Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Internships: how to find them and how to manage them

Internships are a win-win for both interns and for businesses.

Internships are a win-win for both interns and for businesses. Interns gain experience and begin to build their résumés, and businesses gain a boost in creativity as well as low-cost employment. Despite potentially benefiting both the intern and the hiring company, be aware that problems can arise (especially when your expectations are unclear). Interns are not always the perfect solution to a problem, but more so an opportunity to bring in an innovative, productive new employee into the company for little-to-no cost.

When interviewing, make sure your expectations are clear. Be specific with the hours, the type of position it is (paid or unpaid) and what type of work is involved; you want to make sure that your intern can meet your expectations. Interns are there to help your department, not create headaches. You need to make sure that your candidate is able to meet, and maybe even exceed, your expectations. Because of this, you should look for self-starters that are driven and not just look for good grades — lower GPAs aren’t necessarily an indicator of poor dedication and lax work ethic. You want to find talent and hard workers. Finding interns who are both competent and have strong ambition is crucial to a successful internship program.

You might be surprised to see how hard unpaid interns work — sometimes harder than your paid staff! Interns want real-world experience, and a recommendation letter out of their involvement. Some internship programs are paid or provide a daily stipend, but creating a paid program isn’t necessary if you can generate interest in your position. Another thing to consider is allowing interns to leave the program with a portfolio of the work they’ve accomplished, or even just provisionally for self-promotion and future job opportunities. This shows that you want to help further your interns’ careers and that you view them as professionals. Here are a couple of tips on starting an internship program, from intern recruitment to intern management.

Outlining your program:  

If your department does not have an internship program in effect, you’ll need to create one. It’s not an overly complicated program to set up, but your department should select an internship coordinator to supervise the program. This coordinator should be in charge of: advertising the position, gathering résumés,sorting candidates, coordinating interviews, training and helping interns adjust to the position.

Ask your department what is wanted in an intern and what tasks or projects would benefit the department and interns alike — propose responsibilities the intern will overtake and make sure those tasks are appropriate. Interns want to see the ins-and-outs of the business and they want to be involved. Most of all, they want experience. Outline all the responsibilities your interns will learn while participating in your program. These can be tasks such as: developing spec ads, conducting background research, performing follow-ups, providing analytics, completing sales calls and participating in ride-alongs. You should have daily tasks scheduled for the intern to complete, but consider providing interns with a special project to complete during their employment. This gives interns an opportunity to shine and to produce materials that will benefit their portfolio, such as creating media kits and creating advertising and marketing programs. You want to gear these projects to the intern, taking into consideration their future interests and their skillset. They should be able to take this skill with them into their future. That also brings into question what are acceptable tasks for interns. Try not to use your intern for personal tasks. Sometimes it is necessary to make the department run smoothly, but keep the coffee runs to a minimum. While it might be convenient to use interns for these menial tasks, try to assign them work that will be mutually beneficial. Make sure your employees know what they can and cannot ask their interns to do — using internship programs as cheap personal assistants is actually illegal in some states.

To finish outlining your internship program, consider what type of position it will be. Paid? Unpaid? If it’s unpaid, consider offering school credit. Most interns are students, so offering school credit is a great way to entice them without having to shell out a wage. Your department only has to offer it; it’s in the hands of the intern to figure out if they are able to receive credit for it as well as to get the credits recognized. Depending on the school, there might be some small requirements of the employer, such as a final evaluation that must be signed. The school only wants to make sure that their student is attending the internship and performing well. If you make the decision to offer college credit, be sure to advertise it.

Finding interns:

Now that you know how to manage interns and create an internship program, you’re probably wondering how to find interns. There are a couple of websites that advertise an internship database, such as and These sites enable you to search for interns and post your listing.

That being said, the best way to find interns will be taking advantage of colleges in the area. Due to their proximity, this is convenient for both the interns and the company. I suggest finding a contact within the college that relates to your department. Many college programs require an internship as part of graduation requirements, so look for those. Check out all the school departments that match yours, and then try to find a connection within these departments. Referrals are a great way to get reputable candidates. Also consider posting your listing on the college’s job boards. Do this for any and all colleges near your business.

One other way to find interns is to post it to your site. List any opportunities on your website and promote them via social media channels. LinkedIn could be a good resource as well. Remember, your internship coordinator should be in charge of promoting the program. When starting an internship program, this step is extremely crucial in finding great interns.

Hiring interns can give you some breathing room. However, there are a lot of horror stories out there about lazy or incompetent interns, and the easiest way to avoid this is to interview thoroughly. During the interview process, you should ask yourself a couple of questions about the potential candidate.

• Are they self-starters?

• Do they have genuine interest for this industry?

• Are they able to be innovative and bring new ideas to the department?

• What kind of hours can they work?

• Have they worked with difficult supervisors before? If so, ask for some examples. Did they show humility, the ability to negotiate and to compromise?

Managing your interns:

Know your intern’s strengths. During the interview process, your coordinator should ask if they have any applicable knowledge. For example, social media is a huge aspect of business now, and students are more connected than ever. An appropriate task for your intern could be to contribute to your social media. That’s not to say that you should give the intern complete control over it. The paper should retain control, have a vested interest and know how to maintain it after the intern leaves.

And above all, when designing your program, select dates and be specific! The easiest way to keep your department organized and your program in control is to have both a clear schedule and expectations. It is a good idea to mirror college semesters when developing a model for hiring; check out how the colleges nearby break up their school year. And finally — block schedule your interns. Your coordinator should schedule at least a couple weeks’ worth of tasks for your intern to complete. This gives interns insight into what they need to accomplish and provides them with a steady deadline, which benefits both you and your interns.