Remote Internship Programs: Benefits and Best Practices
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We cover everything you need to set up a remote internship as an employer & share tips to land the remote internship of your dreams as a student.
Remote internship programs offer incredible perks for both employers and employees.
So how do you set one up?
And if you’re an aspiring remote intern, where should you look for legit virtual internships?
We’re answering all these questions and more in our comprehensive guide to remote internships for employers and employees. Here’s what’s on the agenda:
- The basics and benefits of remote internships
- How to set up a remote internship program
- Finding and hiring remote interns
- Landing a remote internship in your field
Let’s start by making sure we’re all on the same page about:
What is a Remote Internship Program?
Remote internships are structured programs or temporary positions that provide practical virtual work experience in a specific field or industry.
Companies, organizations, non-profits, and government entities of all sizes create remote internships. And a company does not have to be remote to offer virtual internships; its workforce can be fully distributed, entirely on-premise, or in a hybrid work model.
One of the biggest differences between working from home and the office is that interns can log into online, cloud-based software or apps from anywhere in the world rather than commuting to a physical location.
This allows interns to work for companies in different states, countries, or even continents. It also means organizations can tap into the world’s top talent.
Do You Get Paid for Remote Internships?
Internships may be paid or unpaid, depending on the organization’s policies and local laws and regulations.
Paid internships include financial compensation but may not offer employee benefits. High school or college students often leverage unpaid internships for credits.
How Long Do Internships Last?
All internships have a defined duration. They typically last a few weeks to several months. A general rule of thumb is three to six months. Interns can work part-time or full-time during that time.
Benefits of Remote Internship Programs for Employers
Companies offering remote internships gain:
1. A Competitive Hiring Edge
Stats tell us that 98% of people want to work remotely, at least part of the time [*]. Offering remote internships is one of the best ways to attract in-demand talent. Organizations that don’t support a virtual work environment will miss out on the most promising interns (and future employees in the job market).
2. Diversity of Thought To Spark Innovation
Remote internships erase the geographical boundaries of your candidate pool to make hiring for diversity more likely.
When you tap into underrepresented areas around the globe, you’ll find talent with different cultural backgrounds, experiences, skill sets, and perspectives. Their insights may challenge your team’s conventional thinking, leading to more creativity, innovation, and problem-solving.
Interns may also be the youngest members of your team. Their fresh eyes may provide new tools or approaches to solve old problems, a better understanding of underserved customer segments, or clues about the next big trends.
3. Access To 24/7 Worker Bees
Want to double your work day without burning out your employees?
Consider hiring remote interns in opposite time zones. They can churn out tasks while your employees snooze to keep your projects on schedule. Your business can also leverage them to capture all the benefits of 24/7 remote customer support.
Benefits of Remote Internships for Workers
A remote internship helps current students, recent graduates, and professionals seeking a career change:
1. Gain Professional Work Experience
Internships allow you to explore remote career paths and enhance your job prospects post-graduation.
You can land an entry-level remote job in your field with relevant work experience from your internship and keep building your career until you’re in one of the highest-paying remote jobs.
2. Add Remote Work Skills To Your Resume
A virtual internship is your ticket to earning all the must-have tech skills for remote work. Excelling in a WFH environment takes:
- Discipline and self-motivation
- Time management
- Asynchronous communication
- Project management
- Remote collaboration
You’ll have a chance to perfect these skills and go from beginner to pro level in no time.
3. Grow Your Professional Network
Spruce up your LinkedIn profile and update your headshot!
Remote internships help you network with professionals you may never get to meet in person. They can connect you with experts in your desired field, write recommendations to get your foot in the virtual door, and progress your career from the ground up.
4. Work a Flexible Schedule (or Even Travel While Working Remotely!)
Creating your personal WFH schedule lets you easily balance your social, personal, and academic commitments with your work duties.
Daydreaming about becoming a digital nomad? Secure a stable, reliable internet connection, and you can clock in from your family vacation, road trip with your besties, yoga retreat in the jungle, or anywhere else on your bucket list.
Setting Up a Remote Internship Program: Best Practices
Follow this roadmap to set up your remote internship program:
1. Create a Remote Work Policy
A remote work policy outlines your company’s:
- Standard operating procedures
- Communication guidelines
- Internet privacy issues, NDAs, etc.
- Tools, software, etc., employees will use
- Employee conduct protocols
- Performance metrics
Share your work-from-home policies with your interns during their virtual onboarding or along with their welcome packet before their first day.
2. Establish Clear Communication Rules & Work Expectations
Draft a document specifically outlining your company’s communication preferences and your work expectations. This highlights intel like:
- Which communication channels your team uses, and when it’s appropriate to use each channel
- Ideal response times for asynchronous communication that happens via Slack messages, email, or comments in a project manager
- When interns should be available for synchronous communication, such as weekly video conferences or monthly one-on-one check-ins
- Guidelines for working across time zones
- A complete scope of work or project timeline, including milestone deadlines and feedback/performance check-ins
After onboarding, send each intern their login credentials for all the tools your team uses, such as email clients, project management tools, instant messaging apps, etc.
3. Host a Killer Virtual Onboarding Experience
A comprehensive virtual onboarding process introduces interns to your remote company culture, core values, mission, and goals.
Conduct your virtual onboarding solo with each intern, or hold a group onboarding with all interns using your favorite video conferencing platform. You may need to schedule multiple sessions for interns in different time zones.
Follow this guide to create the best remote onboarding experience ever!
It’s always a good idea to send your interns a welcome package full of company swag before their first day. This helps increase feelings of belonging and excitement. Think: company-branded water bottles, desk accessories, healthy snacks, etc.
4. Schedule Welcome Sessions and Meet & Greets
Introduce your interns to their coworkers, direct supervisors, and members of the C-suite via video chat.
Face-to-face meetings are ideal for building relationships and facilitating seamless team integration. They don’t have to be long (especially for busy higher-ups) to make a big impact.
Assign a welcome buddy or mentor. It’s helpful for interns to have an “inside” go-to when they have questions. Assigning them an onboarding buddy also gives them a friend at work on their first day.
5. Encourage Networking, Collaboration, & Communication
Virtual interns may feel more lonely and isolated than their in-office counterparts. To encourage belonging and reduce siloed work environments, be sure to:
- Schedule non-cheesy remote team-building activities.
- Hold lunch-and-learns to improve team communication or enhance collaboration.
- Create water cooler chat spaces for your interns to interact with the team about non-work-related topics.
- Provide opportunities for cross-training with employees in different departments to build new skills and professional connections.
The best practices for managing remote teams create a sense of community and belonging for interns. They’re kind of in a limbo state between employees and contract or freelance workers, so every outreach opportunity helps.
6. Always Be Teaching
Interns are in the learning phase of their careers. The more intel you share, the more value they’ll add to your team.
- Invite them to virtual training sessions, webinars, lunch-and-learns, etc.
- Allow them to sit in on meetings with the team and higher-ups
- Provide access to online courses and other resources
If you aim to hire interns for full-time roles later, these early learning experiences will give them a leg-up on other junior staff and help support career growth. Add these perks to your remote job listing, and you’ll have an avalanche of applicants.
7. Promote a Healthy Remote Work Environment
Your internship may be someone’s first experience working remotely. To develop a healthy virtual environment:
- Encourage flexible schedules and taking time off. Discourage overtime and never glorify employees who overwork to the point of burnout.
- Promote self-care and mental health support.
- Offer interns health and wellness perks, such as meditation classes, fitness club memberships, wearables to track their steps, and more.
- Foster an inclusive remote workplace.
- Encourage curiosity! Interns should never feel they’re bothering or imposing on someone when they have questions. Set up a self-serve knowledge base where they can find FAQs and ensure their mentors are both proactive and receptive.
- Recognize and celebrate interns’ achievements. Dole out kudos via Slack or email to boost morale, foster a strong sense of engagement, and strengthen their connection to your organization.
Now that you know the benefits of adding remote interns to your team, and you have a seven-step game plan to make that idea pay dividends, you’re probably wondering:
How To Find & Hire Remote Interns
Every remote hiring strategy should include a subset for interns. Here’s what that entails:
1. Write a Remote Job Listing that Sells
Intern work should provide help or assistance to senior staff. It should be seen as a bonus or “nice to have.”
If you want interns to complete their own projects, make sure they can finish the request within their short employment window. Avoid assigning high-priority projects best completed by senior staff.
The nature of their work duties and the scope of their work should be clearly expressed in your remote job listing.
Write a remote job listing that sells, and you’ll have a ton of qualified remote candidates to choose from.
2. Post Your Remote Internship on We Work Remotely
We Work Remotely is the number one destination to list incredible remote jobs and internships. As the largest remote work community in the world, we snag over 4.5M visitors seeking the best WFH jobs.
Follow these steps to get the right eyes on your internship:
- Sign up for a free WWR Employer Account. Manage your job listings, fill out your company profile, and more.
- Use the free WWR Job Posting Template. After reviewing thousands of remote job listings, we know what it takes to stand out and get applicants to apply for your roles.
- List your job as “Contract.” Along with using the keywords “intern,” “internship,” and “temporary” in your job listing, hit the Contract definer so job seekers know this isn’t a full-time position.
Job seekers can also search Contract-only roles, increasing your post’s visibility for those looking for internships.
3. Modify Your Remote Interview Questions
We wrote the guide on how to conduct successful remote interviews. But Gitlab offers some excellent interview questions for remote interns, such as:
- Tell me about a time when you moved a group project forward, at work or school, when you were in a different physical place than your other team members. (Dig for details on how they enjoyed it, what challenges they faced, and how they coped.)
- Have you ever taken an online course or training session? If so, describe your process for managing your own time, respecting deadlines, requesting assistance, and solving problems.
- Are you an active member of an online community, or do you have experience managing logistics remotely for in-person events/gatherings?
- Are you a content creator? If you’ve completed freelance work for remote clients, would you be willing to provide references upon request?
- Have you thought about where you would work remotely if offered this internship? (Don’t expect a precise answer; it's useful to understand whether the candidate has considered this element.)
🙌 Remember to always follow these inclusive hiring practices when building your remote dream team too!
How To Land a Remote Internship
It’s never been easier to find a remote internship in your field. Use these tips to search for remote paid internships worldwide or unpaid internships offering college credits:
1. Sign Up for a Free We Work Remotely Job Seeker Account
Remote internship hunting can be tedious and noisy. WWR makes it SO much easier for you to find legit work-from-home jobs.
Curate your job search with a free Job Seeker Account, and you’ll score:
- A tailored feed of job listings matching your criteria from the top remote companies hiring
- One free resume review
- The ability to follow companies you’re interested in (and be the first to hear about and apply for new roles!)
- The opportunity to save jobs, so you can apply on your time
- LinkedIn account verification
Pro tip: Use WWR’s Advanced Job Search to filter remote jobs by your standards. Search by Keyword, Time Zone, Industry, and more. If you’re seeking remote internships for international students, filter your search by Region.
Always click “Contract” under Job Type to zero in on temporary roles (like internships) instead of full-time positions.
2. Use a Resume Builder To Show Off Your Skills
Don’t have time to create a resume from scratch? Never made a remote job resume before? No problem! Our easy resume builder has you covered.
Let’s say you’re searching remote internships for computer science students. Your job search documents should include:
- A mix of your hard skills and soft skills
- All your transferable skills
- A link to your digital portfolio
- A list of relevant courses, certificates, awards, etc., that show off your capabilities
Build your personal brand to boost your career prospects and give yourself the best chance to shine. Employers will quickly see you have what it takes to thrive as one of their interns.
3. Ask Questions During Your Remote Interview
Job seekers’ biggest mistake during remote interviews is not asking enough questions. This tells employers that you’re either not really interested in the position or a know-it-all, and neither are a good look.
Questions help you spot the top signs a remote company is right for you.
If you’re hunting for remote internships for high school students, ask about flexible work hours. You’ll want to balance your studies, social life, and internship duties without breaking a sweat.
Looking for remote internships for college students? Ask your interviewer how to transition from intern to full-time employee when you graduate and how many interns have done this.
You’ll find more tips in these guides:
- 7 Tips To Elevate Your Remote Job Interview
- 5 Tips To Acing Your Virtual Interview
- Top Questions To Ask Remote Companies During Your Virtual Interviews
- How To Write a Thank You Email After an Interview
Now You’re Ready for Takeoff! 🚀
Remote internship programs offer a valuable opportunity for both organizations and interns. It’s a strategic move that aligns with the evolving future of work and empowers the next generation of professionals to skyrocket their careers.
So now that you’re primed to welcome remote interns to your team or apply for an internship in your field, let We Work Remotely support your quest.
🤝 Employers: Start your mission with WWR's Guide to Hiring Remote.
🤓 Future Interns: Join the WWR Learning Portal, your free resource to everything you need to grow in your dream remote career.
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