Why hire interns? A recruitment strategy

A recruitment strategy for companies in Germany

Short- and long-term recruitment strategies of companies in Germany include hiring interns on a regular basis. Many companies reserve fixed positions in their personnel structure which are regularly filled with interns. Depending on the position these can be filled with high school graduates, students or postgraduates.

Length of internships in Germany

The length of internships in Germany varies between 2 to 6 months. The exact duration depends on several factors, including the professional field, the company’s requirements and the intern’s requirements. It is recommended to hire interns for not less than 2-3 months minimum, so that the intern has the possibility to take on more complex tasks. In order to reduce fluctuation many companies tend to hire interns for 6 months. 6 month internships are also preferred by interns as it gives them reliability to plan, e.g. if they have to find an accommodation in a new city or take a semester off to pursue the internship.

How much does it cost?

There are two types of internships in Germany, namely voluntary and mandatory internships. They differ in terms of remuneration. Voluntary internships with a duration of less than 3 months do not have to be remunerated by a company. However, if the duration exceeds 3 months the company is obligated to pay the intern at least minimum wage for the entire duration of the internship (including the 3 initial months). A mandatory internship is included in a student’s curriculum, i.e. the student is obliged to do this internship during the course of his/her studies. The legal framework does not require any remuneration for mandatory internships.
Nevertheless, most companies compensate interns with an amount that covers basic cost of living, or minimum wage.

Types of internships and remuneration requirements.

Benefits of hiring interns

Hiring interns can be seen as a long-term recruitment strategy for companies. Germany is facing a gap of skilled professionals in certain sectors. This forces companies to compete for talents. Hiring interns allows the company to get access to students and young professionals in their early stage career orientation phase. The company and the intern have time to get to know each other and find out whether they are compatible. The company can evaluate the intern’s contribution and see whether the person fits into the company. The other way around, the company opens up to the intern and allows him/her a glance into the company culture and their work, with the aim to present itself as an attractive employer.

A continuous stream of interns allows the company to build a network of young talents which are planning to enter the labour market sooner or later. This network understands the companies needs and allows a preselection of candidates or even active sourcing based on the intern’s earlier performance. So these networks can be used by the company for future recruitment needs. Recruitment of former interns minimalises the risk of hiring someone unknown who might not fit into the company or does not fulfil the company’s needs.

How companies benefit from hiring interns:

  • Access to talents, pull effect to the company
  • Evaluation of the intern’s skills and contribution
  • Evaluation of intern-company fit regarding work attitude and company culture
  • Building of a network of young talents who are interested in working in the respective professional field
  • Use of this network for future recruitment necessities

How do interns benefit?

Many employers wish for applicants with professional experience. Especially for young professionals it is very hard to fulfill this requirement. Internships allow them to get insights into a professional field, take over tasks and gain practical experience. At the same time they can get to know the company and the range of tasks in order to evaluate whether or not they could imagine working for that company in the future. Furthermore, doing an internship at a company can help to get the foot in the door. The intern has time to prove her-/himself and their abilities to the employer. The probability to get a long-term employment at the company is higher once the company already knows the person.

How interns benefit from doing an internship:

  • Access to the corporate/professional world
  • Orientation on the labour market
  • Gain practical experience
  • Develop personal skills

Things to keep in mind when hiring interns

Objective: The tasks should not be too simple, the intern should be able to learn something new and prove her-/himself.
Working independently: The intern should be able to work independently after a phase of instruction (with occasional help).
Duration: An internship should be long enough to assign complex tasks. 2 to 6 months is the average duration of an internship.
Contact person: A permanent contact person is required with whom the intern can interact and get feedback on a regular basis.
Remuneration: Mandatory internships and voluntary internships with a duration of less than 3 months do not require remuneration. Voluntary internship with a length of more than 3 months have to be remunerated with minimum wage.
However, in order to be attractive as a employer and to be able to compete on the labour market it is recommended to remunerate all internships with minimum wage or the expenses of cost of living.

Campusjäger für Arbeitgeber (2020). Praktikanten einstellen: Was du als Arbeitgeber wissen musst. https://arbeitgeber.campusjaeger.de/hr-blog/praktikanten-beschaeftigen#lohn
Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst e.V. (DAAD) (2020). First steps in Germany – work placements. https://www.daad.de/de/studieren-und-forschen-in-deutschland/erste-schritte-deutschland/praktikum/