Yet underage interns can sometimes present hurdles for companies. Consider the extra paperwork that Airbnb, the San Francisco-based online room-rental service, had to take on last year when recruiters stumbled upon the Twitter profile of Conrad Kramer, who was 16.
“We actually had to get a work permit for him,” said Bern Coh, Airbnb’s head of intern recruiting, to comply with California law that requires permits for workers under 18. Kramer interned last summer, she said, and since then the company has “been keeping in touch with him various ways.”
Kramer didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Young interns also bring more parents into the picture. Doris Tong, senior manager of LinkedIn’s global campus recruiting, said she once met a contestant at a company hackathon who she recalls “was 12 or 15.”
“I remember needing to get a parental release because we hadn’t ever had that young a person participate,” Tong said.
Not all companies want younger interns. Google requires interns to be at least college freshmen and encourages them to finish their degrees. The Mountain View, California-based company finds other ways to look for recruits, said Kyle Ewing, Google’s head of global staffing.
“We do have a former professional ballerina, a former professional baseball player who used to throw a 90-mile-per- hour fastball, a student who raps in Chinese competitively,” Ewing said of the company’s interns.
Facebook found Sayman last year because the teen was using the social network’s Parse developer tools to build a mobile game called 4Snaps. The game, which involves people taking four pictures and sending them to friends as clues for guessing a word, has more than 500,000 players.
Sayman taught himself to make mobile apps at 13, partly to help his mother, a driver for Lyft Inc., and father, an audio engineer, to pay the bills after a foreclosure four years ago.
“He was the one paying for everything in the house, at 13, 14, 15,” his mother, Cristina Sayman, said in a phone interview.
As downloads of 4Snaps climbed last year — at one point becoming the top word game in Apple Inc.’s App Store — Facebook’s Parse team contacted Sayman to feature the app on the company blog. They also asked him to make a video explaining how the app was built.
The video, which Sayman made in his pajamas, was shown to Facebook’s entire staff in September. It got the attention of the intern recruiter, who told the teen about the summer program.
Facebook’s head of global recruiting, Miranda Kalinowski, said there’s “no hard and fast rule” on intern ages at the Menlo Park, California-based company, though it typically tries to meet college freshmen and recruit from universities.
“The point is we’re always on the lookout for really top talent,” she said.
In November, Facebook flew Sayman out to meet Zuckerberg. The two discussed 4Snaps, while his mother marveled at the Web company’s headquarters where her son could get his hair cut, his laundry done and eat whenever he wanted for free.
“They have plenty of food, everything for free, they just have to focus and work,” Cristina Sayman said.
Sayman, who’s working with the Parse team this summer, said he isn’t sure if he’ll go to college. He’s getting into his life in Silicon Valley, including snapping a selfie last month with Apple CEO Tim Cook.
“If Facebook were to extend my offer for a full-time position I would definitely take that,” Sayman said. “It’s my dream job.”