Internships are a great way to “test-drive” potential employees for your company and provide new workers with valuable experience to build their careers. If you’re looking for fresh talent to invigorate your accounting firm, try devising an internship program that not only teaches young graduates on-the-job skills, but also helps you evaluate performance to find the best possible new employee.
Design a Constructive Internship
Too many companies fall into the trap of offering internships as a cheap way to get menial jobs done. A well-designed, goal-oriented internship has huge potential benefits for not only the intern, but your accounting firm as well.
A good internship program treats the intern as a permanent staff member. When designing an internship for recruiting purposes, think about the job that you want to eventually hire for. What responsibilities and day-to-day tasks would this hypothetical employee have? While an intern shouldn’t have as many responsibilities as an employee, they should be given a reasonable amount of work to do. The work should be relevant and educational to someone looking for a full-time accounting position.
Prepare a specific project for an intern to do during their time at your company. This should be something a little more in-depth than organizing the filing room. You might give your intern a position helping to assemble a quarterly report, for example. Ideally, you want to strike a balance between giving interns too little work and overwhelming them with an excessive workload.
Know the Laws
Before setting up an internship program and recruiting candidates, be sure you understand the laws surrounding fair wages and work hours for interns. Each Canadian province has slightly different laws concerning internships, but in most cases, unpaid internships are illegal unless the internship is specifically designed as part of an education program. This might mean that an intern has to apply through an approved post-secondary institution or that the internship is set up as a vocational training program or apprenticeship.
Unpaid internships are generally frowned upon with a few minor exceptions. For the accounting industry, you should be prepared to pay your interns at least the provincial minimum wage. The lowest minimum wage in Canada as of 2018 is Alberta’s $9.40 per hour. Most other provinces have a minimum wage of just over $10 per hour.
Evaluate and Hire
Document everything that happens over the course of the internship program. If your program is well-designed with a firm goal in mind, it should be easy to determine how effectively you’re achieving that goal with the help of your interns. A good way to keep track of an internship is to have the interns themselves check in with regular self evaluations. Create a few simple documents with fields where interns can specify what work they’ve done, share how they feel about their progress, and address any comments or concerns that might come up.
As a recruiter, you should also be looking for how the internship is affecting the regular function of your firm. Is the presence of an intern helping productivity, or are your employees spending too much time assisting junior interns with tasks? Do you feel your interns are receiving appropriate training for eventual work in the field or at your firm in particular? Meet with your permanent staff a few times during the internship to discuss these questions.
Hiring recent graduates as interns benefits your company in a variety of ways. New graduates offer an up-to-date, relevant skill set, and they have a reputation for being more enthusiastic and innovative on the job. Use a well-evaluated internship program to find the best possible fit for your company and revitalize your accounting business.