Hiring an Intern: How and Why

What creative manager wouldn't want to bring aboard an eager employee who isn't bound by a "way we always do things" mentality? Someone with fresh ideas, an open mind and a desire to make an impact? If this is what you seek for your organization, consider hiring an intern.

You know how competitive the creative industry is. Each year, college students and recent grads vie for internships to get real-world experience and a foot in the door at companies they want to work. Hiring an intern can be to your benefit, too.

Interns can take some stress off your current employees when facing tight deadlines or when you're short-staffed due to vacations. At the same time, the interns gain valuable job experience.

There's also a long-term advantage to hiring an intern, whom you can evaluate over an extended period for full-time positions. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the intern-to-full-time employee conversion rate is 51 percent.  

Where to Find Interns

Most universities offer career fairs and job placement services for students to meet companies seeking interns. You can contact the university career centers for information on how to participate. In addition, Robert Half (TCG's parent company) and websites such as AIGAInternMatch, Internships.com and Creative Interns offer intern-finding features.

Paid or Unpaid?

Fifty-two percent of U.S. marketing and advertising executives surveyed by TCG said they offer paid internships; only 28 percent indicated they offer unpaid internships. Offering a competitive wage makes your internship opportunity more attractive to prospective candidates. Doing so also sets your creative firm or in-house team apart as a reputable option for talented would-be interns.

If you prefer to offer an internship for academic credit, the student's college or university typically must approve the program for the student beforehand.

What Type of Work Should Interns Do?

Don't waste your time (or your interns' time) by only assigning busy work. Give them exposure to tasks they'll actually perform once they've launched their careers. Depending on their areas of expertise and training, you can ask them to manage social media accounts, create infographics or write marketing copy.

Interns are eager to impress, so take advantage of their enthusiasm. Create a team project your interns can participate in – under the guidance of a mentor – and report on at the end of the program. Try to make it a meaningful project they can add to their portfolios.

Remember to provide thorough instructions, clear expectations and direct supervision. Interns often need an environment in which they are encouraged to ask questions and receive feedback. Throughout the internship, check in to make sure their needs are being met and projects are going smoothly.

When your interns complete their programs, conduct exit interviews just as you do for departing full-time employees. Doing so will help you learn about their good and bad experiences over the course of the internship and how you can improve the program.

Related post: The Lasting Impact of an Internship