If your business could use a helping hand, don’t overlook interns. Though interns are, by nature, inexperienced, they offer a blank slate that lets you nurture and shape the perfect employee for your company. You might just be surprised by what they can offer.
The Difference Between Interns and Employees
Interns are often students or recent graduates looking to expand their skills, but they may transition to becoming employees if they perform well and enjoy the industry. A 2022 survey found that around 39% of Singaporean higher education students and graduates had done a formal internship with an employer.
These numbers are likely to climb in the near future. The job market has been unstable lately, with around 50% of 2020 graduates still looking for a job nearly a year after graduating. That makes internships an attractive opportunity for students just entering the workforce. And, with 90% of small business owners feeling optimistic about their future, perhaps some of that infectious optimism will rub off on anxious college grads trying to find their place.
Interns may not have experience in your industry, so it’s common to hire them on a temporary basis — often for just a few weeks or months — to help them gain a foothold in the professional world. Some notable differences between interns and employees include:
- Pay: Many employers pay interns less than they would employees. They might offer them a small stipend or housing allowance, an hourly wage or nothing at all.
- Benefits: Employees are often entitled to benefits like retirement and health insurance. Interns usually don’t get these perks.
- Training: Most employees have at least some experience or training in the job for which they’re applying. In contrast, interns may have no experience.
- Expectations: Because interns are still learning, employers usually don’t expect interns to bring a high level of value to the company — at least not yet.
The Benefits of Interns for Small Businesses
Why should you choose an intern over a traditional employee?
1. Interns Can Supplement Your Staff
While it might be best to hire knowledgeable employees during a period of serious understaffing, interns can fill the gaps in an otherwise full staff. When workers have the time and energy to focus on their most important tasks — rather than shredding papers or making a coffee run — the whole team will become more productive.
Additionally, allowing employees to mentor interns can help train them for managerial roles. It’s easier and more cost effective than training them yourself.
2. They Bring an Outside Perspective
Interns often come equipped with new ideas and provide honest feedback. Asking your employees what they think of your leadership style might prompt disingenuous responses, but an intern isn’t worried about being fired or losing a promotion. They might open your eyes to ways you could improve the company.
3. Internships Simplify the Hiring Process
Job searches are just as frustrating for employers as they are for potential candidates. Putting out ads, conducting interviews, and investing in the onboarding process is expensive and time consuming. It’s even harder for small businesses looking to stand out from the crowd of big-name companies.
A star intern could become the newest team member when their contract ends. Because you’ve already worked with them for several weeks or months, you can decide if they’re worth keeping around. The internship functions like a no-strings-attached trial period in which you can analyze the quality of their work, how they fit in with the company culture, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how fast they can get the job done.
You can also find out if they want to work in your field long term. In this way, an internship benefits both you and the intern, since they may not know what type of career they want to pursue. Maybe they had their heart set on nursing but didn’t realize they would faint at the sight of blood. It’s better to find that out during an internship than in nursing school.
Can’t see yourself hiring the intern? No problem — simply thank them for their time when their internship is up, then look for another candidate. It’s much less complicated than hiring an employee, realizing they aren’t a good fit, and then letting them go. You can keep a pool of potential employees on hand by offering several internships throughout the year.
Fresh Faces, Fresh Ideas
Interns are a valuable asset to any business. What they may lack in experience, they make up for with eagerness to learn and gain experience. Additionally, they offer a useful outside perspective that can benefit companies stuck in a rut. Employers should consider hiring interns when looking to recruit new talent.