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Are You Smarter Than an Intern?

Apr 19, 2017

More and more companies are doing it. You have thought about it. Maybe it has even been on a recent meeting agenda. Is the time right? Are there really benefits to bringing in an accounting intern? Will this person be able to fit into your company?

Our answer to all three of these questions is a resounding “Yes!” In today’s world, developing talent is the name of the game. If you think you can wait and “lure” top talent from other companies when you need it, you likely are going to find you are not getting the top talent. But if you have been administering an internship program for several years, you are in essence creating your own talent pool that you can hopefully tap into when full-time resources are needed.

This is just one of the many benefits your company can realize by implementing an internship program. Below are nine other benefits we think you should factor in when considering whether you should have an accounting intern:

#1: Timing Is Everything

If your company is like most, certain times of the year seem to be busier than others. Instead of overloading your current staff during those times or looking to a temp agency to bring in a quick fix, you could strategically schedule the internship for this busy time.

This will not only help your organization transition through this busy time, but also keep your intern busy. One reason some companies hesitate to bring in an intern is that they are afraid they won’t be able to keep them busy. By structuring the timing of your intern’s service strategically, you can provide a benefit to both parties.

#2: Interns Are Highly Motivated

Let’s face it. These kids are looking at this internship as an audition for full-time employment. They realize that this is an opportunity to get their foot in the door at a company, which may lead to a long-term relationship. That said, you are going to get their best effort during the time they are on board.

Even if they may not think this is a company they may fit with long term, they are building their resume for future opportunities. If they are smart, they are going to realize that future potential employers may be calling on you down the road to see how their performance was during this internship.

#3: Fresh Perspective

Millennials simply “think” differently. They could bring some much-needed energy to your organization. If you are afraid they will challenge the “way we have always done it” mentality, then you need to quickly get over that fear. This alone may be the biggest impact an intern could bring to your company.

Bringing in an intern will force you to formalize many procedures, policies, etc. that you have been putting off for years. Sometimes “training” someone will open your eyes to your procedures and give you a chance to take a fresh look at how you are doing things.

#4: You May Learn Something

These kids have grown up with data literally at their fingertips. They know how to analyze data effectively and efficiently. You may be surprised at some of the questions they may ask or solutions they may propose. Who knows—they may even solve a problem you didn’t even know you had!

For example, have you thought about the way social media, electronic communications, iPads, data mining, etc. could benefit your organization? I bet they have! And they can teach you to speak this language and capitalize on technology you might have been ignoring all these years.

#5: Cheap Labor? Maybe…

Unpaid internships are few and far between these days, especially in the accounting profession. Industry demand is forcing an hourly rate higher than what you would probably pay a full-time bookkeeper; however, by not having to pay benefits of full-time employment, you may be getting a lot more than you realize for your investment.

When you factor in the true “cost” of employment, we think you will find that an intern is a very economical way to get the help you need.

#6: Low Risk

Hiring an intern is a great way to “test drive” talent on a short-term basis with minimal risk. Going into it, both parties realize that there is no promise of future full-time employment. So if you have an intern who performs below your expectations, you can simply thank them for their service at the end of the internship and send them on their way.

Conversely, if they prove to be a “top performer,” you likely will be in the front of the line when it comes time for them to look for full-time employment. Also, if they choose to start in public accounting, you will have already established a relationship with them and hopefully can be more successful in luring them into private accounting when the time is right (for them and you).

#7: Free Advertising

If things go well, this young person will talk about your company in their community, with their family, and when they are back on campus. Campuses especially are viral environments. Word spreads fast, so if you impress this intern, your company may be talked about in places you never before thought about.

#8: Relationships

Sticking with the campus theme, an internship is a great way to establish a relationship with a local college or university. These institutions love to publicize the number of internships their students are participating in, and if you can add your name to that “list,” you are building a relationship with a college or university that you may look to in the future when more opportunities or needs may present themselves.

#9: Restructuring Workloads

Hiring an intern could free up your talented staff from becoming overburdened by side projects and could allow them to focus on more creative, strategic thinking. Just think about those tasks which have been limiting your people or which people have been simply “putting off.”

By assigning some of these tasks to an intern, not only will they get done, but your other staff will feel a lot better about spending their time trying to solve bigger problems that maybe they would never have had time to tackle before. Interns also provide a development opportunity for your staff, giving them the ability to assist with training.


As you can see, the benefits of having an intern are nearly endless, while the risk is minimal. This is like a dream formula for any investor—potential of great returns with minimal risk. If you are a company that truly invests in your associates, an internship program may be just what the boss ordered!


Steven A. Jordan, CPA
Senior Manager
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Breann M. Streinz
Consultant II
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