Employer Internship Guide
An internship is a pre-professional, intensive learning experience that offers meaningful, practical work experience related to a student’s field of study or career interest. Internships are designed to be time-limited and focused on connecting knowledge learned in the classroom with practical business skills – providing an opportunity to put theory into practice and expose students to industry.
The Jake Jabs School of Business & Entrepreneurship views internships as opportunities for win-win situations. Students gain new skills, new perspectives and a new context for their education and employers gain new ideas and energy into their workplace, develop talent and potentially build a pipeline for future employees.
MSU Internship Expectations
Our primary expectations are that the work site provides a work space with company-owned computer, inclusion in the work team, regular training, supervision and constructive feedback. While some non-profits aren’t always able to pay an intern, a stipend or hourly wage is encouraged (not required). Students are required to concurrently enroll in an internship course that provides opportunity for reflection and professional development.
- Consult with student in development of learning objectives/goals.
- Orient student and provide on-the-job training.
- Offer frequent feedback about student performance.
- Evaluate student performance in written format.
- Consult with internship director regarding student progress (as appropriate).
- Present yourself in a professional manner, including workplace attire.
- Respectfully communicate concerns with your supervisor or internship director.
- Demonstrate enthusiasm and interest in your tasks; ask questions and take initiative.
- Actively use internship course assignments to enhance self-awareness and identify areas for personal growth.
- Fully participate in meetings at work and with your internship instructor.
- Keep track of and accurately report internship hours worked.
- Help student develop learning objectives and goals.
- Consult with student, when needed, to complete the on-line internship registration process.
- Supplement student on-site responsibilities with academic assignments suitable to enrich learning opportunities and enhance reflection.
- Discuss basis of grading and relationship between performance and reflection.
- Consult periodically with student to provide continuous feedback.
- Communicate with site supervisor (as appropriate).
- Provide an instructor who is accessible to student and supervisor when needed.
- Grade all assignments in a timely manner; assign final grades.
At- A- Glance An Internship Is:
- A structured learning experience.
- An opportunity to positively influence young professionals and assist in shaping their employment identity.
- Provides opportunities to apply classroom knowledge in a “real world” professional environment.
- Encourages interns to develop and refine skills that are transferable to a variety of work settings.
- Includes a position description with relevant and clearly defined learning objectives.
- Provides for feedback from a professional manager.
- Includes resources, equipment, facilities that support learning goals.
An internship is NOT:
- Primarily clerical.
- A vague, undefined experience.
- A way to gain temporary staff to accommodate business needs.
Designing An Internship:
The Benefits of an Internship Program:
- Key strategy for selecting and developing future talent.
- An estimated four out of every five businesses using internships as a recruiting strategy report a ‘good’ to ‘excellent’ return on investment.
- Long-term “interview” and training process. When hired into full-time positions, interns have shorter learning curves.
- Gain fresh perspectives and innovative ideas.
- Internships lead to higher retention rates in full-time positions. Nearly 86% of those who have taken part in an internship at the hiring organization are still on the job.
- Interns act as advocates for recruiting talent.
- College students are qualified candidates that can fill both entry-level and special skill set needs.
- Build relationships with universities.
Being thoughtful and intentional as you design your internship can mean a more successful and satisfying experience for all involved. Consider your organizational needs to create a purposeful internship program.
Organizational Needs and Logistics:
- What does your organization hope to achieve by having an intern?
- Where will you locate your intern(s)? Do you have adequate workspace for them?
- Do you plan to assist with relocation and living arrangements, etc.?
- What talents, academic background and experience would be ideal for the position?
- Who will be primarily responsible for the intern(s)? Will that person be a mentor, supervisor, or both?
- What projects or activities will the intern(s) work on? Be as specific as possible. Interns desire structure and meaningful work.
- It is important for both the intern and the employer to set goals at the outset and to evaluate once the internship is completed. Did the internship meet or exceed your organizational goals? If not, how can the program be redesigned to ensure a meaningful internship in the future?
Purposeful Internships programs will:
- Provide challenging projects and tasks.
- List potential activities that fit the needs of the department.
- Give interns focused, roles to keep them motivated.
- Provide projects that complement students’ academic program.
- Give them broad exposure to the organization (remember: this is a chance for them to personally develop and explore career possibilities).
- Provide adequate, reliable, and regular supervision and mentoring.
- Serve as an information resource.
- Ensure interns are keeping pace and accomplishing goals.
The most essential step to a successful internship is deciding what kinds of work the intern will do. Interns want to be challenged. The principle reason internships are unsuccessful is not having enough meaningful work. The best way to structure an internship is to include three types of work:
- Project work: This can focus on research and analysis or a project that will require the intern to use their specific skills related to their area of study. Projects should provide interns with highly relevant, skill-building experience. This is an effective way to utilize resources for lean organizations and/or focus on specific or emerging business issues.
- Business Operations: This could include general work that is important to day-to-day business functions or a broader organizational perspective. Depending on the focus of the internship, daily operations may be a significant portion of the job (i.e. accounting internships) for others, this may not be the primary focus.
- Emerging and Unexpected Work: Similar to project-based work, but with higher priorities and a sense of urgency. This type of work can provide interns with a taste of the true nature of your business and the wide variety of issues that employees manage.
Ideally, an internship would have a balance of work related projects, daily operations and immediate needs. This will enable the intern to be productive and have a well-rounded learning experience. They will value the challenge and variety that comes from assisting with these new tasks.
Sample Internship Position Descriptions:
Most position descriptions will include a brief statement about the company as well as a brief introduction to the position. All descriptions should include a list and/or description of responsibilities and a list and/or description of requirements. Additional desired qualifications can also assist in ensuring you get the most appropriate talent to apply for your position.
SAMPLE – Tax Internship
Banks and Hedges, a small, fast-paced, tax accounting firm is offering an internship during the Winter and Spring to coincide with tax season. Require a minimum of 10 hours per week during business hours. Ideal candidate will be able to increase to 15 hours per week in March and April.
Duties and Responsibilities:
- Prepares various types of income and sales & use tax returns
- Prepare, analyze and summarize tax information into easily understood documents
- Research and respond to notices received by various taxing jurisdictions
- Prepare account reconciliations and journal entries related to tax accruals
- Provide support for tax modeling
- Research and provide summaries of various tax matters
Qualifications and Requirements:
- Bachelor’s degree in Accounting or Business Administration
- Pursuing a Masters of Taxation or Accountancy degree with a desire to pursue a career in tax
- Experience with Microsoft Office
Apply through Handshake – # 12345
Resume Deadline: January 1, 20XX
Should I pay an intern?
Paid internships fairly compensate interns for the work they are performing for the organization. Importantly, paid positions yield a deeper and more skilled pool of applicants for the position. Receiving payment for their work creates a stronger feeling of loyalty and investment for an intern, which often translates to a willingness to commit to full-time positions. An initial investment in paying an intern can provide a viable pipeline for dedicated long-term employees – reducing the high costs for new employee hiring and training.
Beyond these reasons for providing payment, there are legal concerns which must be addressed in the decision to pay or not pay an intern. Organizations need to ensure their positions are in compliance with the US Department of Labor’s Test for Unpaid Interns.
The following six criteria must be applied when making the determination to NOT provide payment. All 6 criteria must be true:
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
If ALL of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the intern. This exclusion from the definition of employment is necessarily quite narrow because the FLSA’s definition of “employ” is very broad.”
For more detailed information, please visit the DOL’s website.
Organizations may wish to bring in legal counsel with specific questions regarding compensating interns.
While academic credit can be seen by some companies as an alternate form of compensation, many students do not value or need academic credit as they have to pay for the credits.
How do I calculate a Fair Wage?
The average hourly wage rate for a bachelor’s degree intern is $16.57 (includes all BA disciplines, including engineering which tends to pay the highest for internships and new hires). Average internship salaries for business students range from $10.00-$17.00/hour depending on the level of specific and technical skills required. Generally, the closer to the terminal degree, the higher the internship wage. A college senior, for example, averages 20% more than a student who just completed the freshman year: $17.94 versus $15.05 per hour.
In addition to wages, many employers add benefits to their internship compensation packages. The most popular benefit: relocation assistance, with roughly three out five employers providing their interns with relocation assistance or a housing stipend. Also popular, (with approximately half of employers) are social activities for interns and holiday pay.
Having more competitive wages and additional benefits will allow your internship to stand out against competing companies. The current labor shortages are allowing students to “shop around” for the best fit for them.
Academic credit for internships:While academic credit can be seen by some companies as an alternate form of compensation, many students do not value or need academic credit as they have to pay for the credits.
Many of the top internship programs offer stipends to their interns to cover the cost of the credits earned. This is especially important for Summer internships.
It is the student’s responsibility to initiate this process through the Bracken Center
Should they have questions or concerns you can refer them to the Bracken Center for support. To receive academic credit, the student will register for the credit, write a reflection paper on their
Time Commitments and Expectations:
How many hours per week should an intern work?
During the academic year (August- May), internships are part-time, between 9-20 hours a week; and should be flexible, as it is generally something a student pursues while also taking classes. Summer internships, or those during a quarter in which the student is not enrolled in courses, can require up to 40 hours a week.
How many weeks or months is a typical internship?
An average internship is 4-5 months coinciding with a typical academic semester. An internship should be long enough for the intern to get into the rhythm of the position and complete deliverables that are valuable to you and them.
Identifying and Recruiting Talent:
How can I find the best possible intern?
The best way to recruit top talent is to be an actively engaged employer on campus. We encourage employers to develop and maintain strong relationships with the Bracken Center who can assist you with gaining exposure and building relationship with students. It is our aim for all employers to consider the Bracken Center as the main “hub” and resource for many of your recruiting needs.
How do I advertise my internship to Montana State Univeristy students?
A key way to advertise your internship is through the Montana State Univerity’s online job and internship board, Handshake.
What are the benefits of Handshake and partnering with the Bracken Center?
Handshake allows you to post your position and manage the recruitment process – including selecting candidates and scheduling interviews. You can set your resume deadlines, review all of the submitted resumes and select the students who you wish to interview. With a few simple clicks, e-mails will be automatically generated to inform selected students to schedule an interview. Should you need support or assistance with Handshake or wish to reserve an interview room, please contact The Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success.
Bracken Center Career Opportunity Emails
Distributed to all Jabs School students on weekly basis, the Bracken Center career opportunity email can be an effective platform to highlight your positions. The Bracken Center staff will vet opportunities to be selected in the email.
You may wish to participate in an upcoming Internship Fair or recruitment event, below are our two major recruitment events.
Meet the Accounting RecruitersAccounting firms and recruiters are invited to attend this event and meet current students and some recent graduates in the undergraduate Accounting program, the Master of Professional Accountancy and the Finance programs. This event offers recruiters the opportunity to introduce students from Jabs to internships and careers available in their organization.
Meet the Business RecruitersThis event is offered the evening before each Career Fair (one in the fall, one in the spring). The evening offers business recruiters an opportunity to meet and mingle with Jabs students in an informal setting. Recruiters may have internship or career positions available or just want to connect and network with students.
Additional Event Opportunities
The Bracken Center offers a number of annual recruiting events which you may wish to participate in. These include Career Fairs, conferences, employer panels and workshops.
Supervising and Managing Interns:
The following guidelines are communicated to students to ensure they are successful interns. We encourage employers to reinforce the internship as a learning experience – including setting goals, gaining real-world skills, and operating as a professional.
- Set obtainable goals based on your aspirations and the employer’s needs.
What do you hope to get out of an internship? Regularly refer back to the goals as you progress in your internship experience. This will allow you to draw connections between your internship, academic coursework, and future career interests.
- Be sure to communicate with your supervisor and ask for what you need.
Ask questions when you have them and clarification when you need it. Update your supervisor on progress you make or roadblocks you run into, and communicate regularly with him/her.
- Show interest in the work you are doing, and how it contributes to the overall organization.
- Measure your progress and document your work.
Make notes for yourself as you go as to projects you are involved with, and keep copies of your work.
- Be professional, positive and productive.
Arrive at your internship on time, dressed in clothes appropriate for the setting. Don’t take or make personal calls or check personal email, except on lunch break if approved by your organization. Be a positive and friendly presence in the office.
- Challenge yourself, but don’t overextend.
While it is understandable that you want to ‘show what you can do’ in an internship, one way to have an unsatisfactory experience is to get yourself involved in so many tasks or projects that you aren’t able to complete them with quality results.
- Most employers look at internships as a mutually beneficial experience.Ensure you are learning and consciously developing skills while also working hard to advance the mission and work of the organization for which you are interning.
Internal Evaluation and Closure:
What are some guidelines for evaluating interns’ work?
At the outset of the internship, share with the student the duties and responsibilities associated with the position. This sets clear expectations and provides a framework for evaluation and feedback.
It can be useful to set aside time at the mid-point and at the conclusion of the internship to provide formal feedback and advice. During these meetings you may wish to discuss the intern’s goals and learning objectives as well as provide performance feedback – both positive and constructive.
Although not required for non-credit internships, you may wish to use our internship evaluation form to guide your conversation. For those students who are doing the internship for credit, completing the form is a requirement.
What should be done to provide closure to the internship?
At the conclusion of the internship, it can be rewarding for the intern to share key learnings they have gained. If they have been working on a specific project, it may be appropriate for them to present their work to business leaders. This type of formal, final presentation can be an excellent learning opportunity itself and can serve as a capstone or celebration of their work.
Intern supervisors are also encouraged to provide closure on the internship experience by:
- Offering advice, insights and sharing information about your own career path and interests
- Conducting an exit interview in which you discuss what went well, what you see as strengths, and what areas you would suggest additional growth in. Feedback received through this process can also assist you in enhancing your internship program for future interns.
- Suggesting relevant professional organizations they should consider becoming part of, or affiliations and certifications they should seek in order to be successful in your field.
- Offering to provide a reference, if appropriate.
Proving References For Interns:
If a student who has interned with your organization asks to use your name as a reference for a job application, here are some tips:
- Discuss the type of reference you will provide with your intern. If you cannot provide a good reference, be honest with the individual. (i.e. you do not know them well or have not closely supervised them).
- There is no such thing as “off the record.” Informal discussions with prospective employers regarding a person’s performance should be avoided.
- Do not include information that might indicate an individual’s race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, citizenship status, sex, or marital status.
- Information should be factual, based upon personal knowledge/observation of the student through direct contact, or obtained from the personnel record or student record.
- Avoid giving personal opinions or feelings. If you make subjective statements or give opinions because they are requested, clearly identify them as opinions and not as fact.
- Relate references to the specific position for which the student has applied and to the work that the applicant will perform.
- State in the reference letter: “This information is confidential and should be treated as such. It is provided at the request of (name of student), who has asked me to serve as a reference.”
International Interns: Working with Non-US Citizens:
International students are eligible to work in internship positions provided they can secure Curricular Practical Training (CPT). This is temporary authorization for practical training directly related to their major or field of study. “Practical training” can include employment, internship experience (paid or unpaid), cooperative (co-op) education experience, practicum participation, etc. CPT is authorized by the MSU Office of International Student Programs (OIP) office in accordance with the F-1 Visa regulations.
It is the student/intern’s responsibility to apply for CPT and any associated academic credits to maintain their F-1 Visa status. As an employer you can anticipate your intern will provide you with an I-20 form to allow them to work.
Selected Best Practices For Internships:
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. The work should be challenging, recognized by the organization as valuable, and fill the entire work term.
Hold orientations for all involved
Orientations ensure that everyone starts with the same expectations and role definitions –managers and mentors and interns. This is time well spent—the effort you put into these sessions will pay off throughout the program.
Have an intern manager
Having a dedicated manager for your intern program is the best way to ensure it runs smoothly and stays focused on your criteria for success. Unfortunately, the size and resources available to most internship programs mean this is not always possible. This gives the interns a “go-to” person, and gives you and your staff a break from the many daily tasks involved in running a program of any size.
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.
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. Some employers may continue work with interns on a part-time or remote basis.
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. Focus groups can also yield information about what your competitors are doing that students find appealing.
Showcase intern work through presentations
Students work very hard at completing their projects and assignments and are generally proud of their accomplishments. Setting up a venue for them to do presentations allows them to practice their formal business presentation skills, demonstrate their achievements, and also showcase the internship program to all employees.
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. Having the students fill out an exit survey and bring it to the interview gives some structure to the conversation
For more information, check out the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ 15 Best Practices for Internship Programs.