Employer Guide to Internships
Thank you for your interest in working with interns from Hampshire. Whether this is your first time offering an internship or you are an experienced supervisor, this guide will answer your questions.
Compensation (Includes info on the U.S. Department of Labor guidelines for internship programs under the Fair Labor Standards Act, especially relevant to for-profits considering offering an unpaid internship)
An internship is an extension of the classroom. It is an opportunity for a student to learn not only the skills of a particular profession, but also how to function and communicate effectively in a professional environment. When you offer an internship, especially an unpaid internship, your mindset is that of a teacher and mentor, rather than that of an employer. As an internship supervisor, you are in a unique position to help students learn not only from their successes, but also from their mistakes. Your positive and encouraging feedback, as well as your specific critical feedback, is what makes an internship more than a job. A great internship supervisor is one who embraces their intern's actions (both positive and negative) as learning opportunities and takes the time to communicate not only WHAT is needed, but WHY. While it is true that some interns will be extremely interesting and creative, and will provide you with a new perspective and very real help, your ultimate goal as an internship supervisor is not to receive help, but to offer it. You are sharing your knowledge and experience with a young person who is hopefully ready and excited to learn what you have to offer, and in exchange you usher a new generation into your profession.
Designing a High-Quality Internship Experience
An internship is a hands-on work experience during which students learn specific, field-related skills and concepts.
As you design your internship opportunity, consider the following questions:
What will the intern do? With what programs or projects will the intern be involved?
What knowledge, skills, and qualities are needed to succeed in this internship?
How will the interns develop skills and experience that will prepare them for work in the field?
Who will train and supervise the intern? Does the supervisor have expertise in the field and in the specific skills or tasks involved?
How will the interns receive routine feedback from their supervisor(s)?
How will you provide the resources, equipment, and facilities needed to support the intern’s work?
Do you need to pay your intern? (See the section on compensation for guidance.)
Your well-designed internship helps students meet the internship criteria developed by The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE):
The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.
The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.
The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.
There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework.
There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.
There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.
What if some of the above questions and criteria don't apply?
The Career Options Resource Center can help you develop your internship, answer your questions, and suggest ways to work with the above criteria. If your opportunity is not quite the right fit for an internship, we can help you connect with Hampshire students in another way. Your opportunity might be better offered as:
- A paid freelance opportunity or entry-level job
- A service project or volunteer position
Hours and Logistics
As a general guideline, interns usually work 4-12 hours per week during the semester and up to 40 hours per week during the summer. Whatever number of hours you choose, it is important for the intern to have a clear and consistent schedule that is agreed upon in advance.
There is no universal number of hours required for internships at Hampshire. If students are planning to use the experience to complete a graduation requirement, they may need to complete a specified number of hours. They will communicate with you if that is the case.
You can offer an internship at any time; however, you may get more applicants if you post your position in anticipation of the semester cycle:
- Summer: June, July, August
- Fall: September, October, November, Mid-December
- Spring: February, March, April, Mid-May
Working with an intern remotely, or a combination of remote and in-person work, is an option that is becoming more and more common. While working remotely is not for everyone, it can open possibilities that would not be available otherwise.
If you plan to work with an intern remotely, here are some guidelines:
- Develop a sense of relationship and accountability. We highly recommend that you meet the intern in person at least once. If that is not an option, meeting via video conference (such as Skype) is the next best option.
- Discuss the norms of communication. How do you want your interns to communicate with you about their work, hours, questions, etc? How will you communicate with them? What are the expectations in terms of responding? How will you communicate if expectations are not met?
- Provide regular training, supervision, and feedback. While email can accomplish a lot, talking in person regularly is necessary to maintain a strong working relationship. We recommend (at minimum) weekly phone/Skype meetings. Plan ahead and schedule phone/Skype meeting times throughout the internship period.
- Be available for questions. It is very common for interns to have questions once they begin a task, even if they have already been given guidance. Please respond as quickly as possible so your intern can proceed with their work.
- All of the guidelines that apply to in-person internships also apply to remote interns. You will have to make an extra effort to keep track of your intern’s hours and work. We recommend developing a system to track hours and progress on projects so that you can write an informed evaluation at the end of the internship.
Hampshire students do paid and unpaid internships. If you are able, we strongly encourage you to offer a paid internship, which gives greater access for all students to participate, regardless of financial resources.
IMPORTANT: Any for-profit company looking to offer an unpaid internship should review the U.S. Department of Labor guidelines for internship programs under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
If you aren't able to offer financial compensation but wish to support your intern another way, think creatively!
Can you offer…
- Housing, or room and board?
- Food and/or transportation stipend?
- Covering costs to attend trainings, conferences, networking events, or professional development opportunities?
- Access to services or trainings you provide?
Students value any kind of compensation, and your support may attract a broader range of applicants.
Compensation through Federal Work Study: A Great Deal for Non-Profits!
If you are a local non-profit organization, you can apply to be a work-study provider. It's easy to do, and will allow students who receive federal work-study to get paid to work with your organization. To find out more, please contact Hampshire's Student Employment Office.
Selecting an Intern
Hiring an intern is similar to hiring any other employee. We strongly encourage you to screen applicants carefully.
Here are some common ways to screen applicants:
- Request a resume and cover letter
- Conduct an interview either in person or by phone (see sample interview questions)
- Check references
- Request additional materials as needed, such as a writing sample, graphic design sample, film/video reel, etc.
You are under no obligation to hire any applicant. We encourage you to take a chance on interns with little experience, as long as you feel confident that they have the skills, ability, and commitment to learn and succeed in the position.
Sample interview questions:
- What are you studying at Hampshire?
- What are some of your career ideas or goals?
- What do you already know about our company/organization?
- What interests or excites you about this opportunity?
- What do you hope to learn or gain from this internship experience?
- What skills or experiences would you bring to this position?
- In which areas of the internship do you have little or no experience?
- What are your greatest strengths, and one weakness?
- Which project/area/department are you particularly interested in?
- Logistics: How many hours per week are you able to work? What days of the week/times are you available? When would you like to start/end?
- Is there anything else you would like to share?
Supervising an Intern
In order for an internship to be a meaningful experience, students need supervision, mentorship, and to be included in real, substantive work. Your goal as a supervisor is to help your intern learn and become employable in your field. As much as possible, try to find opportunities for your intern to learn new skills, meet people in the industry, and observe professionals in action. Give constructive feedback when necessary, and positive feedback when earned.
Before the Internship
- Contact your intern to clarify start date, hours, location, and compensation (if applicable).
- Check your calendar to make sure you will be available to meet and welcome your interns on their first day.
- Think about what you would like your intern to do and make a list of tasks/projects. Inform colleagues about the intern's duties so they can help supervise the intern, if appropriate.
- Determine the intern's work space and coordinate space/equipment with co-workers.
When your Intern Arrives
- Introduce the intern to co-workers and show them the space in which they will work.
- Explain office procedures and/or traditions.
- Ask your intern about their goals for the internship. Discuss the needs of your team and how the interns' participation will meet both their goals and yours.
- Give your intern a project to start on right away. Interns want to be busy and feel needed. This also helps to ease the awkwardness of the first few days.
During the Course of the Internship
- Communicate! If there is something the interns should be doing differently, please let them know. Your constructive criticism as well as your positive feedback helps your intern grow.
- If your intern is working remotely, try to check in with them via phone or Skype at least once a week (see section on remote internships).
- Be on the lookout for learning experiences for your intern, and try to get them involved as much as possible.
- Feel free to call us if you have any questions or need support dealing with an unusual situation. We are here to help!
We strongly recommend scheduling a meeting halfway through the internship to check in formally with your intern. This is a time to discuss what the intern is doing well, as well as to offer suggestions for improvement or further growth. It is also a great time for the intern to ask questions and to set goals for the remainder of the internship.
Here are some questions to help guide your mid-internship meeting:
- What is the intern doing well? What are areas for growth and improvement?
- What skills has the intern developed? What skills could be learned or developed further?
- Are there any logistical or communication issues that need clarification?
- What are the goals for the remainder of the internship? Is there anything the intern has not yet had a chance to get involved with?
- What questions does the intern have for you?
- What resources, contacts, or connections might you share with your intern?
Final Meeting and Evaluation
In order to complete the internship experience, schedule a final meeting where you and the intern will have a chance to reflect on the experience. What went well? What was challenging? Are there opportunities for further collaboration? You may want to revisit the questions you posed at the mid-internship meeting. This meeting will help you write your evaluation.
Please write an evaluation for your interns, which will give them valuable information about their performance as well as allow them to include the internship on their transcript. Your evaluation will be useful should the intern ask for a letter of recommendation in the future. Please see the next section on getting credit for specific details about how to write your evaluation.
Students can get credit for any number of hours worked in an internship. If students are using their internships to fulfill an academic requirement, they will tell you the number of hours they need.
In order to get credit for an internship, students will need a letter from you upon completion of the internship, which includes the following:
- Name and a brief description of your company or organization
- Dates of the internship
- Number of hours worked
- Description of the internship and the duties and tasks of the intern
- Description of the skills learned or developed
- Your evaluation of the intern’s performance
- Your signature
This letter should be on company letterhead if possible, and addressed to Hampshire College office of central records. Please email a scanned, pdf version of your letter directly to the interns so they can use the letters for multiple purposes.
Confirming an Intern's Ability to Receive Credit
Do you need pre-confirmation that the interns will be able to receive college credit for their internship? Contact us at email@example.com. Please include your name and title, the company name and website, the name and email address of the Hampshire student who is being considered for an internship, the title and duties of the internship, and your mailing address. We will email you a letter confirming that the students are able to receive college credit for their participation.
Insurance and Liability
In most cases, interns should be covered under the employer’s insurance policy. It is your responsibility to understand what is and isn’t covered by your policy, and to mitigate risk.
If you feel that you need additional liability coverage, it may be possible for an intern to be covered through the Five College Risk Management Program. Please go to the risk management program website for details and contact the Career Options Resource Center for assistance.
We're here to help!
Sometimes unexpected issues arise with interns. If you have any challenges with your intern and would like support around how to handle it, please contact our office immediately. We will do our best to help you sort out the situation and identify different options for how to proceed. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413.559.5445.