Why More Companies Are Offering Online Internships 

Why More and More Companies Are Offering Online Internships 

by | Feb 18, 2020 | Internships

Drew Houston, the billionaire CEO of Dropbox, landed his first job as a developer at age 14. In an interview with The New York Times, the then-teenager landed his first “online internship” by emailing the developers about a favorite computer game, noting several security issues.

The developers showed their appreciation by sending Houston a job offer, saying he could work remotely. Since he was only 14, an age when most students are still in their first year of high school, he asked if his dad could fill out his paperwork.

Their response? “We couldn’t care less.”

Houston’s story is becoming more and more mainstream — companies want top talent, whether it’s internships and entry-level positions or the C suite. As such, company leadership will allow employees to work whenever, from wherever, as long as they get the job done.

While companies are on the hunt for the next wave of top talent, recent or soon-to-be grads are searching for online internships and entry-level jobs that offer a better work-life balance. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workforce report, more than half of employees say they would leave their current full-time job for a position that offered flexible hours.

Gallup also reports that the percentage of people working remotely (at least part-time) rose from 39% in 2012 to 43% in 2016. Paving the way for this growth are millennials and Gen Xers, who state that flexible working conditions (both in terms of location and scheduling) are one of their most sought-after “work perks.”

Many companies are open to the idea of remote work for seasoned employees — but what about interns and junior employees? Many CEOs argue that online internships offer the same degree of mentoring and oversight as an onsite position. Plus, allowing interns to work within a virtual space provides plenty of other benefits executives might not realize.

Online Internships Help You Recruit Top Talent

People having coffee and meeting about online internships

Wade Foster, the CEO of workflow automation software Zapier, credits a 100% remote working environment for allowing him to recruit top talent. Zapier grew from a three-person startup to a team of 200+ people without ever having a physical headquarters (although they call San Francisco home).

As Foster wrote on ChiefExecutive.net, the advantages of a remote workforce are immense. First, the pool of talented candidates — not just interns — isn’t geographically limited. “You have access to a worldwide talent pool,” says Foster. “If you restrict yourself to 30 miles from your headquarters, you’re going to have a hard time hiring.” Rather than drawing from the most high-achieving students within driving distance, online internships allow you to recruit college students from around the United States or even the globe.

According to Foster, zero geographical limitations make it easier to find new talent. Zapier has been so satisfied with their fully remote team, the company now offers a “delocation package” that promises to move full-time employees to their desired location. (By the way, this perk caused applications to skyrocket by 50%).

Foster believes that virtual internships and job positions make it easier to retain top talent. He also argues that the work-life balance that comes with remote work is more attractive to job seekers. If you’re recruiting high-performing students balancing their studies, extracurricular activities, and their internship jobs, structuring a task load that they can complete on their own schedule can be quite attractive. Therefore, students who apply for your summer internship are more likely to come back for a full-time position.

Online Internship Programs May Boost Productivity

If you’re developing a virtual internship program for the first time, a chief concern might be, “Will they get their work done?”

It’s a fair question, particularly if you offer a paid internship position. After all, the last thing you want is someone clocking hours while watching Netflix. But many CEOs argue that this seemingly worst-case scenario isn’t what’s going to happen.

On the contrary, leaders of successful companies like Asana, Dell, and IBM argue that when you treat people like adults, they act like adults. Giving interns and full-time employees the freedom to work when they want, where they want, not only boosts productivity but it limits time-wasting activities such as web browsing and water cooler chatter.

More companies are realizing it’s not about the time spent at your desk that matters — it’s about what goes into that time. As reported by Fast Company, companies such as Best Buy and Gap have implemented ROWE (Results Only Work Environment), where employees are evaluated on their contributions, not their physical presence in the office. Such systems result in a 20% improvement in productivity and a 90% decrease in turnover rates.

Online Internships Help Attract Self-Starters

Man searching for online internships on a Mac laptop

Put yourself in the shoes of a college student beginning their internship search. Your university is hosting an on-campus career fair, and you find yourself interested in two internship opportunities. One is an onsite digital marketing internship that requires 20 hours a week in the office (where you imagine you’ll spend 25% of your time browsing through articles on Forbes). The second offers real-world online marketing experience, done on your own time.

Which would you choose? As someone who values your time and genuinely cares about your performance, you’d probably choose the latter.

Model your internship program on the types of individuals you want to attract. Fred Perrotta, the CEO of luggage startup Tortuga, believes that a virtual environment attracts employees who take initiative, have aspirational career goals, and don’t need a lot of oversight. “The biggest signal we look for is a history of self-starting,” he tells Forbes, “When you work remotely, no one is looking over your shoulder making sure you’re getting your work done. You have to have the intrinsic motivation to be productive.”

Many college students are hungry for work experience — and they’re willing to prove their worth by working efficiently. Remember, many students balance a full course load, extracurricular activities, and even part-time jobs. They’re used to working efficiently because they have no other choice. If you allow them to gain experience in a positive, virtual working environment while still in school, you may gain them as a full-time employee once they graduate.

How to Find Promising Candidates for an Online Internship 

Creating an online internship program can help recruit top talent for your company. By allowing students and entry-level employees the freedom to create the work-life balance they crave, they’re more likely to be productive and fulfilled with their employment.

Companies like Asana, Dropbox, and Dell have already made the shift to a virtual working environment for all employees, no matter the job title. Leaders of these companies believe that hard-working interns who are hungry for real-life internship experience will get their work done — even if not physically sitting in an office.

Plus, offering an online internship allows you to cast a wide net for new talent, recruiting college students from across the country. But how do you find top candidates — or know which ones make the best fit for your company?

That’s where Scholars comes in. Scholars connects you to high-performing college students for internships and entry-level positions. Simply create a job description for your internship program, then browse the database to narrow down your search by skill set. Scholars sends out job alerts to your desired candidates, allowing you to promptly (and easily) find your next intern. Schedule a demo today to see how Scholars can connect your organization with your next team of interns.