Internships can be enormously beneficial, both for the people taking them and the companies providing them. For the intern, it's a valuable sampling of what to expect from their dream job. For their prospective employers, it's an opportunity to oversee budding professionals and potentially transform them into high-performing employees.
However, in order for an internship to be rewarding for everyone, you need to make sure certain systems are in place. One of the most important elements of a solid intern program is a great internship offer letter. With it, it's quite likely you'll have a steady influx of quality interns. Without it, you could have an internship program that's dead before it can ever get off the ground.
A strong internship offer letter can be the difference between quality talent and a dead internship program.
But first ... legality
If you are running a company that wants to beef up its internship program, then you'll want to look at the quality of your offer letters. Within those letters, you need to make sure your internships meet specific legal requirements. Interns should not be thought of as “free help” or people to exploit. In fact, there are easy ways for others to tell if your unpaid internships are legal. If they aren't, it would be worth it to dedicate some time to making adjustments and ensuring that they meet the legal requirements.
Unpaid internships are only legal if they meet FLSA standards.
Broadly speaking, unpaid internships are only legal if they meet FLSA
standards. In most cases, internships must be paid opportunities. With that said, it's in your company's best interests to invest time and energy in a robust, fleshed-out program that gives new hires the building blocks they need to succeed in your industry.
You will attract more talent this way. Even more importantly, decent pay will motivate them to do better work, take more initiative, and get more excited about being part of your organization.
However, there are instances where paid internships just aren’t as practical. In these instances, it is important to fully explore your options and plan out how you’re going to make this opportunity worth the time and effort interns will put into it.
The elements of an effective internship offer letter
The importance of a great internship offer letter cannot be overstated. By great offer letter, we mean one that gives your new interns a clear idea of what to expect while still remaining compliant and keeping you legally protected.
Here are the main elements of an excellent internship offer letter:
- Name, location, and contact info for your company.
- An explanation of the duration/scope of the internship, complete with clear start and end dates.
- The official title your intern will have while working for you.
- If you can only offer unpaid opportunities, you must mention that. Neglecting to do so could mean serious legal issues.
- When applicable or necessary, include non-disclosure and/or non-compete agreements.
- The name and contact info of the intern's supervisor. This will be the person they report to directly.
- The latest date/time they can accept the position after receiving the offer.
- Legal statements concerning the IP of everything the intern completes while working for you.
If this is overwhelming, don’t worry. There are many different ways you can structure this letter. There is not necessarily a “correct” way. Some ways are far more effective than others, but there is more than one way to put together a compelling internship offer letter.
Customizable internship offer letter
Here's a customizable internship offer letter template to help you get started:
Subject: Your internship details with
On behalf of , I am pleased to offer you employment with as a starting on . Please carefully review this document for important details about your compensation, benefits, and terms of your anticipated employment with .
During your internship, you will be paid an hourly rate of . Your compensation will be paid in regular installments in accordance with the Company’s regular payroll process, and subject to applicable tax and other withholdings . As a non-exempt employee, you will be eligible for overtime pay. At the end of your internship, your employment with the Company will end.
As part of your compensation, we’re also offering .
Be clear about what interns can expect
This is, of course, just a template. Feel free to make changes when/where you see fit, and remember to be explicitly clear about what interns can expect while working with your company. Communication is vital. It can be the difference between starting a healthy and prosperous working relationship with a star employee and an unmitigated disaster that lands you in hot water or casts your company in an unfavorable light.
For templates to welcome interns and other new hires, download our Top 3 HR Email Templates for New Hires.