Hiring Options: Should You Hire Interns?

Hiring Options is a series to outline some of the different options you have for growing your team. I'll cover W2 Employees, Freelance/Independent Contractors, and Interns.  I will include things to consider before deciding what kind of employment relationship you want and where to find people once you’ve decided.

Ahh, the wonderful idea of getting a sharp, motivated college kid to do the work you don’t want to do, for little or no pay at all… It sounds dreamy, right?  

Alas, as in most things, you get what you pay for, as well as what you put into it.

The reality is – most entrepreneurs aren’t clear enough on what they need to have done, and how to train someone to do it for internships to be successful.

I know this because I have failed at hiring interns several times. I have had over 10 interns in my companies over the years. I consistently overestimate what they will be capable of and the priority level work has in their life. My last intern was in 2012. She was a smart, capable woman. She was the best intern I’ve ever had.

But, I failed her.

I had a lot of projects and I changed direction a lot. She didn’t know if she’d be working on social media or graphic design when she came to work. She adapted, but I am sure I only got about 65% of her potential because I kept changing direction on her.


The entrepreneurs who have the most success with interns are people who are willing to invest time, energy and money into growing a great employee out of an intern.

Chances are they cut their management teeth on someone else’s dime, and now they can use those skills to get the most out of an intern. They have specific tasks for the intern to do, they have the systems and processes ready for them to use, they make sure they train them and are available for questions.

Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs aren’t naturally wired for day to day employee management. They want to lead, not make sure people are showing up on time.

Check out Difference between a leader and a manager.

Many entrepreneurs struggle to devote enough time and energy to truly set the intern up for success.

The Realities:

  • If you’ve been dreaming of an unpaid intern who will work for free and won’t take a lot of your time, you will probably be disappointed.  Internships are usually paid and to get the best candidates, you need to pay a competitive wage.
  • Most colleges require there be an actual office to go to – so working out of a home office it may make it a non-starter.
  • Almost every college has a different internship or co-op program.  Contact their career services department to learn about requirements.  Career Services can also let you know what similar internships are paying.

Now – if you are willing to put in the time to create the clear expectations, the processes, and the systems to set them up for success and take the time to manage their work very closely – you could very well succeed with interns.   I know that it is a route I am probably done taking.  Simply because I’ve found types of employees that work better for me – like virtual assistants.

You know what Zig says about motivation – right?

Like bathing, he recommends it daily. If you need some daily hiring motivation, check out our Facebook Group for daily tips on how to find and hire great employees!



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About Rikka

Rikka’s the go-to girl for growth-minded multiple six, seven, and eight figure entrepreneurs and leaders who understand the power of recruiting and retaining the right people to achieve their business (+lifestyle) goals.