Hiring An Intern And How To Set Up A Fun Program In 5 Steps

Not every personality is good for managing and hiring an intern. We’ve had paid and non-paid interns and have learned lots so that it’s a win-win internship program. I’ll share the 5 things that have helped us the most.

5 Steps To Set Up An Internship Program:

  1. List Out Projects
  2. Create Weekly Challenges
  3. Know Your Company Mission & Guiding Principles
  4. Market Your Internship Program
  5. Interview and Onboard


When you market that you are looking for interns you will have lots of applicants however if you don’t have clarity in these 5 areas your intern will slack off and you’ll end up letting them go. I don’t want you to waste your time or energy. You can set up an internship program that is profitable and fun for everyone.

Hiring An Intern And Setting Up A Fun Program

We used to only do non-paid internships and I used the company Acadium but it was just hard to find quality interns in the US. You’d think with the pandemic and more people at home learning they’d be able to complete the 10 hours of work a week and communicate if something comes up but to have interns you hired ghost you are annoying.

Here’s the grim reality of unpaid interns…

“An estimated 500,000 to one million Americans work as unpaid interns every year.”

“Around 43% of internships are unpaid.”

“In the US House of Representatives, 61% of legislators do not pay their interns.” – Intern Stats

The best interns are ones from church or someone who interned for one of our clients. For 5 years, I typically have 1 intern and the most I’ve had at one time was 3.

I talked to friends with marketing agencies who have interns and most are non-paid since so many universities require so it’s a high demand but one pays $500 per semester. So this is what we will be trying out and I already have it up on our internship website page.

Here are the 5 things to do so that you have a successful internship program.

List Out Projects

These projects need to have a clear SOP (standard operating process). An intern wants to learn, they need extra patience, and they want to finish the internship feeling confident in the skillset.

This is a screenshot of one section of an internship landing page we created. Most people are looking for internships to complete their 2 requirements for college so make sure if you want a page up on your website like this you get it up by November or July before the semester starts.

Each semester we have 4 positions available for 4 interns. They don’t learn EVERYTHING on the list but we do have SOPs for each item.

It’s hard when an intern says, “I want to learn anything and everything about marketing”. So keep asking questions to learn what they are interested in learning so that you don’t hire someone who gets bored or just doesn’t care about doing good work.

I hired an intern once who was in their third year of graphic design school. His first task was making carousel graphics for Instagram.

He didn’t follow our branding guide or the style of our Instragam.

I kept guiding him with loom videos for 2 weeks.

It was frustrating when he’d argue with me and wasn’t coachable. I thought I asked all the right questions while interviewing and he had all the right answers. So don’t feel bad if you have to let someone go.

Even though I thought I picked the MOST simplest thing to do when it comes to graphic design and using Canva that already has templates it just didn’t work out.

But when I hired an interior designer and gave her the same task, BOOM she has an eye for design and was probably the intern that surprised me the most with her gifts that she didn’t even know she had but I pulled them out of her during the internship program.

When the intern tells you what skill set they’d like to master within the next 3 months. Pick 1 or 2 from your list and make sure you have SOPs.

Are you still thinking of hiring an intern? I know you can make it a fun experience. Keep reading.

Create Weekly Challenges

Having SOPs will help you to create weekly challenges or to-dos. Your internship can’t be boring! Make it fun. You can even add something like watching “The Social Deimema” on Netflix (so another documentary in your industry) and comment on this social media post.

Make hiring an intern FUN!

Yeah, they will take a couple of hours to not do client work for you but this helps them grow and think more creatively, strategically, or out of the box.

Most college internships are 12 months for 10 hours per week.

I’ve had interns from Point Loma High School and those range from 2 to 4 hours a week.

Now that you know how many weeks you are hiring an intern for and how many hours list out a weekly challenge that ends with them being proficient in the 1-2 things they said they wanted to accomplish.

When you do this right your intern will feel confident and acknowledge you at the end that you helped them achieve that goal.

Make them simple starting from easy tasks to harder ones. This allows you to test out their skills and how they follow the SOPs. Just give them 1 task at a time. I never show them all the challenges so they don’t get overwhelmed. This also gives your room to make changes if they are moving along quicker or need extra time to complete a to-do list.

Know Your Company Mission & Guiding Principles

This should probably be the first one but I didn’t think it sounded sexy and I wanted you to keep reading. You need to have a clear vision and mission so that you lead your employees and interns well.

You may be thinking yeah I have a mission statement…I challenge you. Ask your employees what it is. Ask your stakeholders. I’m sure they don’t have it memorized.

“If you start with a good mission statement, you can conquer the world.” – Donald Miller

If you’ve been following us for the past couple of years then you know we are big fans of StoryBrand and they have online courses to help grow your business.

Business Made Simple University has “Mission Statement Made Simple” this is different than your BrandScript or OneLiner.

This will inspire your intern and it will help you only get applicants who line up with your mission. This makes hiring an intern is easy.

Market Your Internship Program

Pick a couple from this list. If you can get 3 people to apply then you’ll be able to pick the best one.

  • Make a “We’re Hiring Interns” graphic in Canva & make all the right sizes for each social media
  • Post on social media – Instagram Stories, LinkedIn Company, and personal page, post it up everywhere
  • Put it up on Craig’s List
  • Speak at universities and end with a CTA (call to action) of “apply for an internship by going to ….”
  • Ask people in your Bible study class
  • Make an internship page on your website

If you like having interns and you do a great job then your interns will refer their friends. Eventually, you’ll have a list of universities and individuals who would be great candidates or great referral partners.

Interview and Onboard

I already talked about asking the right questions during the interview. One of our REBEL core values is Relationships Matter. This means that we get a feel and trust our gut or intuition on the call. I always pray that red flags will show up on that call so I don’t hire the wrong intern.

Hiring an intern is exciting but you’ve got to immediately onboard them in a simple way.

Onboarding Process:
  1. Send welcome to the team email – this has the new company email details, how to log into Basecamp so they can see the to-dos/weekly challenges, and I ask them if they’ve taken a personality test like Strengths Finder, Myers Briggs, or Enneagram.
  2. Schedule first training call – this is where I go over how to use the software tools they will use, I show them how to use the SOPs, and I assign them their first-week to-dos.
  3. Schedule weekly check-in call – we go over what worked, didn’t work, and what they need from me to move the project forward.

We don’t ever promise to hire them for a regular paid position. But I’d never considered hiring an intern if I didn’t see the potential and didn’t have the budget to hire them once their internship is complete.

Think about it they do amazing work but you just let them go even though they want to keep working for you. Yeah, that is weird and doesn’t feel good. I normally move them up to 20 hours a week and whatever the going rate is here in San Diego if it’s someone local.

Take Action!

Like I said earlier, if you don’t know your mission and guiding principles for your local business then you won’t attract hiring an intern that’s irresponsible and they won’t stick with you once the 3 months are complete.

You need a clear company culture.

That starts with your mission statement.

I take leadership teams through this over a series of 3 calls. Click on the blue button at the top of this page to schedule a call to see if we are a good fit.

Or you can go through the course at Business Made Simple University if you are more of a DIY business owner. It only takes you 4 hours.

I think this is the one missing thing that makes hiring an intern fail.

Was something missing from my list that made a difference when you did an internship program back in college?

Let me know in the comments.


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