The US Department of Labor has put forth 6 requirements if you are planning on hiring unpaid interns in your company (SEO, or otherwise). For the past 3 years or so we’ve had a very successful internship program at Elite Strategies.
Many of our interns have gone on to gain full-time employment with our company or have gained employment from other marketing agencies.
Here are the requirements taken directly from the DoL website.
Essentially the main point is that the intern should be given credit hours in exchange for work, and the intern really shouldn’t be substituted for a full time position.
For instance, if you are an SEO company you can have an intern write some content or build some links, but they can’t be your primary content writer. You also must provide guidance to them i.e. give them meaningful on the job training.
For starters you should really develop a curriculum for each intern you bring on. We have 4 basic internship profiles at our company:
For each intern profile, we created a curriculum for each profile. For example our general intern who is geared towards a student with a wealth of knowledge but is unsure what direction they want to head in is given a curriculum with these main points:
During the internship interview process you need to establish a few things. You need to find out what hours they are available and what direction they want to head in.
Once you have their hours and their interests, you can give them a packet that includes the hours they will be working (usually 10-20 hours per week) and a curriculum for work purposes.
This part is tricky but is actually way easier than it seems. I’m not going to give away all the secrets on this one but you basically need to form a relationship with someone at the University and go from there. Once you are “in” with them they will tell you what they need from you. With one university all we needed to do was send the hours they interned. Another university required us to submit a weekly report on what they completed. In short, it varies.
We normally do a hardcore push 2x a year, summer and winter. We run a PPC ad on Facebook targeting local students, and also post on local college / university campuses. We also created a landing page to collect sign-ups. If you are an established internship provider you’ll get a bit more assistance in getting interns.
This year for instance, we closed off our application window within a week because we got such a large response. The first year is the hardest, but if you do a good.
If you have a good plan of action and show your interns that you are a reputable company that is going to teach them something, you will no doubt be able to find several good interns within a short period of time.
As far as “how many” interns to hire, that is up to you. We usually don’t take on more than 2-3 at a time. We have a small office so we really can only handle a few at a time. Your call.
Many people think that having interns is just as simple as having a pool of free labor. It is not that easy. Most interns crave knowledge and want the experience so they can work at a big firm. They do not want to do “busy work.” We’ve had several interns quit because they felt we did not challenge them enough. We learned from this rather quick which is the point where we started creating curriculum.
Personally, I was lucky enough to have an internship at an ISP in the early 2000’s. They didn’t trust me with any of the really important stuff, but I had the opportunity to learn the inner workings of the company and learn many valuable skills.
For more info checkout this nifty handout from the DoL.