Business

How to Hire the Right Intern: 16 Tips from the Pros

Shawn Forno 05.15.2017

School’s out for summer, which means one thing…it’s time to hire a summer intern!

The right intern can supercharge your startup with a fresh perspective, high energy, and new technical skills, not to mention the extra productivity of another employee. However, the wrong intern can waste your precious time and drag down even the most efficient team.

To help you hire the right intern we reached out to hundreds of companies, from major corporations to startups, for their advice on how to find the right intern. We’ve condensed that advice down to 16 core tips and principles to find, interview, and hire your next all-star intern. Let’s get started!

How to Find (and Hire!) the Right Intern

intern

Interns with Relevant Experience

“Good internship candidates highlight their contributions and achievements in their resume. For example, one intern had previously built 30 website in 30 days to learn the tricks of front end development. Another great intern had researched all about startup valuation methods and published several blog posts about it.”

Vaibhav Jain
Founder & CEO
Startup Flux

Interns that Follow Instructions

“The number one quality I look for in an intern is an ability to follow instructions. To test this, we include a few very specific instructions in our application process. For example, all applicants must submit their CV by email in PDF format and with a specific file name. Their email must also have a specific subject line with various questions answered in the body of the message. We discard any applications that don’t follow these instructions.”

John Niggl
Marketing & Communications Manager
InTouch Manufacturing Services

Willingness to Self-Teach

“We look for interns who are willing to teach themselves new skills outside of work. For one thing, the time they spend outside regular hours will help them get up to speed on our industry, products, and marketing. And we’ve found that interns who are willing to self-educate are the type of people who will take ownership of their work and really bring innovative ideas to the company.”

Vladimir Gendelman
Founder and CEO
CompanyFolders

Enthusiasm is King

“The number one thing I look for is enthusiasm. The biggest asset any intern can bring to our team is energy and excitement to learn about the furniture and design world. I’ve hired less qualified/experienced interns if they show that they are willing to work hard and learn on the job.”

John Linden
Founder
Mirror Co-op

Interns with Aptitude and Attitude

“Each year, we choose five interns in UI/UX Design, Software Development, Product Management, and Marketing to work with our team. We look for two key traits in our interns—aptitude and attitude. Ultimately, we’re less concerned with a candidate’s concrete experience (after all, internships are designed to help students gain experience in their chosen field), and more concerned with whether they have the right tools to succeed with ClickTime and in the profession.”

Sarah Dabby
Head of Talent
ClickTime

Show Don’t Tell

“Writers know the old adage: show, don’t tell. The same applies to interns. Don’t give me a song and dance about how wonderful you are. Demonstrate your potential by pointing to prior, relevant successes and articulating a plan to repeat them at my company.”

Tim Toterhi
Founder
Plotline Leadership

Interns ARE Employees

“You have to have an onboarding process for interns. If you’re dedicated to building the next generation of professionals in your industry then it’s incumbent on you and your company to create an exciting and educational experience for them. You should be looking for the same thing in an intern as you look for in a regular employee.”

Stephen Yasko
Public Radio Nonprofit Executive

Experience Matters

“Overall, for interns, I look at resumes as a snapshot. The real meat of the application is in experience and work samples. We look for independent enterprise. How have these applicants been building their skills outside of the classroom. This might be previous intern experience or writing on any level (whether that be blog, journalism, social media management, etc.). That same ethic transfers over to intern hiring in our other departments including design, development, SEO, and more.”

Matt Schickling
Content Strategist
I’m From the Future

Curiosity is Key

“We’re a digital media agency, so much of the work we perform for our clients can’t be taught in school. Due to this, we look for curiosity, decision-making, and hard work. If the intern is a hard worker and can make decisions in a pinch, that goes a long way. And curiosity is perhaps the most crucial of all. Digital marketing/advertising is a fast-paced environment. If the intern has an eagerness and desire to learn, we can teach them everything they need to know!”

Brandon Doyle
CEO & Founder
Wallaroo Media

Fearless Communicators

“In this day and age it’s so easy to just fire off a quick email, but the interns that catch my attention are the ones who pick up the phone and call me. In other words they aren’t afraid to communicate and showcase initiative.”

Emily Carlson
Founder & Creative Director
WRITTEN Apparel

Can Do Attitude

“First and foremost, I look for a ‘can do’ attitude. When I hire an intern, I can tell almost immediately during the interview process who is really interested in understanding the ins and outs of professional services marketing and who is just there to earn college credits, or make a few dollars. Our interns typically do everything from packing up promotional items for events to drafting press releases and in-house newsletters. The more engaged and interested they are, the more they contribute and learn.”

Peter Moeller
Director of Marketing and Communications
Scarinci Hollenbeck, Attorneys at Law

Creative Minds (That Play Well with Others)*

“I hire 6-12 graphic design, digital and content strategy, and videography interns every year, and more than anything, I want curious and creative minds. The only red flags that immediately turn me off is if they seem in any way like they won’t work well with others, or if they seem lazy or entitled.”

Damon Gochneaur
Founder
Aspiro Agency

Interns that Take Notes

“When I’m hiring interns, I look for anyone who has done their homework on the company before we meet for the interview. I like applicants that are enthusiastic and excited to learn more as well as those that fit in with our company culture (which thrives on working hard and playing hard). I also seek out good listeners. If you’re taking notes during the interview and asking thoughtful follow-up questions, it shows me that you’re processing what I’m saying—always a great trait to discover in a potential intern.”

Deborah Sweeney
CEO
MyCorporation

Internship Red Flags

intern red flag

Interns that Don’t Follow Directions

The number one thing that disqualified interns from moving forward to the interview stage was not following the directions for the applicatio
n
. 9 times out of 10, when a posting asked for writing or portfolio samples, cover letter, or links to social profiles, the intern applicant didn’t include them.”

Amy Shropshire
Internship Coordinator
Postali

No Soft Skills

“I’ve found that what separates the good interns from the bad ones is soft skills. I’ve had far too many interns who were incredibly talented but lacked professionalism. They’d show up late to meetings, forget deadlines, and respond to feedback with an attitude. I don’t care if an applicant is talented—I can teach them a skill. Instead, I look for an intern who is excited about learning, is self-motivated, and loves taking on new challenges. Someone who is receptive to feedback, learns quickly, and asks questions.

Elise Williams
Editor
Earn Spend Live

Lack of Dependability

“Do they show up for the interview on time, respond to emails quickly, and use tech tools like Skype with ease? Any failure in this category is a red flag for hiring.”

Sally Kane
Content Director
PaperStreet

Internship References Matter

“Lots of people skip on references, but they’re an absolute must in our mind. We ask for one academic reference and one personal or work reference. A bad reference would immediately disqualify someone from the internship position as many of our interns have been in client facing roles, so must act accordingly.”

Neil Andrew
Director
Piccana Ltd

How to Find an Intern

Hopefully this list of dos and don’ts helps you find an intern for your startup or company that will grow your business. If you have any more advice, tips, and tricks for hiring the perfect intern, share in the comments below and we’ll include you in our next roundup! And if you are interested in animation for business, check us out.

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