As a small business owner, there is a natural inclination to have this conversation: We…
How to Hire an Intern
Five Steps to a Better Intern Hiring Process
Internships are amazing opportunities for both parties, but it’s all too common for businesses to hire interns without much forethought, just to get more bodies on a project or to avoid hiring a full-time admin — this robs both the intern and the business of a really valuable experience.
Putting in the time and energy to design a great internship before you start the hiring process is essential to making sure you’re not scrambling to find something for your intern to do once they arrive for their first day. And going through the hiring process thoughtfully and intentionally improves your chances of finding a great fit, which could turn into a lasting professional relationship.
Interns are so much more than coffee gophers or Twitter professors. They’re often bright, enthusiastic, and excited to learn about the professional world. If you follow these steps, you can hire the right intern for your team, and offer them an experience that not only broadens their understanding but also benefits your business.
Five Steps to a Better Intern Hiring Process
1. Plan out the logistics before posting the opportunity
Before you even write the job description, imagine your new intern’s first day: where will they sit? What equipment will they need? If they’re remote, are you expecting them to use their own computer or will you provide them with one? Who’s going to be their point person — who has the time and energy to provide consistent guidance and meet with them at least once a week?
Plan out a detailed list of the tasks and duties you hope the intern will tackle, and prepare a project for them to do on day one, making sure you have a case study to give them as an example – this not only helps them get stuck in right away, but also gives you a sense of their skillset and abilities so you can assess their progress and give appropriate feedback.
2. In the job description, focus on skills rather than experience
An internship is all about learning. Yes, you want to get value out of their participation in your business, but hopefully you’re also looking to share your insight and experience and help your intern build their skillset for their future workplace.
Instead of noting that you want candidates with website-building experience, for example, note that you’re looking for people with some basic computer skills or comparable classroom experience. Instead of experience corresponding with clients, maybe request communication skills and comfort talking to new people.
3. Advertise strategically
Think about the skills you’re looking for, then imagine which colleges, universities, or trade schools are likely to equip students with those skills. Say you really need an excellent communicator — maybe you advertise in your local university’s newspaper, or pin a job ad to the notice board of the English department.
Sure, you can throw an internship ad up on LinkedIn or Indeed and call it a day, but if you target your search you’ll be more likely to get better candidates right out of the gate.
4. Ask better interview questions
Perhaps the most important thing you should be looking to learn from an interview is whether a potential intern will fit in with your team’s culture and work style, and the best way to get that information is to ask the right kinds of questions.
It’s not uncommon for summer interns to have little workplace experience to discuss, but that doesn’t mean you can’t figure out how they’ll engage with workplace conflict or team projects. Frame questions more openly, so they can use examples from class and their personal lives as well as previous work or internship experience.
For example, instead of asking them to tell you about a time they disagreed with their boss and how they handled it, you can ask them to share a story of a disagreement they had with a professor or advisor, or a time they worked through a conflict in a group project. The core of the question — how do you navigate hard conversations — is the same.
5. Get a sense of their real personality, not just their work persona
Don’t forget that who these candidates are as people is important too. Get in there with questions about their favorite music, or what book kept them up past bedtime as a kid, or what single meal they’d choose if they had to eat it every day for the rest of their life.
Get to know their personalities, so you can assess whether they’ll fit in well with your other employees. Remember that, above all else, internships are about building relationships — personality is a crucial part of that.
If you’re ready to hire an intern, but you’re still not sure how to design the program or initiate the hiring process, we can help! Reach out today to book your free 30-minute consultation with Emily and get started building the internship of your (and their) dreams!