This post was written by Jessica Farmer, who has firsthand experience with internships—albeit from the other side of the equation. She’s currently a marketing and English writing intern at VeraContent.

If you run a company, you’ve probably considered hiring an intern at some point. And if not, you should; internships can be highly beneficial for both businesses and young professionals for a variety of reasons.

What’s more, the concept of quality internships is evolving as students and recent graduates seek to set themselves apart in today’s challenging job market. In this increasingly competitive environment, it’s more important than ever to optimize the internship experience.

In this post, I’ll make the case for hiring an intern—especially an international one—and tell you how to design an internship that benefits everyone involved.

Why should you hire an intern?

An internship can completely transform a young person’s career, setting them on the path to future success. In fact, the lack of an internship or other work experience on a recent graduate’s CV is a huge disadvantage, making these opportunities absolutely essential.

In a study on the graduate market in 2020, two fifths of the companies surveyed said that they were unlikely to hire a graduate with no previous work experience, regardless of their academic accolades. To put it simply, internships give young professionals the experience and skills they need to get hired later on.

In my case, my internship in Madrid has allowed me to enhance my linguistic and cultural knowledge while improving my writing and marketing skills—and I know that after graduation, it’ll be a valuable part of my CV.

How internships benefit businesses 

While internships provide huge advantages for interns, they can also be a great asset for companies.

First of all, there’s the somewhat cliche idea that interns can help with technology and social media—which is actually true to some extent. Most interns are young students or recent graduates who are highly familiar with new and emerging platforms like TikTok, Instagram and even Zoom, thanks to the recent explosion of remote study.

If your company is trying to modernize or digitalize operations, interns can be a uniquely valuable asset.

Then there’s the fact that quality internships often lead to full-time jobs. If your intern works hard and develops the skills that your company requires, it may be more efficient to hire them directly rather than searching for a new candidate. This eliminates the need for training and onboarding, allowing them to jump right into the new role as soon as the internship ends.

The value of international interns

Hiring an international intern can be especially valuable, as they’ll bring a new perspective and cultural background to your team. And today it’s never been easier to work with people across the world—remote internships could be the way of the future.

“Remote work has opened up so many possibilities, like the ability to connect with people who were previously inaccessible due to geographical constraints.” – Inken Kuhlmann-Rhinow, EMEA marketing director at HubSpot

Opening up your internships to international students can also help you attract the best candidates. Many top universities encourage their highest-achieving students to intern abroad, and set learning objectives that incentivize hard work and development throughout the experience. International internships also give students a competitive advantage in the job market.

How to design the optimal internship

Once you’ve decided to hire an intern, you need to identify what kind of profile you’re seeking and take steps to attract candidates who fit the bill.

The internship market is highly competitive, so you have to start the hiring process with a good idea of what you’re looking for and the value you’ll provide to interns. Make sure you’re clear about the benefits of the internship and the experience or skills required.

Identify incentives

First, determine what kind of compensation you’re offering. Economic incentive shouldn’t be the main reason for an intern to accept a role, but be realistic about the level of work you’re demanding. Don’t fall into the stereotype of companies that take advantage of unpaid interns—always offer fair compensation.

That said, for many interns salary is less important than professional growth. The best interns are looking for hands-on work experience, professional challenges and networking opportunities. As you design the role, clearly identify how you’ll meet these expectations.

Assign challenging tasks

The days of interns fetching coffee are over. The best candidates aren’t looking for busy work; they want to be challenged and make a genuine contribution to the company. They won’t accept a position in which they’ll be doing tedious tasks instead of receiving practical training.

However, you have to give interns the chance to learn and make mistakes without facing unreasonable pressure. It’s crucial to strike a balance between hands-on experience with real client projects and internal tasks that provide more flexibility. Make sure you let candidates know what kind of work they’ll actually be doing, with clear examples and explanations.

Set a schedule and structure

Establish the internship schedule in advance, and define a structure that makes sense. Interns should be integrated into the daily operations of your company as much as possible. They should be able to manage their time effectively and maintain a healthy work-life balance, just like any other employee.

For me, it’s been extremely helpful to have set working hours during my internship abroad. One of the best parts of this experience is cultural immersion, and knowing when I’ll have time off allows me to maximize my free time to practice my language skills and experience Madrid.

Check out our interview with Nushrinah Sadeer, who developed her skills and confidence through an internship at NetApp.

Finding an internship in 2020 – My own story

I had everything lined up for an internship abroad this year, but in June the opportunity was canceled. Suddenly I was back to square one, and I spent the whole summer searching for a new internship.

With COVID-related concerns, the halt of Erasmus funding and the challenges of traveling solo during the pandemic—on top of all the usual issues involved—it was no easy task to find the right fit.

After all this uncertainty, I landed my current role as a marketing and English writing intern at VeraContent. Despite the difficulties I’ve faced along the way, this internship has become an incredibly enriching experience for my professional and personal development.

That’s why I want to help other people find the same kind of success, and inspire companies to fully invest in the internship process. I truly believe that hiring an intern can be a gamechanger for your business, while also providing an invaluable opportunity to a young professional.

I hope that in 2021, you put these tips into practice to create an internship experience that’s exciting, enjoyable and rewarding for all involved.

You may also be interested in reading: How to attract great marketing interns in 2021