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Attracting Summer Interns Who Are Right for Your Business

Christina Haberstroh

Christina Haberstroh

Contributor at Fundera
Christina is a small business contributor for Fundera and has experience covering finance, small business news and happenings, and has launched a small business herself.
Christina Haberstroh

As the summertime approaches, your business is growing and so is your workload.

Thankfully, it just so happens to be the time when some college students are on the hunt for the perfect opportunities to jumpstart their careers as well. Can your business be the host to a rewarding experience for both you and an intern?

Any business, big or small can create a win-win situation for attracting summer interns. In fact, for an intern, a smaller environment could mean greater responsibility, insight, role definition and more time with the customer, said Rich Razgaitis, CEO of FloWater, a San Francisco-based startup that’s focused on eliminating single-use plastic water bottles. At a startup or small business, an intern can squeeze 6-10 months of experience into just a 4-month span, getting involved in responsibilities they may not have the opportunity to work on in a bigger corporation.

Is your business right for an intern?

Ok, so small businesses in general can be successful in attracting summer interns, but what about your business? Here’s some steps to take before hiring.

  1. Take time to evaluate specific responsibilities that can be defined and allocated, so that your interns are focused on completing work that’s beneficial to your business. You want to make sure your team remains productive and on-task while onboarding short-term help. Also, think about whether the work you need to do would be fulfilling and rewarding for a college student who’s off for the summer. If the tasks you need done could be easily outsourced at a lower cost, it might be better to not bring on an intern.
  2. Think about the length of the assignment. If it’s too short, it may not be worth your efforts, considering the overhead of defining the role, interviewing, hiring, training, completing paperwork, and other attendant responsibilities. On the other hand, if you have a crucial project to do that can be completed in just 2 or 3 months, an intern might be the perfect person to take it on.
  3. Consider your plan for compensation. Do you want to look into offering college credit for the internship? Or compensate at a rate that works best for your business’s budget? It’s rare that an intern would be looking for an opportunity with little to no return in those terms, Razgaitis advised.

How should you compensate an intern?

“Like anything else, aligning a person’s motivations with rewards after finding really great talent is the key,” Razgaitis said. And besides the return via compensation or credit, “they want coaching, experience and learning exposure. It needs to be a mutual value creation.”

A good intern is looking for an opportunity to go through intensive learning, but also contribute and make a difference, Razgaitis shared. He or she wants to be part of a team; a chance to show off her talents and prove the ability to take something on, do a great job, and execute.

However you choose to pay an intern—in pay compensation or credit compensation—you must legally pay your intern in some way. In only the most specific circumstances is it legal to not pay interns. Otherwise, you’ll need to at least pay minimum wage. Currently, though, the average hourly rate for paid bachelor degree-level interns is $16.21.

How can you source interns?

Hiring a summer intern is pretty similar to taking steps to hire a full time employee. You’ll need to write a job description with concrete explanations and examples of what your intern will be doing for your small business.

If you think you could be on the market for a summer intern, take a peek at some of these sites and places that could help you get going just in time for the end of the semester:

  1. – Post, access resume database and receive tools on running a successful internship program for free.
  2.– Jobs run for 30 days, traffic is driven through tight integration with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Charges per posting.
  3. Also, check with the Career Services Department at local colleges. They might be able to set you up with a post, and direct you to some candidates who are studying your field.
  4. You could try finding summer interns by getting out of the office and actually visiting local colleges to talk to students. Some colleges will also offer job fairs where you can offer information about your internship to interested students.
  5. Try spreading the word that you’re looking for a summer intern throughout your network. Maybe one of your colleagues or friends has a son or daughter in school that would be eager to intern at your small business.
  6. When you find a few good candidates, treat your hiring process just as you would a full time employee. If you can find an absolutely stellar summer intern—and reward them with interesting work—you might be able to hire them full time when they graduate. If you instead just hire anyone, you aren’t helping your hiring efforts in the long-run.


Hiring a summer intern is a great way to find good talent and get necessary work done when you don’t have time to do it yourself. But the process of hiring an intern shouldn’t be taken willy-nilly.

If you put some time and effort into providing a great internship and finding the right candidate, both your business and the intern will be better off in the long run.


Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Christina Haberstroh

Christina Haberstroh

Contributor at Fundera
Christina is a small business contributor for Fundera and has experience covering finance, small business news and happenings, and has launched a small business herself.
Christina Haberstroh

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