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How to Avoid a #TotalFail when Hiring an Intern


Hiring good help shouldn’t be difficult. Okay, clarification—it shouldn’t be too difficult. But, the same can be said for someone seeking employment—that finding a position and a company that meets his/her needs should be child’s play. Why, you ask? At the end of the day, a company and hiring manager should know what they want and need in an employee, and likewise, an individual seeking employment should know what they’re looking to gain from their experience with a company.

What's more is that interns looking for internships—and companies looking to hire interns—need to ensure that the unique considerations that surround an internship (i.e., flexible schedules, limited availability, short-term tenure) be taken into full consideration for this niche opportunity.

And, like all good plans—significant preparation is required for a smooth experience. Hiring managers looking to fill your next intern position, read on for insight that I can only wish that someone had shared with me some time ago. 

1. Know the Skill Set You Need

Seems easy enough, right? Surprisingly, this may be one of the most difficult components to nail down if you don’t commit your requirements to paper. The reason is simple. Likely, as the hiring manager, you’ll be bombarded with resumes from every which way. Before you know it, one may sound like the next. So, when you come across a really strong resume, you’re likely to remember the high points and use that as a reference point to all others that come after it. Beware in doing so, and remember to reevaluate if that stand-out-resume (that you’re judging all others against) meets the needs of the job description or if they just have a strong resume (i.e., It’s awesome if said intern single-handedly built an accounting site to reconcile payments for a 1,000+ employee company….but, I need someone to write a 300-word article).

Remember, the end goal is to select a candidate that meets the needs of THIS role. If you don’t commit your needs/requirements to paper, you’re likely to end up with too many “strong” resumes to rummage through that ventures far from your original need.

2. Manage Your Own Expectations

Often times, an intern seeks employment opportunities to learn the ropes. And, more often than not, that may translate to a lack of experience. (Hint: That’s why they’re here—to learn). But, just remember, that’s okay. An intern will most likely require more hands-on training than your everyday staff requires, but it should be noted that your regular staff has experience, familiarity, and interpersonal relationships to fall back on.

So, before you go seeking an intern that has the same experience as your four-year-veteran churning out work, check yourself. Understand that this opportunity is just that—an opportunity—for him/her to grasp the industry and discipline of their chosen field. Patience will be your friend; if you lack it, reconsider the need for an intern. It may turn out that hiring a full-time employee is the best option for your situation.

3. Seek Out Their Willingness to Learn

While an intern may not know it all, their eagerness to learn can offer significant insight as to the type of employee he/she will become. Probe them on why they’re seeking out an internship. Is it to further their skill set, test out the industry, or just required for coursework? Their responses and candor can provide you with a strong indicator of what they hope to achieve in their time with your organization. Open, expressive candidates that are open to learning the trade and verbally express that desire often offer the most promise.

4. Build a Plan for Success

Let’s be honest; the stigma that often precedes the expectation of an intern doesn’t fall short of serving coffee, going to the cleaners, and making color copies. In today’s thirsty environment for quality interns, that couldn’t (or shouldn’t) be further from the truth. As the manager of an intern, remind yourself (and your staff, when appropriate) that this experience should be a mutually beneficial opportunity for all parties involved—both the organization and the intern. So, to put it bluntly, if you want coffee, go serve it yourself!

Don’t risk a horrible experience by letting an enthusiastic, willing-to-learn, open-minded individual be wasted on mundane tasks. Build a plan—and, more importantly, stick to it! Spell out and relay what you perceive the end-goal of this experience to be, so going into this experience, both you and the selected candidate know and agree on exactly what to expect of one another. Expectations resolve 90% of all situations so set them and reinforce them often.

Was what you just read the “end-all, be-all” to finding the perfect intern? Probably not, but it wasn’t meant to be either. It was, however, intended to bring to light some of the most common considerations that are often—ironically enough—not considered. When all is said and done, it boils down to setting expectations and ensuring that you (as a hiring manger) and the intern have a mutually beneficial experience, and that can only happen if, like all other projects, you’re committed to its success.

Share with us what insights you've run across when in the search for an intern. 



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