Internship Best Practices

UNH's Career and Professional Success team has developed best practices and standards for hiring UNH students as interns

Internships at the University of New Hampshire are housed within different areas of the University including colleges, departments and programs. In efforts to simplify, UNH Career and Professional Success has created a guide to provide employers with a strong foundation of resources to define and develop internships.

The best practices below cover types of internships, policies, internship development, recruiting, and guidance during an internship

Internship Defined

The Association of American Colleges & Universities define internships as high impact, experiential learning opportunities, working to close the gap between the knowledge students gain academically and the skills needed for entry as new professionals in the job market. Internships are utilized by students either exploring career options related to their area of study or for those who want to sharpen their desired industry-related skills to springboard into careers after graduation. Internships challenge students to pursue their short-term and long-term plans all while being supervised by industry professionals that can help guide and mentor them with ongoing feedback and skill developmentWhile designed to benefit the student in their learning, internships also bring benefits to the employer 

Internship Criteria

  • The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom.  It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work of a regular employee 

  • The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings 

  • The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications 

  • There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework 

  • There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience 

  • There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor 

  • There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals 

Benefits to the Employer

  • Develop a pipeline to hiring future employees, reducing onboarding and recruiting costs
  • Evaluate and guide prospective talent to industry needs
  • Enhance perspective by bringing new people and fresh ideas to your team
  • Increase productivity with a low-cost extra set of hands to help with short or long-term projects
  • Build your business brand and recognition on college campuses
  • Improve the workforce development shortage in the state of New Hampshire by keeping and attracting young professionals to the state

Key Attributes of an Internship

  • Experience – The type of experience, exposure, and expectations a student obtains 

  • Duration – Define how long and how many hours is required 

  • Mentorship – Provide the student with a resource that is committed to the learning who does not directly supervise 

Types of Internships

There are many types of internships available at the University of New Hampshire. It is important to know the difference between the types prior to establishing your positions. 

Paid Internships 

Internships that offer an hourly wage or stipend for time at minimum wage or higher. 64% of students having internships have had at least one paid internship during their time at UNH. Employers can determine the rate of pay. Compensation information is found under the section, “Developing Internships”. Paid internships are a best practice, and generally yield stronger candidate applications and talent pool. 

Unpaid Internships 

Internships that do not offer pay for their time. Unpaid internships must comply with the U.S. Department of Labor, Fair Labor Standards Act Fact Sheet #71. The internship is not being used as a substitute for a regular, paid employee or as a trial period. NH employers hosting an unpaid internship must receive approval through the NH Department of Labor. More information on DOL and FLSA are found under the section, “Developing Internships”. 

Credit-Bearing Internships 

Internships that fulfill credit hours. There are programs and majors that have required or optional internships for credit. Credit-bearing internships vary from program to program. As an employer looking to set up credit-bearing internships, note that credit-bearing internships are a student and faculty-driven process. Students wishing to complete internships for credit must work with their faculty member/academic advisor to see if the internship fits in their program. A faculty member will need to sign off on the internship paperwork including a learning agreement. Each college may have certain guidelines that the internship site will have to follow. If the internship is unpaid and credit-bearing, it will still need to follow DOL and FLSA standards. UNH students will have to pay for any academic credit they earn. 

Internships VS Cooperative (Co-Op) Education 

Internships are typically a semester or summer length. Co-Ops require a semester or summer away from campus for the position. At this moment in time not many programs are designed on the co-op model or timeframe with the exception of a couple academic departments.  


What is the difference between volunteering and an unpaid internship?

Volunteering refers to hours of service performed for an organization for "civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, with promise, expectation, or receipt of compensation for services rendered." (U.S. Department of Labor).

Unpaid Internships are different because they provide experience, learning outcomes, and skill development.

What is the difference between part-time employment and an internship?

Part-time employment refers to paying employees in exchange for doing a specific job.

Internships are different because they are an educational opportunity that provides work experience, learning outcomes and skill development.

Policies for Internships and Recruiting at the University of New Hampshire

Employers must adhere to University of New Hampshire, NACE Principles of Professional Practices, US Department of Labor and Federal Employment Laws (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Fair Labor Standards Act).  It is unlawful for employers to use screening criteria based on race, gender, ethnicity, marital status, disability, age, religion, pregnancy, sexual orientation, veteran status and political affiliation. 

NACE Principles of Professional Practice 

1. Practice reasonable, responsible, and transparent behavior … 

… that consciously avoids harmful actions by embodying high ethical standards. 
… by clearly articulating and widely disseminating your organization’s policies and guidelines. 
… that guarantees equitable services for all constituencies. 
… that is commensurate with professional association standards and principles. 
… when resolving differences and addressing concerns. 
… by nurturing sustainable relationships that are respectful and transcend transactions. 

2. Act without bias … 

… when advising, servicing, interviewing, or making employment decisions. 
… when defining what constitutes employment. 

3. Ensure equitable access … 

… without stipulation or exception relative to contributions of financial support, gifts, affiliation, or in-kind services. 
… in the provision of services and opportunities without discriminating on the basis of race, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability, age, or economic status. 
… by proactively addressing inclusivity and diversity. 

4. Comply with laws … 

… associated with local, state, and federal entities, including but not limited to EEO compliance, immigration, and affirmative action. 
… in a timely and appropriate way if complaints of non-compliance occur. 
… and respond to complaints of non-compliance in a timely and prudent manner. 

5. Protect confidentiality of … 

… all personal information related to candidates and their interviews, and their engagement with services, programs, and resources. 
… student information related to professional plans. 

U.S. Department of Labor Policies 

The U.S. Department of Labor provides general information to help determine whether interns and students working for “for-profit” employers are entitled to minimum wages and overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

Background 

The FLSA requires “for-profit” employers to pay employees for their work. Interns and students, however, may not be “employees” under the FLSA—in which case the FLSA does not require compensation for their work. 

The Test for Unpaid Interns and Students 

Courts have used the “primary beneficiary test” to determine whether an intern or student is, in fact, an employee under the FLSA. In short, this test allows courts to examine the “economic reality” of the intern/employer relationship to determine which party is the “primary beneficiary” of the relationship. Courts have identified the following seven factors as part of the test: 

  1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee—and vice versa. 
  2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions. 
  3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit. 
  4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar. 
  5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning. 
  6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern. 
  7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship. 

New Hampshire Department of Labor Process: Applicable for NH Employers Offering Unpaid Internships   

The RSA 279:22-aa requires that all unpaid, NH-based internships must be approved by the NH Department of Labor. This law is in employer’s best interest, setting a clear understanding that the unpaid work between intern and employer is tied to the student’s academic studies and no such student shall be allowed to replace an existing or a laid-off worker. It is the employer’s responsibility to fill out and have this on file with the Department of Labor. 

There are two forms associated with approval from the NH Department of Labor: 
  1. Pre-Screening – Form to be completed annually to ensure compliance NH labor laws 

    a. Employer to fill out and submit form directly to NH Department of Labor 

  2. Approval Form for Non-Paid Work-Based Activities – Form to be completed once to ensure internship specifics and documentation are in connection to student(s) academic studies.  

    a. Employer to fill out and submit form (along with the pre-screening form) directly to NH Department of Labor  

              b. ​​You will need to work with the student you plan to hire to connect to an academic course syllabus or program goals  

              c. An approval form is good and does not need to be re-submitted unless the academic program it is connected with changes over 90% 

Please view frequently asked questions here. For additional questions or concerns about the NH Department of Labor laws and approval process, please connect with inspectors at InspectionDiv@dol.nh.gov. 

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Developing Internships

Posting alone on UNH’s online jobs board will not guarantee applications or inquiries. Attracting students begins with designing an appealing internship experience, determining compensation, writing an eye-catching description and creating a recruitment plan. See below for more information on these parts.  

Outlining Needs 

Prior to hiring an intern, an employer must understand how interns will fit within the company’s goals and culture. Since organizations vary in age, size, industry, and product, so too will internship activities. 

Questions that may determine what kind of program will work best for you: 

  • What does your organization hope to gain from the program? 

  • Is your organization looking to fulfill a need on a specific project? Will this internship(s) encompass one major project, or entail a variety of small projects? 

  • What are the tools and workspace necessary to provide the student? 

  • What talents, academic background and experience do you want in an intern? Decide on qualifications early on to help you select the best candidate. 

  • Who will be primarily responsible for the intern(s)? Will that person be a mentor, supervisor, or both? 

Learn about prospective interns: Whether a college student or adult learner, we want to develop skills. The best way to know what skills an intern is hoping to gain is to ask in the interview. It is important that employers realize that school and classes must remain a top priority for interns if they are a current student. The internship position should enhance their learning experience. Understand that for most interns this is a new experience and they may need support in balancing their schoolwork and internship. Agreeing on a set number of hours interns will work each week and offering flex‐time for freedom to plan their schedules on a weekly basis are two ways to support balance. Required hours/credit may vary by school but most interns typically complete 10‐20 hours per week. The student intern should meet with an academic or internship advisor for further direction. 

Timing 

There are multiple options when internships can take place at the University of New Hampshire. Academic internships tend to fall within semesters. Summer internships are the most popular time of year. UNH's four internship timeframes: 

  • Fall Term 

    • Approximately end of August – Beginning of December 

    • Suggested timeframe to post: April to June 

  • January Term 

    • Approximately end of December – End of January 

    • Suggested timeframe to post: September to November 

  • Spring Term 

    • Approximately end of January – Beginning of May 

    • Suggested timeframe to post:  September to November 

  • Summer Term 

    • Approximately Mid-May – Mid-August 

    • Suggested timeframe to post: January to March 

UNH Students working on internship projects

A variety of academic programs across UNH require internships for course credit in order to graduate. Students are strongly encouraged to take multiple internships throughout their college careers and may do so with or without academic credit.  Students are advised to begin searching for an internship roughly one semester before it is required or wanted; this can help guide you for when to recruit for interns at UNH. For example, students looking for spring internships will start searching in the fall semester.  

The student’s availability to intern varies throughout the year. During the school year (end of August to Beginning of May) students do not have as much time to dedicate to an internship. With students enrolled in classes, internships during the school semester should be around 10-15 hours a week.  

Employers looking to host a summer internship would have more availability to have the intern work full-time hours. If the internship is unpaid during the summer, the hours should reflect part-time hours to allow the intern to work a part-time job to supplement their income.  

Credit-bearing internships are a heavily student driven process. A student is responsible for working with their academic advisor to set up an internship for credit to help determine hours based on credit hours. An employer looking to become a credit-bearing site should work with their intern on the items that need to be completed to set up the site.  

Compensating  

At the University of New Hampshire, students complete internships in a few different ways. The employer relations team can provide some information about what the average student at UNH is earning for an internship pay rate. Employers should research what interns are earning as location, industry, and position type are all factors when evaluating the offer. 

Paid Internship: 

  • Hourly compensation should be above minimum wage in the state the intern is completing the internship 

  • Stipends are another form of payment. For example, a semester-long internship could come with one lump sum of $1500 

Utilizing pay is one method to make your internship competitive.  However, there are other methods to compensate an intern. Internships are an opportunity to explore and gain experiences. Work-based learning opportunities can be incentives for a student to pick your internship program.  Opportunities such as: 

  • Professional development, trainings, and seminars  

  • Certifications and licensing  

  • A travel stipend for a conference 

  • Meals or transportation costs 

  • Invite them to and pay for industry dinners or other networking opportunities 

  • Meeting with the company CEO or organization’s Executive Director for lunch 

  • Collaboration or partnering with other businesses or organizations that your company works with 

  • Payment for membership to a professional association  

  • Results-based bonuses for performances 

  • Inclusion – show the intern the path to growth and how they might be a part of your organization after their internship or in the future. Include interns on staff meetings and strategic planning discussion 

  • Encourage interns to build awareness of the industry by connecting them with various staff at your organization to learn about their jobs, careers and their own path to advancement 

For further information on general internship compensation, please review NACE’s Intern Salary Guide. If you would like to know more specific UNH intern average compensation, your relationship manager can help provide some guidance.  Relationship managers are Career and Professional Success staff that are your primary points of contact for questions and concerns. You can find out more about relationship managers by connecting with CaPS Employer Relations team.  

Writing Descriptions 

Crafting the right posting is essential to attracting internship talent. The posting should have an introduction paragraph describing the organization as well as clear learning objectives or outcomes.  Below you will find some information that would be helpful in your job posting.  

Title: The title of the internship should be descriptive. It should be reflected in the title that it is an internship. 

Description: Start with the description of the company followed by the overview of the internship. This area should highlight what the student will learn from the experience. What is in it for the intern?  

Projects/Learning Objectives: MUST HAVE! This is important in experiential learning and internships. List all duties the intern will be performing. An internship should be an extension of their classroom knowledge, but should have hands-on real-world experience. Projects are great for interns to take on responsibilities that they are accountable for with the mentors monitoring. Clerical tasks should be no more than 20%.  Be as specific as possible!    

Qualifications: Describe your ideal candidate. Explain what type of background they should have. Many students will not have professional experience, so be descriptive in regard to the qualities and previous experience they may have from the classroom or part-time/ volunteer experience.   

Location: Where they will be working and make note of any traveling they may have to do.   

Position Pay Type: Paid, stipend, unpaid.   

Desired Majors or Skills: List all majors that are relevant. Keeping majors open can connect you with a larger population of students. Skills are useful to help students understand if they are qualified, but also can give students an idea of the skills they may learn in the internship. 

Desired Class: Juniors and seniors are more likely to look at internships, but motivated underclassman may be eligible too.   

Approximate Hours Per Week: How many days and the total number of hours in a week. Students should have a clear understanding of the number of hours needed to complete the internship. 

Target Start Date: Provide a rough estimate of when the intern would start, to help mediate the risk of the intern not accepting an offer due to the start date  

Recruiting 

Once an employer has successfully completed a posting in Handshake, the next step is to further grow their brand on campus. Sometimes just posting a position is not enough. Many employers find success by attending other career events that suit their organization and recruiting needs. Below are different options we have to help employers brand their organization on the University of New Hampshire campus. Your relationship manager can help identify which options are best for you.  

Interviewing for Internships

Coming soon...

Bridge to Ham Smith at UNH

During the Internship

Communicating 

Learning Agreements 

Learning agreements are required by faculty advisors when an internship is for course credit but are also good practice for experiential opportunities not related to academic credit. Learning agreements allow each party to establish learning goals and logistical needs. Students seeking credit are encouraged to prepare a minimum of three learning objectives. Objectives themselves should be agreed upon and written by both the employer and the student. Faculty advisors ultimately are the final approvers of all academic internships and will be the last person to sign off on the agreement.  

General Learning Agreement Components: 

  • Start and end dates 

  • Number of hours on site daily and days of week 

  • Direct supervisor's name and contact information 

  • Paid, Unpaid, Stipend 

  • Work Component - Job description 

  • Learning Objectives - Students develop, site supervisors and faculty approve

    • Cognitive Development

    • General or Technical Skill Development

    • Personal Growth and Development

  • Academic Component -Set by faculty (for academic credit only)

  • Signatures of agreement from all involved parties

Onboarding 

Provide an orientation for your newly hired intern. Orientations range from logistical items such as parking to organizational such as company culture and background. Keep in mind that for some students this is their first introduction to office etiquette. Never assume that a student ‘just knows’. Suggested areas to cover in an orientation are:  

Logistical  

  • Tour of space  

  • Phone, email and mail system  

  • Dress and appearance  

  • Parking 

  • Hours (including time off requests, calling in sick and how to submit their time)  

  • Suggested food location and options (with an emphasis where current employees frequent in order to network)  

Organizational  

  • Company materials to read (newsletters, annual reports, organizational charts, network, client and industry association websites)  

  • Organizational rules and policies  

  • Industry-specific language and acronyms 

  • Safety procedures and regulations 

  • Security clearance, confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements  

Managerial 

Define intern responsibilities  

  • Define specifics of their responsibilities, offer other training opportunities outside the scope of their specific opportunities and responsibilities 

  • Set performance expectations and the criteria for how they will be accessed

  • Schedule regular 1:1 supervision, discuss and establish supervision style  

  • Procedure for asking questions, who can be the contact when direct supervisor is unavailable  

  • Process for how work produced will be signed off on  

  • An introduction to other staff and the opportunity to shadow/interact with their work  

  • Understand passions and interests

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Training 

Train your intern. Similar to the importance of orientation, it is best to not assume that the student knows exactly what is expected of them in regard to their job specific duties. Training ensures that you have communicated the job and gives an opportunity for the student to ask questions and seek clarification. Training and professional development opportunities outside of the intern’s assigned duties also allow for further career exploration and are great for giving a more encompassing view of the industry.   

Mentoring and Feedback 

UNH Student searching for an internship at the UNH Career and Internship Fair

Mentoring

Mentoring an intern is critical to developing the future talent of your industry. According to the American Psychological Association, “a mentor is an individual with expertise who can help develop the career of a mentee”. An intern’s time at any site is to be managed. Their duties, projects, and services are to be supervised. Their talent, growth, skills, and development need to be mentored.   

Career and psychosocial development are the two primary purposes of a mentor.  

  • Career development encompasses assigning challenging work, giving a mentee exposure or visibility, protection, coaching, and sponsorship within an organization.  

  • Psychosocial developments are interpersonal functions such as role modeling, counseling, friendship, acceptance, and confirmation.  

Mentoring can be both formal and informal. There is no one size mentor relationship to fit all. Areas to consider when setting up a mentor relationship with your intern are: 

  • Personality types 

  • Communication style  

  • Learning preferences

  • Cultural differences 

Keep in mind that the individual managing or supervising the intern does not necessarily have to also be the mentor. Mentorship is an area where other professionals within your organization may be utilized to assist.   

Mentorship is not about creating a clone of one’s self. It is about guiding a young professional, infusing them with skills through opportunities and enabling them to grow as a professional. Growth requires more than assessment and appraisal. A mentor must have: 

  • Active Listening – Communication is key to a successful mentor relationship with your intern 

  • Role Modeling – Showcase the values, attitudes and behaviors needed in your industry to succeed 

  • Feedback – Provide the information needed for an intern to monitor their output and modify it for the next time 

Feedback 

The focus of feedback is on the value it will have for the recipient. It is vital to any professional’s development but for interns new to the professional world, exploring their industry of choice, feedback is essential. Orientation and training are necessary to establish expectations and responsibilities for your intern. Feedback is the tool that sharpens their skills, keeps them on track and helps them succeed in helping your organization. Feedback can be both formal and informal. It is ongoing throughout their internship and not just an evaluation at the end. Benefits to feedback are: 

  • Produces fruitful work 

  • Ensures shared vision, values and goals 

  • Energizes their contributions

  • Enables interns to see themselves in your company’s future vision 

A person’s ability to receive feedback is withdrawn when they: 

  • Feel unsafe

  • Need to defend themselves and/or their work  

  • Are unable to see how to apply feedback to improve future performance 


Feedback Best Practices

  • Provide feedback in a timely fashion. Feedback only at the end of a 12-week internship is useful for assessment but is not helping an intern learn and grow in the moment. Correct or praise behavior and work as it happens. 

  • Be clear and specific. If an intern performed well, tell them specifically what they did well and how it impacted the team or organization as a whole. In the areas needing improvement, clear and specific feedback is required for the intern to correct the behavior for the future. If constructive criticism isn’t specific the actions needed to correct the performance in the future will be unknown 

  • Deliver your feedback in a non-judgmental way. Feedback is intended to enhance a job performance. Give your intern a description of performance rather than a judgement of it being bad or not good enough. Use “I” statements.  

  • Make your feedback actionable. Give tips for improvement, resources to learn from and action steps your intern can utilize for next time. 

  • Follow up after feedback is given. Loop back around to see how an intern’s progress is going after the feedback. Be sure to recognize positive shifts in behaviors when they happen.  

  • Feedback is a two-way street, ask interns if they have any feedback for you, the internship program or organization.  

Off-Boarding the Intern 

Orientations are important to onboarding your intern to the team. Equally important is the work of off-boarding your intern. Off-boarding can consist of final evaluation forms provided by UNH. These forms are often times shared with students as part of their learning. Receiving feedback is integral to a student’s development. One of the most important pieces of the evaluation you can complete is your professional advice on areas of improvement, skills, and/or understanding of the industry. Conduct an exit interview with your intern in order to: 

  • Gather feedback from interns to help improve your internship program  

  • Have your intern present or showcase their work to your company so you can see what value the student brought  

  • Discuss with your intern what post internship communication will look like  

  • Express whether you will serve as a future reference  

  • Alert them to potential job opportunities within your company   

  • Encourage interns to build your brand awareness on campus by connecting peer to peer and recommending your internship experience to others 

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