Hiring an intern for your business should not be a task that is taken lightly—as anyone who has had the intern from hell will tell you. The reason small businesses, like the one I work for, hires interns is to improve our profitability. Interns are free labor.
Besides being cheap, interns are also eager to work and learn and bring a young, vibrant vibe into your office. That is, if you know how to hire an intern correctly. The effort you put in to hiring an intern directly corresponds to your return on investment. Who knows? Perhaps your new intern will end up becoming your next full-time hire.
If you are lucky enough to have interns banging down your door, then your job is easy. If you have to reach out to the local community to find interns, here are some ideas on where to start:
Local university career center
Career centers are specifically designed to help students locate internships and jobs and for employers to find the right candidate for their open positions. These career centers will often hold a job fair or internship fair to help pair students and companies looking to hire. Some of the bigger schools have career centers at each of their specific schools. Team up with a career center at your local college or university and let them help you—it’s their job!
Contact specific professors
If you want to take a more proactive approach to finding local college kids for internships, contact the university department that represents your field. The head of the department will be able to put the word out to their colleagues that you are looking for an intern with a desired set of skills. The professors can put the word out and pass along your contact information. The department may even have their own job/internship listing on their website. This is how I found my internships in grad school with PRWeek and Inc. Magazine.
Advertise on the Internet
Websites like Craigslist are also a way to find potential interns, depending on where you are located. I have found that postings in larger cities get much more attention than in rural areas. Also, more people know about Craigslist in Chicago than in, say, rural Idaho. While these postings are free or cheap, there is no telling the caliber of candidates you will attract. Still, I say it’s worth a shot.
So, you’ve received some responses from interested candidates and you’re ready to start the interview process. The hard part has just begun.
Make note of what each candidate wears to the interview. Is your office strictly shirt and tie and the candidate shows up in jeans? Maybe not a good fit.
The questions you might ask when interviewing a full-time employee might not be as effective when interviewing an intern. I tend to focus on educational experiences and goals rather than their professional experiences. Here is a list of questions that I ask intern candidates:
- How do you think this internship will help you prepare for your career?
- What are your plans after graduation?
- Are you involved in any campus organizations?
- Why did you choose your major?
- Why do you think you will be successful in your chosen field?
- What have you learned from part-time or student jobs?
- What do you hope to learn in this internship?
- What skills and expertise do you bring to this internship?
I listen for answers that indicate that the student has done some research on the company I work for and has a sense of what we do. I also listen to see if the student has thoughtfully considered their career path and what they would like to do after graduation. I want to make sure they are genuinely interested in the internship and the tasks they will be performing. I find that students who have had a part-time job or are involved in a campus organization tend to manage their time better.
Internships give students the opportunity to learn about their chosen career field while gaining valuable work experience. But it’s up to you to hire the candidate who will be the best fit for your work environment. Remember, you’re stuck with them for the next four months or so—do your part to make sure it’s a productive and satisfying experience for the both of you.
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