How to hire the right interns for your startup/business

If you own a startup or even an established business, it can be fairly assumed that you must have given at least some thought to the idea of starting an internship program. Sure, your motivations might have been different — startups generally prefer interns because the idea of a worker who only seeks payment in experience is really quite compelling. But established businesses generally seek interns to help take down some of their heavy duty loads and to have someone to take care of the more menial tasks.

Hiring the right talent as interns for your startup or business becomes essential when you start growing.

Internships can really be quite beneficial for both parties involved, the employer and the interns who are looking to get their foot into a door or are looking for some relevant experience. However, if not handled well, an internship program can even turn into a disastrous waste of time for both the parties. So if you’re looking for means to ensure that you recruit the right interns for your startup or business, please read on.

Hiring an intern is not just about getting a college kid on board. Read how to hire the right #interns for your #startup/ #business.

  1. Tap the Right Colleges and Programs

This is generally one of the first, and most obvious, things you should be doing. Colleges, specially well reputed colleges, already ensure that they get the best students for specific subjects. As such, if you narrow your field to the top colleges, you’re already a step closer to a pool of talented people hungry for internships. However, you need to strategize how to approach them, especially if you’re a startup and thus can’t rely on brand draw.

Approaching reputed colleges makes narrowing down on potential candidates much easier for you.

You can approach professors for the relevant courses you’re focusing on, and after winning them over you could ask them for recommendations. This is a win-win for everyone as professors are always eager to help their brightest students succeed, you can be assured that you’re being sent the most talented of the lot, and the students generally trust their professors’ recommendations. You could also approach them by advertising your opening through social media, and engaging in recruitment drives and programs.

2. WIIFM

“What’s in it for me?” That’s what most 20-somethings are thinking pretty much all the time. Let’s get real, there are a thousand of startups out there, and internship programs are also notorious for being a glorified form of slavery. However, students might be willing to suffer that for a few months at an established company just for the sake of being able to highlight the brand in their resumes. But they don’t have much of an incentive to spend their time at startups, not unless they can take something out of it, something that would bolster up their resumes. As such you have to advertise your opening based on You-Orientation, that is, you have to let them know how they would benefit from the internship. And you can’t vaguely state that they’ll get ‘industry experience.’ You need to be specific and let them know what precise skills they’ll be picking up, what kind of projects they’ll be engaged in, get them excited about all the things they can add to their resume!

Make sure you advertise the opening as one which would bring value to the intern, therefore getting them excited.

3. Filtration Process

You need to have a very rigorous filtration process, because hiring the wrong intern can prove very costly on your time, even if not on your funds. After you’ve got a pool of candidates interested, you can send them all reading materials and briefings about your company so that you don’t have to waste all your time repeatedly answering the same questions. Furthermore, if you send out reading materials you would also be able to better gauge (over the interview) whether they’ve actually made the effort to go through your briefing. If not, then you should drop them.

Build an efficient hiring process in place which involves reading and assignments. This will help you narrow down to the best.

Before the interview you can also send them a short assignment, which should take a maximum of one hour. This assignment should be generalist in nature, something one can fairly accomplish even without technical skills. Most of the uncommitted lot would simply drop out at this stage, some wouldn’t care to write proper answers, and you can accurately gauge which of the applicants are actually committed to getting the internship. Finally, during the interview you can study the body language of the candidates and their personality, as that is generally a better indicator of their work ethics rather than what they say to you.

4. Build Value

It’s okay to use your interns to lower the burden of the more menial tasks around the office. But you should make sure that they are also given one or two non-critical projects to handle all on their own. This would ensure that they feel valued, and that they have something to do when you don’t have tasks for them.

Involve your interns in projects and keep them busy with work. This way you will be valuing their time as well.

Handling interns can often be like handling children in a couple of ways. If you don’t keep them occupied, they can be quite pestering and annoying (and they can’t be blamed for valuing their time.) Hence giving out a few long-term projects would ensure that they’re always busy, always feel valued, would get them excited about finally doing something they can display in their resumes, and that in turn would help you draw in more interns because of…

5. Word of Mouth

As you can probably tell by now, hiring the right intern can be an extremely time consuming activity and requires thorough dedication. However, you can massively cut down on that effort if you make use of the strongest marketing tool in all of history, that is, word of mouth.

Treating your interns right will always help you get better interns in the future. They become your unofficial PR mechanisms.

Internships don’t last too long, and as such you need to maintain a steady flow of interns. Doing so can be made easy if you ensure that you give your interns an experience they can talk and boast about to their friends. If they felt valued and if they felt like they got something out of the experience they’d definitely want to recommend the experience to their friends. In addition to that, they would value your company as a contact and wouldn’t want to risk that by sending over just anyone. Being familiar with the requirements of the job and the skills of their friends, they’re likely to send the best candidates your way. Over time you can even completely cut down on taking the time to look for interns, as top quality interns would be recommended to you by your past interns on a regular basis!

So these are some of the best techniques your startup or business can avail of to find just the right interns for yourself, to ensure a couple of smooth-sailing, cost-effective, mutually beneficial months.

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