How to Build a Best-In-Class Internship Program: The 5 Secrets You Need to Know

You’ve allocated all the proper resources, checked boxes for legal compliance, and let your company’s vision for the future guide your development of a new internship program. You’ve earned buy-in from all internal stakeholders, from the CEO to junior and senior management.

Yet, differentiating your internship program against the leagues of others circulating this semester is not as easily completed. It’s a strategic process that improves semester to semester, dependent on a rich feedback loop between your staff and your new interns. In this piece, we’ll explore the key practices that can set up your organization to attract the next wave of ambitious talent. Read our suggestions on how to create a successful internship program below!


1. Define Success Early On

Agreeing on a shared set of objectives, between both full-time staff and interns provides a roadmap to a successful semester. This could require a slight mindset shift to seeing your interns as stakeholders as well, with just as much (if not more!) to gain from the success of your program.

Full-time team members stand to benefit from future talent’s new perspectives and aptitude for best use of technology. For example, an intern’s inherent acumen of up and coming trends could inform your customer experience department of evolving expectations among their most solid base. This can create new methodologies, strategies, and even roles your company did not know it needed.

Similarly, intern exposure to your full time staff’s projects and goals against the landscape of your industry is a unique way for them to build their knowledge, abilities, and skills outside of the classroom. When creating your program, consider how interns can explain and show how they are being groomed for their future. At any point during your program, a successful intern participant should be able to elaborate on the following prompts:

  1. Am I learning?
  2. Am I contributing?
  3. Am I having fun?

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2. Keep a Pulse on Intern Satisfaction

Making data-driven decisions can help you and your team make incremental, effective changes from semester to semester. Collecting and focusing on the right data and its sources keeps your team accountable for the mutual successes of your internal teams and your interns.

That’s why it’s important to routinely survey your interns during the span of time they are spending at your organization. Information you gather from their initial experiences can (and will) differ from their thoughts at the conclusion of the semester. Staying engaged with their responses throughout the process can tell a story about how successful your program is, and where there are actionable opportunities to improve. For example:

  • Was the onboarding process comprehensive and helpful?
  • How long did it take to get settled in your role?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, rate your satisfaction with the range of projects you worked on.


Interns who feel their experience was a positive, formative journey can become natural brand ambassadors. They’ll speak fondly of their time spent at your organization and recommend it to peers, and, if given an offer, they will more likely become a long-term, full-time employee.

Human Resources Today