Often stereotyped as the errand runner or coffee maker, the concept of an intern is broad and vaguely defined. In reality, there’s lots to be said about recruiting an intern for your company (aside from the often-joked about ‘cheap labour’).
Chances are that you’re going to hire someone young, who brings with them new perspectives, fresh ideas, and lots of tech know-how. They can invigorate a workplace and help out with projects that you might be struggling with. Here’s how to hire great interns that will contribute meaningfully to your business.
Make Job Descriptions Clear.
To make sure your intern doesn’t get stuck doing mindless administrative chores for the duration of their stay, clearly outline the tasks and responsibilities expected of them. A well defined job scope will help suss out interns who don’t think they’re suitable or interested in the position, and help those that are keen to hit the ground running on day one. Schools will also appreciate a transparent job description to know that they’re leaving their students in good hands.
Look Beyond Grades.
A bunch of letters on a transcript (no matter how fancy looking) isn’t always the best judge of character. Sure, a potential intern for a marketing agency might be stellar at solving equations on the fly, but can she confidently pitch a campaign to a client? That’s the important stuff that you need to consider.
Use your interview time with the candidate to gauge his level of interest in your field. How passionate is he about your industry? Would you want him in the industry circle five years down the road? Chances are, a candidate that’s genuinely enthusiastic about the job will outshine the candidate with a bunch of distinctions.
Give Real Work.
It’s all too easy to recruit a fantastic intern, and then waste their talent by sticking them in a mailroom and forgetting about them for a couple of months. They came to your company because they wanted to get into the industry and do meaningful work, and they pegged your company to be the best place to do that.
Make them feel important. They’ll relish the feeling of being entrusted with something, and will likely rise to the task. If you’re reluctant to grant them weighty projects so soon, start them out with smaller tasks, or have them help out other staffers on their own tasks. Once they’ve proven themselves to be capable, move them on to bigger things.
Integrate Interns Into Your Company’s Culture.
The welcome tour should consist of more than just pointing out where the bathroom is – your intern is likely the youngest and most inexperienced member on the team, and may be feeling more than just a little nervous.
Help them get down to work more quickly by ensuring that they’re well-assimilated in their new surroundings. Get started with a broadcast email that introduces them to the team. Follow up by taking them around the office and letting them meet everyone in their department. Also consider appointing a junior staff member to be your company’s Intern Manager – your new intern will be grateful to interact with someone closer to their own age, and will allow more senior team members to focus on their tasks.
Manage Your Expectations.
Interns are young people – just as you were once. This is probably their first experience in the industry, so give them a chance to learn and don’t hold them to the same standards as you would expect of a full time employee.
That being said, be honest with your feedback. The internship is, after all, an opportunity for them to learn and grow – and an opportunity for you and your company to shape the next generation of professionals.
Featured image: Flickr user Juhan Sonin