The top 5 mistakes many SME’s make when recruiting interns

There are a huge number of blogs out there aimed at the mistakes interns make when they are brought in to work at a company, and yet a remarkable few actually dealing with the mistakes that companies make.

This kind of thinking highlights something interesting; the difference in value people place on interns compared to the companies they operate in.

Interns are not temporary filing assistants, nor are they there to make coffee for the rest of the office – hiring an intern is a chance to not only get a brand new perspective on the way your company operates (programmers call this rubber duck testing), but it is a chance to take advantage of any new technological advancements or best practices that may have passed your company by.

So what are the biggest mistakes SME’s can make when they decide to bring in an intern?


1. Underestimating the value interns can bring to any organisation

As previously mentioned, interns are not there to be the new industry coffee-mule. The benefits a business can gain from working with a fresh graduate full of new ideas cannot be understated.

With social media as one area of note, even your most experienced executive can fast find themselves out of the loop when it comes to new technology, whereas graduates are part and parcel with the technological melting pot that comes with youth.

The simple question ‘why do you do it like this’? Is invaluable, and a question rarely voiced by an existing employee – coupled with an education in a relevant field, however, that question becomes ‘why don’t you do it this way?’

A business that does not innovate cannot succeed, and new ideas often come from new people.

2. Not paying your intern

If your intern is actually working and not just shadowing, it is illegal not to pay them at least the minimum wage. Businesses can be fined and interns can claim back their wages afterwards. Don’t be tempted to try your luck! The ROI of hiring an intern or graduate is still 5:1 so it is still more than worth doing.

3. Nepotism

Nepotism may indeed help secure future business relationships with clients – by hiring someone in this way, you may be getting a benefit in one area – but it’s a definite risk. The odds are that someone not properly vetted could cause more damage than good to your business. It may seem harmless for a low-level position such as an internship, but what if that client then expects you to offer a role to someone you haven’t seen excel?

If you hire an intern clearly unsuited to the environment they are placed in, it will draw questions from your employees. When given the option to improve workplace practices, staff will naturally resent having their time wasted on what they see as babysitting.

4. Hiring an intern you don’t need

If someone were to ask you ‘why do you want to hire this person?’ what would you say? If you don’t have clear reasons for hiring an intern, you may be wasting your time.

If neither you, nor your employees have time to spare showing somebody the ropes, then any intern you bring on will either be left to their own devices, or be given busywork. There are clear benefits to bringing in an intern, so hiring someone without being willing to make that time investment is counter-productive.

5. Recruiting more of the same

What benefit is there to your company in hiring the same type of person year on year? Surely your business would thrive with some level of diversity? Treat your new hire as an opportunity to learn, without having to commit to a full-time member of staff.

Do you have issues with SEO? Why not hire a technically minded graduate. There are a host of tasks within any business that would benefit from a fresh approach, and an intern is perfectly placed to ask questions no one is willing to.


Hiring an intern isn’t an excuse to give someone the work you don’t have time to do – it’s a chance to teach what you know, and to understand the subject that much better yourself for it. It’s an opportunity to have your departments looked at from a completely neutral standpoint, and it’s a means of testing somebody’s suitability for employment in a risk-free way.

Figures from the National Association of Colleges and Employers mark 67% of interns as receiving job offers after their internship comes to a close – with such a unique chance to grow your business at your fingertips, can you afford to be complacent?

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