for everyone! 

The Recruitment Process

Internships are a one-time work experience that is typically related to a student’s major. Businesses should begin planning for an intern class the spring before fall recruiting. Hiring managers need to determine where the students will be placed and what projects they will be assigned. Proper planning ensures that the intern won’t be sitting idle or given the unrewarding tasks of getting coffee and making copies. When planned correctly, a successful internship will help minimize the company’s turnover rate and unlock the opportunity to screen potential employees prior to making a commitment.

Look for sophomore and junior students who have have strong communication skills and a desire to excel within the company. Offer a job description with great detail of the assignments they will be expected to complete and map out the length and timing of the internship experience. During the recruitment process, make sure you are aware of discrimination laws.

Create a Lasting Experience 

The main goal for your company should be to keep a strong intern presence within your organization to help achieve a high conversion rate. Through their performance, interns are “interviewing” for a full-time position. For this reason, they should be offered the chance to do the same work they would be doing as an entry-level hire. Interns should be given formal training while being exposed to the culture of the organization.

Close relationships should be formed with the executive leadership team and each intern should be looked at as if they are coming back as a permanent hire. Doing so will give the student a sense of belonging and inspire them to want to work for the company for many years to come. As interns grow professionally and develop relationships with other employees they become an investment that is a high source of entry level talent. Offers for full time employment should be offered within days of the internship program completion.

Compensation or Credit 

 A vital step in the planning process is discerning whether the internship will include compensation or not. Paid internships are preferred because it shows the intern that their skills and time are valued. Offering competitive wages also opens the door to a wider applicant pool because the financial needs of the student will be met. Unpaid internships are common, however they are diminishing because of certain legal stipulations. For example, unpaid interns cannot do any work that contributes to the company’s operations which includes documenting inventory, responding to emails and filing papers.
It is important to note that an unpaid internship does not lessen the quality of the program. Unpaid internships generally offer academic credit towards the student’s graduation requirements. They also help students find a clear career path if they are uncertain of which direction to go in after graduation. Also, as with paid internships, there is still an opportunity to advance to a full time position within the company.

It’s no secret that today’s job market is tight. Because of this, internships are becoming a prerequisite for many full time opportunities. The reward for students is the chance to gain real world experience and have access to contacts in their field of interest. Employers benefit a great deal as well by having the cream of the crop right at their fingertips. Successful internship programs are an absolute necessity to form lasting partnerships between extremely talented individuals and companies!


Intern Solutions offers practical tools and resources to help educators, employers, and students with the internship process. Learn more!