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Glossary: HR & Recruiting Definitions

What is an internship?

The term internship refers to employment in a company, usually lasting several months and often unpaid. The purpose of an internship is to deepen already acquired hard skills through practical work experience and to learn new knowledge and skills.

What types of internships are there?

First and foremost, a distinction is made between voluntary internships and compulsory internships. The following types of internships are primarily compulsory internships.

  • Student internship

    Choosing a career path is an important step for young talents. Student internships help them to decide what they might want to do once their studies are over. Student internships take place a few years before school graduation and serve primarily to provide orientation and to gain insight into an occupation.

    The focus is on typical activities, knowledge, and skills that people working in that particular field need. The internship typically lasts only a few weeks so that various occupational profiles can be explored.

  • Preliminary internship

    Some universities may require a pre-study internship for a student to be able to attend their degree programmes. This helps the university select the right candidates for the program. Students should be sure that they are choosing the right field of study. This kind of work experience lets them try out their potential future profession.

    Preliminary internships generally take up to three months.

  • Specialised internship

    A specialised internship is a practical module within a degree programme or school-based specialised training. The duration of the internship can vary, but the goal is always the same. To gain occupation- and subject-specific experience in addition to theoretical instruction. These types of internships tend to be longer than student or preliminary internships.

  • Long-term or one-year internship

    Long-term internships are internships lasting between six and twelve months (e.g. a pre-vocational year). It’s aimed at preparing young talents who have already decided on a profession for training, and to introduce them to the technical content. It also helps reveal their abilities and interests, to get to know how they operate in an everyday work setting, and to shape them into great team members.

    An internship (also called work experience) for school students usually takes place in the local area. However, they can also take place abroad, especially during later stages in the academic career of the student. Internships abroad are becoming increasingly popular, especially among older interns, and offer young talents special advantages for their future careers.

What are the advantages of internships for you as a recruiter?

Whether filling an internship or a permanent position: If a candidate can already show successfully completed (ideally job-relevant) internships on their CV, it’s typically a good sign and can be an indicator of various skills and interests.

  • Determination

    Those who have already completed internships have thought about their professional future, completed the orientation phase, and possibly already embarked on their desired career path. This implies a certain determination and drive.

  • Initial work experience/industry knowledge

    With the help of an internship in a desired industry, potential candidates can already gain work experience and industry knowledge. This can facilitate the entry into the future profession and shorten the familiarisation and onboarding phase for employers.

  • Interpersonal skills

    Internships not only teach and deepen hard skills, but soft skills are also trained in the context of internship-related cooperation with other people. It helps develop advanced interpersonal skills and the ability to work in a team.

  • Foreign language skills/intercultural competence

    Potential team members who can boast an internship abroad may not only bring experience of communicating in foreign languages. They are also highly likely to be able to find their way in an international team with a high degree of cultural diversity.

  • Continuity and stability

    Today’s young talents don’t always tend to stick to something for a longer amount of time. A successfully completed internship lasting several months (or longer) is a great indicator of the ability for continuity.

When are internships paid?

Whether and when an internship is paid or not depends on the type and duration of the internship. Moreover, companies are often free to choose whether they want to pay an intern or not.

In principle, compulsory internships that have to be completed as part of school education or studies are not paid. There is no legal entitlement to remuneration here.

The situation is different for voluntary internships. If the agreed duration of the internship exceeds three months, a voluntary internship generally becomes a paid internship. The salary is a matter of negotiation, but typically the current minimum wage must be taken into account.

Why should companies hire an intern?

Companies that offer an internship can expect several benefits, both in terms of workload distribution and in terms of their talent acquisition.

  • Promoting awareness and better employer branding

    Companies are constantly faced with the challenge of attracting younger generations. By offering internships, a company can create awareness, build a better employer brand, and cultivate initial relationships with young talent.

  • Securing young talent

    An intern can become a new team member at a later stage. Likewise, a good internship in a company with good employer branding can result in recommendations to friends and acquaintances. This means further access to future skilled workers, thus contributing to securing young talent.

  • Flexibility

    An intern is often in a phase of professional orientation. This means that, in principle, they can be deployed in almost all areas of a company and can tackle projects previously put on hold due to capacity issues.

  • Relief for employees

    Even if it is a temporary employment, the work of an intern provides relief for the existing team and can contribute to a better distribution of the workload. Interns can often help your staff by doing the simple, menial, and repetitive tasks, giving your employees more space to focus on bigger projects.

  • Process optimisation

    Since interns approach their tasks with an open mind and are not yet used to a certain way of working, they question processes more frequently. This means they can contribute to problem-solving and optimisation of existing processes.


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