How to Hire Interns: Nurturing UK Talent

How to Hire Interns A group of young people learning StudySmarter

Hiring interns requires a strategic approach to ensure that both the company and the intern benefit from the experience. From defining needs and developing a job description to screening candidates and onboarding interns, this article will cover the key steps and considerations to help your organisation understand how to hire interns successfully.

Internship programs can be a win-win for both employers and interns. For employers, internships provide an opportunity to bring in fresh talent, support the growth of the business, and test out potential hires without committing to a full-time employee. For interns, internships offer a valuable opportunity to gain real-world experience, build their skills, and make connections in their field.

This article will outline the following topics:

Guide for hiring interns

Hiring interns can be an excellent way for companies to access new talent and fill short-term gaps in their workforce. However, it is essential to have a clear strategy in place to ensure HR specialists attract the right candidates and provide them with valuable experiences. Here’s a general guide for hiring interns – particularly useful to follow when considering how to hire interns.

How to hire interns: summary

Define goals and requirementsDetermine what kind of intern you need and what tasks or projects they will be working on. Consider the skills and qualifications required and the duration of the internship. This information will help attract qualified candidates who are a good fit for the organisation.
Develop a recruitment strategyShare the internship programme on your website, social media, job boards, and with universities and colleges. Consider attending career fairs or hosting information sessions to attract potential interns. Ensure you decide on your selection criteria, such as academic performance, relevant coursework, or previous work experience.
Screen and interview candidatesAfter receiving applications, it’s crucial to screen and interview candidates to ensure they are the right fit for your internship program. Conduct phone or virtual interviews to meet the candidate and learn more about their experience, goals, and interest in the internship. It’s also essential to assess the candidate’s soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.
Offer fair compensationConsider offering compensation to interns in the form of stipends or hourly pay. Regardless of the type of business and the budget, offering compensation can attract more qualified candidates and provide interns with the financial support they need.
Set clear expectations and provide trainingOnce you have selected your interns, provide them with clear expectations and training. Explain their role, responsibilities, and goals, and provide them with any necessary resources, such as training manuals, equipment, or software.
Assign a dedicated managerAs interns begin their work, provide them with mentorship and feedback. Assign a supervisor who can provide guidance and support and offer regular check-ins to track their progress. Provide constructive feedback to help them improve their skills and contribute to their personal and professional development.
Recognise their workHighlight the intern’s contributions and provide them with a reference or letter of recommendation if appropriate. Consider offering full-time employment or future internship opportunities to exceptional interns who have demonstrated strong potential.

Although hiring interns requires careful planning and execution, the steps outlined above can help your organisation by attracting top talent, providing valuable experiences, and building a pipeline of potential employees.

That said, we recognise that different business may have different requirements when considering how to hire interns. Let’s look at what you can do differently for a small business, startup or if you’re looking to recruit interns from colleges.

How to hire an intern for a small business

Internship programs provide an opportunity for small businesses to bring in fresh talent, support the growth of the business, and test out potential hires without committing to a full-time employee. Interns can bring new ideas, skills, and perspectives to the company, which can help drive innovation and growth.

By offering internships, small businesses can also contribute to the professional development of young people and support the growth of their local communities. Interested? Here’s how to hire an intern for a small business.

Screen candidates based on potential

Review resumes, cover letters, and portfolios to identify top candidates. However, when reviewing resumes, it’s important not to dismiss candidates who have previously worked in retail, hospitality or other settings. While their experience may not be directly applicable to your industry, they likely possess valuable transferable skills that can benefit your workplace.

Establish well-defined tasks

Once you have hired an intern, maximise their potential by assigning structured and job-related responsibilities. Allow them to take ownership of their work and complete a project during their internship. Ensure a fair balance between what the intern will gain and how they will benefit your small business.

Offer feedback and a reference

Feedback is invaluable to interns. It’s essential to provide them with ongoing feedback during their internship to enable them to improve and grow while they are still on the job. At the end of the internship, schedule a brief session to review their strengths and areas for improvement and provide them with constructive criticism. Additionally, offer to provide them with a reference, which can assist them in securing future employment opportunities.

How to Hire Interns A group of young people smiling after working together
Hiring interns requires careful planning, but done correctly it can be very worth it.

How to hire interns for a startup

Hiring interns for a startup can be a challenging process, particularly for two reasons. First, startups often have limited budgets. Interns may be looking for compensation, and startups may not have the funds to offer paid internships. Additionally, startups may not have established internship programs, which can make it difficult to provide interns with the resources and mentorship they need to succeed.

Second, startups often have a less structured work environment, which can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to hiring interns. On the one hand, interns may have more flexibility to work on different projects and gain a broad range of experiences. On the other hand, the lack of structure can make it challenging for interns to understand their role and responsibilities.

In this section, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide on how to hire interns for a startup, outlining the essential considerations and strategies for recruiting top talent. Whether you’re a recruiter, HR manager, or startup founder, the steps below will help you navigate the process of hiring interns with confidence and success.

Send pre-interview material

While startups may not have the same name recognition as larger companies, they often have robust internship programs and should not make the interview process too easy.

To ensure that they hire interns who are genuinely interested in the opportunity and not solely motivated by the prospect of receiving course credit, it is helpful to provide pre-interview material. This could involve something as straightforward as asking candidates to read a page on the company’s website and discuss it during the interview.

This can provide insight into the interns’ level of dedication and help distinguish those who are truly committed to the position.

Set a task

To evaluate an intern’s abilities, it can be highly effective to assign them actual work before, during or after the interview process. The task need not be overly complex.

For example, candidates can be given a real or hypothetical problem to solve, and asked to walk the interviewer(s) through their thought process and solution. Alternatively, for roles that require specific technical skills, candidates may be asked to complete a coding challenge, solve a math problem, or perform other tasks related to their field of expertise.

While it’s not necessary for the end result to be flawless, assessing their performance on real tasks provides insights into their capabilities and can help determine the type of intern they will be. Furthermore, this approach can assist in the hiring process by distinguishing those who are likely to excel in the role.

Dedicate a day for onboarding

Develop an onboarding plan that includes an orientation to the startup, the intern’s responsibilities, and any training or resources they will need to succeed.

While most interns are typically young, intelligent, and eager to learn, it’s essential to provide them with structured learning opportunities rather than throwing them into the deep end. To maximise their learning potential, it’s crucial to dedicate a day to teach them the administration side of the business before assigning them with any significant tasks.

How to hire interns from colleges

In today’s competitive job market, internships are becoming increasingly popular among college students looking to gain hands-on experience in their field of study. In fact, according to Vault’s Internship Survey, 43.9% of respondents found their internships through campus recruiting!

For businesses, internships can be an excellent way to attract and recruit top talent from colleges and universities. Here are some tips on how to hire interns from colleges.

Build relationships

One of the most effective ways to connect with college students is to build relationships with career centers at local colleges and universities. These centers are often the primary point of contact for students seeking internships and can provide valuable resources and guidance for businesses looking to hire interns. Reach out to career center staff, attend career fairs, and offer to host information sessions on your company and internship program.


Once you’ve established relationships with college career centers, it’s time to advertise your internship opportunity. Post the opportunity on college job boards, social media platforms, and industry-specific websites to reach a broader audience of students. When crafting the internship description, be clear about the job responsibilities, qualifications, and duration of the internship.

Provide a structured program

Once you’ve hired an intern, provide a structured program that includes clear expectations, goals, and deadlines. Assign tasks that are relevant to the intern’s field of study and provide opportunities for learning and growth. Schedule regular check-ins and provide constructive feedback to help the intern develop their skills and reach their goals.

How to Hire Interns Two young people learning from a more senior woman StudySmarter
Offering structure is key when hiring interns.

How to hire an unpaid intern

Hiring an unpaid intern can be a valuable way for employers to provide opportunities for students or recent graduates to gain work experience and build their skills.

It can also be an especially tempting proposition for employers as they can get the extra help they need, without the cost attached to it. However, it is important to understand the legal requirements surrounding unpaid internships to avoid violating employment laws.

Volunteer vs. intern

Firstly, it’s important to understand the distinction between a volunteer and an intern. A volunteer is typically someone who offers their services to a charity or non-profit organisation and does not have a contract of employment. An intern, on the other hand, is someone who provides services to a business with the expectation of gaining experience and may have a contract of employment.

In the UK, unpaid internships are generally only legal if the intern is classified as a volunteer, meaning they do not have any contractual obligations and are not carrying out work in exchange for payment. If an intern is carrying out work for a business and expects to receive payment (in any form, including training or experience), they are generally considered to be workers and are entitled to be paid the national minimum wage.

To hire an unpaid intern, it’s important to be clear about their status as a volunteer and ensure that they are not performing any work that would be considered a service to the business. It may also be helpful to provide the intern with a clear job description and ensure that they are receiving training and development opportunities rather than being used as free labor. Ultimately, it’s important to consult with a legal professional to ensure that the intern is being treated fairly and that the employer is complying with all relevant employment laws.

For more information on employment rights and pay for interns, visit the website.

Benefits of hiring interns

Hiring interns can be a valuable way for businesses to benefit from fresh perspectives, cost-effective labour, and potential future talent. Interns can provide a unique viewpoint, bring new ideas to the table, and help take on tasks that might otherwise be overlooked.

Additionally, internships can be an excellent opportunity for students or recent graduates to gain practical skills and real-world experience in their field of interest, potentially leading to future job opportunities. In this way, internships can be a mutually beneficial relationship between businesses and academic institutions, helping to bridge the gap between the classroom and the workplace.

Let’s unpack each of these potential benefits of hiring interns and see how they can be a valuable asset to businesses of all sizes.

Fresh perspectives

Interns can offer a unique viewpoint and fresh ideas to a company. As students or recent graduates, they may have recently learned new techniques, technologies, or concepts that can be valuable to a business.

Cost-effective labour

Interns are often willing to work for lower wages or in exchange for academic credit, making them a cost-effective source of labor for businesses.

Future talent

Internships can serve as a pipeline for identifying and recruiting future talent for a company. Employers can observe interns’ performance, identify those who excel, and potentially offer them a permanent position upon graduation.

Increased productivity

Interns can help take on tasks that might otherwise be overlooked due to a lack of resources or time constraints, increasing overall productivity for a company.

Skill development

Internships can be an excellent opportunity for interns to gain practical skills and real-world experience in their field of interest. Employers can offer training and mentorship to help interns develop their skills and grow in their career aspirations.

Disadvantages of hiring interns

While there are many benefits to hiring interns, there are also potential disadvantages that businesses should consider. Some of the disadvantages of hiring interns may include the following.

Limited experience

Interns may lack the experience or skills necessary to complete tasks to the same standard as a full-time employee. This can require additional training and supervision, which can be time-consuming for managers.

Short-term commitment

Interns are typically only with a company for a short period, which can create turnover and require additional time and resources to train new interns.

Legal considerations

There may be legal considerations when hiring interns, including labor laws and regulations related to intern compensation, benefits, and working hours.

While these disadvantages should be considered, they do not necessarily outweigh the potential benefits of hiring interns. By carefully selecting and training interns, and creating clear expectations and goals for the internship, businesses can minimise potential drawbacks and reap the rewards of a successful intern program.

Book a demo or schedule a call with StudySmarter today to see how we can help!

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