What Are Best Practices for Onboarding Interns?

By Staff Report

Oct. 29, 2014

Dear We Might be Hiring,

If you follow these 4 C’s of onboarding, you and your intern will have an enjoyable and successful onboarding experience:

  1. Communicate
  2. Challenge
  3. Coach
  4. Connect


Pre-onboarding communication usually goes like this: An offer is made over the phone, confirmed with a signed letter, and a logistical email is sent to confirm first day location and necessary documents. In short, it’s boring and unengaging!

UrbanBound, a web-based platform offering relocation services to enterprise companies, asserts that onboarding needs to begin not the interns’ first day at the office, but the day the offer letter is signed. Keep the intern excited for their first day by:

  • Staying in touch:Send a welcome card signed by everyone on the new team.
  • Making it personalized:Ask for their favorite food and send a congratulatory gift card to dinner.
  • Giving a glimpse:Check in with stories of company highlights and events.

Once the intern has entered the office, it is important to have a conversation around managing expectations. Be candid with the intern to let him know that there will be some awesome parts of the internship and some grunt work, but it all is part of the learning process.


Interns leave companies or reject full-time positions most often because they aren’t feeling challenged. Set challenges for interns. Offer experiences by allowing the intern to shadow in multiple departments within the organization, sit in on client meetings and perhaps interact with customers. Provide interns the opportunity to take ownership by managing a low-risk project.  Responsibility will give her more buy in with the company and give her personal fulfillment in the role.


Millennial interns have spent their whole lives looking up to a parent, teacher, coach, sensei or tutor. When they enter into the workplace, they look up for this same type of guidance. Instill a culture of coaching within your organization to give them the tools to learn most effectively.

Pair interns with high-potential “near peers,” so they can receive candid insights on the organization and career paths from someone relevant to them, and set up a mentorship with a senior leader to serve as an additional resource for advice and guidance. Don’t assume interns will just know something just because you know it. This generation has been looking up and asking questions their whole lives, so they will need some upfront work on teaching the critical workplace skills like office communication, conflict resolution, and proper work attire and behavior.


During onboarding, interns need to feel connected to your organization, know their importance, and see that they are part of the bigger picture or they will leave. Ask what motivates them.  Ashley may be really interested in a management role at the company, and Noah may be taking this internship for a course credit. Ask to pinpoint passion projects, causes, individual interests and reasons why interns joined your company, so you can set the stage for a successful internship. Employers and interns can employ the 4 C’s  — communicate, challenge, coach, and connect — to create a more enjoyable and genuine experience when it comes to onboarding.

SOURCE: Brad Karsh, JB Training Solutions, Chicago, Aug. 13, 2014.

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