Before Hiring An Intern, Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

As a small business owner, there is a natural inclination to have this conversation:

We need more help. We don’t have a lot of money. Let’s hire an intern!

True, what you pay an intern may be less than what you would pay a full-time employee, especially when you factor in things like health insurance and other workplace benefits.

However, hiring an intern isn’t always the magical fix that it may seem. Interns, while perhaps paid less than other employees, often require more training to get the student up to speed on your business while also learning some of the professional skills needed to be successful in the workplace.

Before you post to hire an intern this summer, ask yourself these 3 questions:

Question 1: What will the intern do, exactly and specifically?

Make a list: what will the intern do every day? Are there projects that you need help completing?

Consider a blend of tasks and responsibility levels. For example, do you need help with some entry-level tasks, like making copies or filing, that can be paired with a higher-responsibility project, like reorganizing the filing room or overhauling the filing process?

Though interns may not be ready for a full-responsibility, full-time job, they ARE capable of taking on some responsibility. And, in fact, NEED some real responsibility if you want them to stay engaged with the internship and speak highly of the experience. (True story: interns talk and will share what are the worth-while internships…and which ones are not.)

This leads up to….

Question 2: Do we have the bandwidth to spend a significant amount of time training the intern?

Remember when we talked about how interns “cost less” than hiring a full-time employee?

On the surface, this may be true. An intern usually costs less in a dollar-per-hour capacity.

However, interns also require a lot more training, regular feedback, and checking-in then a full-time employee. Remember, with an intern, you are not only teaching them to do their tasks and about your organization, you are also helping to teach them how to be professionals.

What does this look like day-to-day? It depends on the individual, obviously, but you may have to do additional hand-holding. For example, checking in to make sure the intern understands every step of the process…rather than being able to assume that they know any particular step already.

Are you working remotely? Or in a physical location? The logistics of overseeing and mentoring an intern from a distance looks different — and may add another layer of complexity — to this situation as well.

This can be a super-rewarding experience for both you and the intern – and create relationships that will last for much longer than the summer or the semester! However, you just have to make sure that….

Question 3: Can we afford to hire an intern? Can we afford not to?

As you are considering the costs of hiring an intern, you not only need to factor in the cost-per-hour for a salary, but the other costs associated with it.

Who will be training — and regularly supervising — the intern? Who will have time to have regularly-scheduled check-in meetings with the intern? What is that employee’s cost-per-hour?

Do you have the physical space for the intern? Can you afford to buy a new laptop and other software that will be needed to complete the job — whether on-site or remotely?

After figuring out how much it will cost to hire an intern — both the direct and indirect costs — it’s time to do the hard analysis. Can you afford to hire an intern? Can your business afford not to hire an intern? If you don’t have the capacity to do some of the extra mentoring that interns need, can you find some other way to outsource your workflow needs?

The answer here is going to be different for each business. But asking these questions is the first step in making sure that both you and a potential intern have the best, most-productive experience possible.

Bottom Line: hiring an intern is making a commitment to mentoring a student into your profession. You want this to be a successful experience for both you and the intern.

Asking yourself some of these questions before hiring someone — and giving serious consideration to the answers — will set all parties involved on a path to success.

Have another question about interns that you want to see answered? Drop me a line at

Remember: Change is hard. Try your best. You got this!


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