In years past, offering paid internships may have been your secret ingredient to gaining the outstanding interest of potential interns.
Today, the average hourly wage for a bachelor’s degree intern is $16.26. This means simply paying your interns isn’t going to set you ahead of your competition.
With the legal requirement of a mandatory minimum wage for all internship programs falling under the the Fair Labor Standards Act, it’s time for you to be creative in ensuring that your internship program stands out to the best and brightest students in your industry.
Students report that financial compensation is one of the least important internship perks, behind things like resume building and networking opportunities. So as soon as an employer is paying above minimum wage, alternative forms of compensation hold more weight with candidates than higher pay does.
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Here are six alternative forms of compensation worth considering for your interns:
1. Networking opportunities
Interns want to rub shoulders with the experts in their industry, so why not give them the chance?
Consider providing interns with amazing networking opportunities throughout your industry. Let them travel with you to trade shows, conferences, events, seminars and presentations.
One audacious CEO from 42Floors even mentioned bringing his interns to venture capital meetings as a way to build a stronger intern culture and help them to gain more experience. When given opportunities like this, interns will be certain to make meaningful connections and gain important industry insight.
2. School credit eligibility
Work with your interns’ department advisers to ensure your internship is approved for school credit. This will give your internship program the stamp of approval as a learning experience complementary to the university curriculum.
Though offering a for-credit internship should never replace payment, it’s a great alternative perk for your interns.
3. Rotational programming
Want to give interns a highly immersive experience to fine-tune their versatility? Give them a greater view of your company and industry as a whole by offering them a chance to take on projects in multiple departments.
Not only is this a huge selling point for students looking to gain a variety of different skills and experiences, it’s also a great way to make your interns more competitive members of your industry in the long run. Many companies are making the switch from traditional internships into rotational programs for this very reason.
4. Software training
Your interns are with you to learn, so why not go above and beyond to give them the specific software training they need to succeed in their career? This kind of training isn’t just a draw for interns—it’s also a chance for your company to build a talented pipeline of skilled young professionals.
If you have social media interns, teach them how to use Hootsuite and any other software that will help them succeed in their position.
5. Amazing experiences
Intern-driven projects are a simple, highly effective way to compensate students during their time with you.
Regardless of the size of your company or your budget, allowing interns to take on and manage one important project will increase their hands-on experience, add a noteworthy project to their portfolio, and even add to your bottom line. One stunning example of a student who commandeered an outstanding project during an internship is the previous Facebook engineering intern who created a data visualization map of international human relationships on social media.
6. Free products
Who doesn’t love freebies? Consider giving your interns access to free products during their time with you.
If your company develops electronics or other tangible goods, give interns a chance to experience one of the products. If your products or services aren’t tangible, consider offering your interns an iPad or Kindle as an extra form of compensation for their time spent with you.
When it comes to hiring outstanding interns, compensation should go beyond a working wage and enter areas that set your company apart from the competition.
What forms of alternative compensation do your offer your interns?
Nathan Parcells is co-founder and CMO of InternMatch, an online platform connecting intern candidates and employers. Connect with Nathan and InternMatch on Twitter and Facebook. A version of this article originally appeared on TLNT.