Derek's question inspired another question... for a small startup (bigger than a one-man shop, but less than a dozen) are interns worthwhile?
In my experience, I've run into a few issues:
What have your experiences been? Have you found them to be a value or hinderance?
I am not a lawyer, and you would need to check this: But interns (in the US) don't have to be paid as long as their work experience is going to be help them in their career and as long as you don't promise them a full-time position as a condition to working for you.
Getting interns are helpful for many reasons:
My answer is both yes and no.
If you are already so busy and no time for interns, maybe put it off until next year.
But interns do bring:
1) Fresh and new ideas, approaches, perspective.
2) Can help with little tasks that are just plain time consuming, but also they still can learn
3) Cost. Yeah, sometimes they can take classes and get college credit instead of pay.
4) I like to give back to the community, help someone out.
They often can be quick learners, so yeah, it is not always a lot of extra work.
I don't think you have to pay for interns...some are willing to work for free. I agree with anup, eager interns do contribute to the company with their enthusiasm and "can do" attitude. If there's no shortage of gopher work, hire an intern.
I hired a group of CS Masters students to contribute to our startup, and they did write some great code and learned a lot along the way. One was even a great candidate if I was in a position to hire. But overall, I believe a lot of the time was wasted as my salaried employee ended up re-writing most of the important code anyhow.
It really depends on your situation. If you find an intern with the right qualities and at the right price, you can probably benefit from adding them to your team.
I think about it as helping someone learn and experience a career beyond school. So absolutely yes. People are not just numbers. If you are overwhelmed and need some help, find one. If you are so overwhelmed where you dont have the time this month, perhaps think about it next month, but never give up on helping others also make dreams a reality.
Absolutely. I was one...twice. The first time I took a job with a big company was last summer, and I'm certainly not doing that again. I was damn cheap back in high school for what I was doing, but they took a big risk on me. Most CS students aren't really ready for a real job, but look for ones with open source experience and maybe a finished personal project or two. I see it as a long interview, so if you do better than break even on the intern's work, you're way ahead.
Interns always provide a 'fresh' perspective to things.
One of the key things I notices from observing the interns at my previous place was that they were 'eager' to do things and in their 'eagerness' they tended to hurry and make mistakes. But this was initially. However, most of them are quick to learn.
When you infuse 'eager' Interns into a company their enthusiasm helps improve the environment of a company. Plus you could use them to do stuff which other 'seniors's are not ready to do :)
I feel that they need more mentoring and "looking after" than a fully hired employee would, but that overall they are worth it. As others mentioned above, they bring a fresh perspective on things, have a good attitude and can turn out to be your next employee without having any recruitment costs.
I've heard good things about using interns to perform non-paying but company related work. A friend of mine with a web design company uses interns to perform his company's pro-bono work for example.
What kind of business are you running, and what would you have the interns do?
There is another hidden cost to hiring interns, and that is the management focus they require. Since they have no experience, and they need to be watched over, they keep you busy and focused on them rather then the things you need to get done. This is not a huge problem for a huge company, since there are enough people around to make it work out. In a small company, if one person needs to spend time doing something other then work, then that means that 10% of your workforce is not being productive.
You also need to take into account the time you spend interviewing potential interns, and keep in mind that they are only going to work for you for a few months if everything works out.
There are added benefits to hiring interns that might outweigh the downside, such as good connections with the university and good potential press, but make sure that it is worth it. Just because interns are cheap (or possibly free) doesn't mean that they are affordable.