ultimate guide for startups about interns and internships

This guide will help you if you are interested in having an intern at your startup. At 99interns we routinely get questions on how to find an intern and what to do once they have been found. There are three stages for having an intern and we show you what’s needed at each stage: pre-intern, during the internship and post-intern. Follow our guide on how to find an intern and it should be easy for you to create a meaningful experience for the intern while giving back and cultivating a potential future permanent employee. If you have any comments, don’t hesitate to provide them below or by email since our goal is to make the process as easy for startups as possible.

Everything a startup needs to know about interns and internships


Before you start advertising to find an intern, you have to decide why you want an intern and what tasks will be the focus of the internship. We’ll go through the structure of the internship before you start advertising but knowing what is needed is the first step.
Here are some of the general areas where you might want an intern in a startup:
● Marketing
● Social media
● Product design or testing
● Website-related management and/or content development
● Office management
● Data management/entry/analysis

These areas are quite broad and it will be important to specify what the specific tasks the intern will perform. For example, will the intern post across all the social media channels and be in charge of social media or will the intern draft blog postings for someone else to finish and then post? How often will the draft postings be needed?

Once the tasks are identified, you need to decide on the length of time of the internship. If the task list is long, it is a good idea to break down the internship into blocks that focus on certain areas. A good rule of thumb is one month per task with something like three months being ideal for the internship. Of course there are many exceptions and this is only one possible internship structure.

Will the intern report to the same person? You need a clearly identified supervisor for the intern. In a startup there are often only a few people on the team and the tasks may all fall naturally under one person but if the tasks are across areas then the intern may be able to be handed off across areas.

It is a good idea to write out all the responsibilities of the intern and ensure a non-disclosure clause is in place. Specifying all these details on an internship deed ensures there is no miscommunication and it gives a legal basis for the internships. 99interns provides a sample internship deed that can be used to ensure you cover all the that may be important.

Once the details are known, the advertising and recruitment can begin and the expectations of the intern can be communicated in the ad for the internship as well as in an interview to meet the potential intern.

Expectations about time and objectives of the internship are important to be communicated before the internship starts so that there are no surprises. If it is an unpaid internship, then it is important to be clear about the learning goals for the intern to stress that is the benefit to the intern. If it is a paid internship, then the tasks can be set out as responsibilities of the intern.

We have some more pages for specific questions you might have before the internship starts:

Do you need an intern or a freelancer?

Should the internship be paid or unpaid?

What is the minimum wage that needs to be paid?

How do you make sure an unpaid internship is legal?

How can I design a meaningful internship?

What is the best way to design a remote or virtual internship?

How do you write an awesome job listing to attract the right intern? 

How do you choose the best intern to hire?

How do you conduct an interview?

What should be included in an offer letter for an unpaid internship?

Do you need special insurance or is the intern covered by workman’s compensation?

During the internship

When the internship starts, a feedback system should be in place so that progress on the skill learning is monitored and improvements can be suggested. It is a learning experience for the intern and feedback is important throughout the process. One recommendation is to have a short meeting at the beginning of the new task assignment, halfway through and then at the end. Of course if you are working closely, then these meetings can be impromptu but if the intern is working remotely then they should be scheduled. Setting this up at the beginning of each new task sets expectations.

What is involved in the intern’s first day?

What is the best way to provide feedback to an intern?

How do you ensure that the intern has a successful internship?

7 steps if the internship does not go well

How to terminate the internship


When the internship is complete, an exit interview can provide feedback to the intern as well as the people involved in the startup so that improvements in the process can be made. Additional future work can be discussed as well as writing recommendation letters or providing references or evidence of the skill set learned. Recommendations on LinkedIn should be done promptly so that the intern receives the ‘reward’ of the internship reference quickly.

What do you have to do at the end of an internship?

What should you write in a reference letter or LinkedIn recommendation?

How do you assess the success of the internship?

Should you offer another internship?


Did we answer all your questions?  If not then write the question in the comments and we’ll get to it as soon as we can!