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Building a Remote Intern Hiring Program That Works for You

The pandemic was disruptive to every industry, job, and work ecosystem. However, it accelerated a company’s ability to be nimble and agile, especially in the category of remote worker capabilities. Technology easily bridged the gap and fostered collaboration and communication, no matter where someone works. That same framework can apply to your interns. Building a remote intern program can deliver lots of value for your business and those who need real-world experience.

So, how do you hire remote interns successfully? Check out these tips.

The State of Internships

Internships have long been part of education to job readiness paths. Those who participate in an internship obtain job placement faster than those who don’t.

The role of an internship has evolved in the past few years in several ways. First, most internships are now paid, with 71 percent of full-time interns receiving a salary. Another change is the work environment, with interns and employers seeking to create a diverse and accepting environment. Interns aren’t just fetching coffee and doing menial tasks.

The most current impact on the state of internships is the model they follow. A recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that a hybrid approach is the most preferred.

Image: NACE

Remote interns have just as many opportunities to earn a full-time position. Employers recognize this shift as good for students and business. The reason they’re willing to entertain virtual or hybrid interns is that it helps them reach these objectives, according to NACE:

  • Converts interns to full-time employees at higher rates
  • Brands the organization as a good place to work
  • Delivers meaningful work for the company and the intern

The move to virtual or hybrid interns should be part of your strategy. Next, we’ll review how to build your remote intern program.

4 Steps to Build Your Remote Intern Program

If you’re starting from scratch or adjusting your process to virtual, you’ll want to follow these steps to develop your remote intern strategy.

Determine Where Virtual Interns Can Deliver the Most Value

A virtual intern can be a valuable contributor to your company. First, you must define where they can do this and how the remote aspect impacts it. We all know that working remote can provide the same experience as sitting in a cubicle. If you give interns access to cloud-based business tools for communication, collaboration, and interaction, the experience is equitable.

In taking all this into account, work with department leaders to see where they have gaps and how a remote intern could be an asset.

Establish Remote Intern Hiring Parameters

Interns will want guidelines and parameters, so you’ll need to define these clearly. In the past, you may have welcomed interns from local colleges and universities. Now, your talent pool can be larger, with interns living anywhere. However, you’ll still want to ensure they are students at credible schools.

The other parameters to consider for these positions include:

  • How you’ll deliver equipment for them to use (e.g., computers, webcams, headsets, etc.)
  • Descriptions of responsibilities and expectations, including the minimum number of hours worked and schedules
  • Ensuring you meet any school-specific internship requirements
  • Policy manuals for interns to follow, which align with your employee handbook
  • What the pay rate will be, if applicable

Ultimately, you should construct a program that’s a win-win. Listen to the feedback of former interns and current employees to inform how you move forward.

Announce Your Program and Attract Applicants

Once you have hiring parameters in place, you’ll want to recruit interns. One way is working directly with colleges. Outside of this, there are other ways to spread the word. You can place these positions on job boards, share them with employees to make referrals, and post them on your website.

Highlight what the student can learn during the internship and why they’ll love working with your team.

Once hired, your program has more steps to go.

Ensure Engagement and Interaction

Interns don’t want to sit in silos doing busywork. That’s not a valuable learning experience. Since they aren’t physically in an office, your program should have intentional and frequent engagement and interaction. Here are some tips:

  • Assign a mentor to each intern who checks in with them daily and has regular video meetings to discuss their experiences.
  • Invite interns to meetings within their area, and outside of it, so they get a feel for how the company operates.
  • Provide them with instant communication tools (i.e., chat) with dedicated channels for interns to share information, best practices, and more. With this option, they can create a community.
  • Host special intern events like speed networking exercises that involve intern and employee conversations so they can further their skill development.
  • Introduce gamification elements to the virtual intern environment where they can gain badges and rewards by participating in events like lunch and learns or other activities.

After each round of virtual interns, review these engagements to determine if they were effective. What you learn can help you adjust the program going forward.

A Remote Intern Program Is the Future

Remote work is here to stay, and it’s preferred by many. Today’s students know this changing dynamic but don’t consider it a concern. They are tuned into the latest technology and realize virtual work is just work. By following these steps, the future of your program can be both remote and successful!

Get more tips on cultivating hybrid work models by reading Hybrid Work Models and How to Support Them.

About Kirsten Barta

Kirsten Barta is Program Manager of Digital Content and Strategy at Intermedia