Springtime is high season for college and grad student summer job hunters jumping into the candidate pool with the unemployed who have already earned their degrees but now view an internship as a potential key to a successful search. If you announced an intern search you have undoubtedly received twice as many resumes as you did for the same spot a year ago. The applicants seem more qualified and ready to jump right in to fill holes in your staff.
So may people, so few spots, it should be easy to find someone willing to take on the position and work for free. Don’t put away your checkbook so quickly.
Free Work Can Be Illegal
Federal wage and hour law says that employees need to be paid. So you need to decide if this person will be an employee or limited in their role. The Department of Labor describes this type of arrangement as training and applies six criteria to identify whether interns are employees eligible for pay:
- The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school;
- The training is for the benefit of the trainee;
- The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
- The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of the training period; and
- The employer and the trainee understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.
What’s the Company Down the Block Paying?
Your spot may be the most coveted but you could lose out if your neighbor is paying a decent, or any, wage. This is also a good way to lose a candidate or become the subject of negative buzz. Summer interns talk when they are out after work or back on campus. If you can’t get salary information from competitors ask candidates, “What other offers are you considering and what would make you accept our opportunity?” It’s a good question to ask in any interview.
Interns welcome any and all perks. Food and transportation subsidies are probably the most popular. Breakfast, lunch and train fare can really eat into a limited budget. These will be remembered along with the knowledge gained.
Work Around the Intern’s Schedule
Internships can provide opportunity, learning and exposure without taking up five days a week. Limiting the task to a specific assignment will help meet the Department of Labor criteria and minimize the time needed to supervise the newbie. The individual can spend time earning money elsewhere or on their job search.
A shorter work week should not be the criteria for identifying whether the individual should be paid. They may still qualify as an employee.
Whether or not you provide a paycheck enjoy the energy and enthusiasm of the intern population. When the project ends wish them well and keep in touch. They could be a great future hire and should be regarded as an ambassador who spreads the word about your company as a great place to work.