15 Best Practices for Internship Programs

Human Resources

Best Practice #1: Provide interns with real work assignments.*
Providing interns with real work is number one to ensuring your program’s success. Interns should be doing work related to their major, that is challenging, that is recognized by the organization as valuable, and that fills the entire work term.

Best Practice #2: Hold orientations for all involved.
It’s important that everyone “be on the same page,” so to speak. Make this happen by holding an orientation session for managers and mentors as well as a session for students.

Best Practice #3: Provide interns with a handbook and/or website.
Whether in paper booklet format, or presented as a special section on your website, a handbook serves as a guide for students, answering frequently asked questions and communicating the “rules” in a warm and welcoming way.

Best Practice #4: Provide housing and relocation assistance.
Few employers can afford to provide fully paid housing for interns, but you’ll find that you get a lot of appreciation if you offer any kind of assistance toward housing expenses. If that’s not possible, provide assistance in locating affordable housing:

Best Practice #5: Offer scholarships.
Pairing a scholarship with your internship is a great way to recruit for your internship program—and this is especially true if you are having difficulty attracting a particular type of student or student with a specific skill set to your program.

Best Practice #6: Offer flex-time and/or other unusual work arrangements.
Students mention flex-time as one of their most-desired features in a job. (A flexible time schedule during their internship eases their transition to the workplace.)

Best Practice #7: Have an intern manager.
Having a dedicated manager for your intern program is the best way to ensure that it runs smoothly and stays focused on your criteria for success.

Best Practice #8: Encourage team involvement.
Involve your college recruiting teams in your intern program. They can sponsor social or professional development events, and help to orient the interns to your company culture.

Best Practice #9: Invite career center staff and faculty to visit interns on site.
In general, career center staff and faculty members have relatively few opportunities to visit employer work sites to see firsthand the types of experiences that their students are getting.

Best Practice #10: Hold new-hire panels.
New-hire panels are one of the best ways to showcase an organization to interns as a great place to work.

Best Practice #11: Bring in speakers from your company’s executive ranks.
One of the greatest advantages to students in having internships is the access they get to accomplished professionals in their field.

Best Practice #12: Offer training/encourage outside classes.
Providing students with access to in-house training—both in work-skills-related areas, such as a computer language, and in general skills areas, such as time management—is a tangible way to show students you are interested in their development.

Best Practice #13: Conduct focus groups/surveys.
Conducting focus groups and feedback surveys with these representatives of your target group is a great way to see your organization as the students see it.

Best Practice #14: Showcase intern work through presentations/expo.
Setting up a venue for them to do presentations (formal presentations or in a fair-type setting such as an expo) not only allows them to demonstrate their achievements, but also showcases the internship program to all employees.

Best Practice #15: Conduct exit interviews.
Whether face-to-face or over the telephone, a real-time exit interview done by a member of the college relations team is an excellent way to gather feedback on the student’s experience and to assess their interest in coming back.