• “I was working for a production company and I was on a shoot for an exercise video… In between takes, I had to clean up their sweat off the floor on my hands and knees.”
  • “I worked at a radio station… the DJ I was working with made me get coffee every day, specifically with one teaspoon of cream and two sugar packets. She fired me for not finding a second sugar packet.”
  • “I had to run an “errand” aka pick up weed.”

Those are real quotes from a BuzzFeed article, “17 Intern Horror Stories That Will Make You Want To Quit Your Job.” Sugar packets, cleaning sweat, and running “errands” are not effective uses of an intern’s potential nor does it reflect positively upon the employer.

Not only are internships important to students but they also play a key role in establishing your company as the employer of choice in your area. But if your internship program consists of menial tasks and grunt work, then you should redesign your internship strategy and learn how to hire an intern that can do more than order coffee.

There are over 20 million college students in America, with 15 million of them looking for internships. For the interns an internship helps to meet a graduation requirement while providing hands-on experience. Interns are great because usually they are eager to work, learn and contribute so misusing their talents can be disengaging for them and a total waste of potential and valuable resources for the company. Let’s stop wasting time and resources and let’s start developing an attractive internship program with an endless supply of talented and skilled new ideas. Here are 6 steps to hiring an intern who can do more than order coffee.

Step 1. The Job Details

Consider the work (projects) that you would like the intern to perform and be sure the work is relevant to their field of study and your business model. Choose a manager or supervisor, preferably someone with a great attitude and performance record, for the intern to report to, learn from, as well as develop the intern. Collaborate with the manager or supervisor to make a list of the top duties and tasks necessary for job success.

Step 2. Compensation

Interns can be paid or unpaid because the experience is more important than the pay but everyone loves a paid internship so if you are going to pay them be sure that pay is equal for both men and women and is not based on any protected classifications. Again, if you decide to pay your interns it should be a stipend or a flat amount.

Step 3. Recruitment

Search for schools, universities, and community colleges to partner with to develop a pipeline of talent to draw from. Then interview the top picks utilizing standardize questions which pertain to the job and company culture. You might want to consider a realistic job preview or job shadowing to evaluate their candidacy.

Step 4. Assessments

Work with the manager or supervisor to outline the intern assessment skills that you think are important and them work with eSkills assessments to create a customized internship assessment skills test.  Keep in mind, as students, their skills are still developing, so you do not want your intern assessment test to evaluate the same way for interns as for full time employees because interns likely won’t have the experience to draw from.

Step 5. Onboarding and Acclimation

Onboard your interns just as you would a full-time employee. Interns need to know what the company does and how it does it, in HR terms they need to know the culture, processes, brand, vision, and mission. Don’t make interns feel like outsiders, include them in on meetings and corporate activities or even take them to a professional development event, this will make them feel like they are truly part of the company.

Step 6. The Coffee

Buy a coffeemaker and get your own coffee or better yet have it delivered so you can use the intern for more important work.

Final note, be sure the internship program is fun and gives students an opportunity to learn, contribute their thoughts, ideas, and energy. Follow these steps and you will hire interns who can do more than order coffee.

Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and expert resume writer with more than 13 years of experience as a former practitioner and current HR consultant. He is the curator of two websites: CostofWork.com and ResumeCrusade.com , and contributes HR-focused content to many others, including PerformanceICreate.com and SmartRecruiters.com . He has been listed by the Huffington Post as one of the “Top 100 Most Social Human Resources Experts to Follow on Twitter”, one of the “Top 40 under 40” by the HR Blogger Network, one of the “25 Must-Read HR Blogs in 2013”, and also featured on Oprah.com. He is very active with the Society of Human Resource Management, working closely with conference directors, communication chairs, and social media teams from Illinois, Oklahoma, and Tennessee to develop social strategies to engage attendees and enhance their conference experience. Chris earned his master’s degree in Labor and Human Resources from Ohio State University. In 2005, he moved back to his hometown of Memphis, TN, where he has developed a reputation for helping his clients create HR strategies, and individuals master the tough economic challenges of the South.

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