7 Tips for Hiring and Managing Interns

by Dawn Fotopulos on June 21, 2013

Rachael Lechliter of Conscious Magazine asked a really great question, “What’s the best way to manage interns?”

Here are our 7 Tips for Hiring and Managing Interns. 

#1. Set high standards

It’s a privilege to work with you. You’re availing this intern of your hard-earned wisdom. For them, they get the benefit of your experience without having to suffer the war wounds you have. Wisdom and skills are worth more than money. If the intern doesn’t get it, don’t make their immaturity your problem. Even if the person is a genius at social media marketing, don’t settle.

#2. Give interns real work to do

Expect more, not less from interns. Treat them like employees. Make them a part of the team. Listen to them when they make suggestions. Evaluate their performance so it becomes a growing experience for them. Who knows, you might just want to hire them one day. Even if you don’t,  they have a rich story to tell during interviews that demonstrates the value they bring to a company. That’s worth real money.

# 3. Set clear expectations

Dependability, scope of work, consistency and quality of output must be clear. That helps people know where the boundary lines are. It also helps them know what success looks like. Don’t forget attitude and motivation are an important part of setting standards. If your intern is smart and not motivated, their intelligence doesn’t matter. You’ll never get access to it.

Show them examples of what you’re looking for so there’s no misunderstanding. Make sure the benchmarks are clear. Just because there’s no money changing hands doesn’t mean there’s no value changing hands.

I’ve had many students tell me the work they’ve done for Best Small Biz Help.com as interns has landed them good paying jobs.

#4. Formal evaluations are a must

You’re not playing here. Your business is real, your clients are real and your pressures are real. If you’re going to treat interns like employees, then part of the process is to evaluate how they’re doing.

Be sure to provide feedback to your interns regularly. John Goodnight of SAS gives informal feedback to his developers on a weekly basis. You can consider providing feedback at  the beginning, middle and end of a project.

Always be sure to pass on great comments others have said about the intern. Also feel free to give constructive feedback too. That’s what I call the intern’s learning frontier.

When we’re pushed outside our zone of familiarity we build our intellectual capital. That’s when you build the value of your business.

#5. Challenge them

You’d be amazed what heights ordinary people will reach when you push them beyond what they think they can do. As a professor, this is part of my job description.

Don’t set them up to fail, however. Provide some oversight on a small scope so if it blows up, it’s not fatal. Fail small. Fail fast. That’s the CEO of SumAll, Dane Atkinson’s  philosophy.

He’s been very successful with this philosophy, so we trust his judgement!

#6. Keep the momentum going

It’s easy to find really enthusiastic people who lose their groove after a while. Even interns need care and feeding. Take them to an industry trade conference.

Invite them to sit in on conference calls. Involve them and they’ll be more engaged over time. And buy them a Starbucks vente latte every now and then. It’s cheap goodwill.

#7. Ask interns for referrals from their friends

Eagles fly together. Have you noticed? Like minded people find each other. If you have a great intern who’s moving on, and most do,  make sure you get access to his/ her network.

We do that at The King’s College (TKC). Several companies have been so thrilled with our interns, they only hire TKC students. Some companies are on their fourth generation of TKC students.

Hiring interns will take time. You’re training people who are by definition, not long-term hires. A great intern is worth the effort. They can then teach others.

One of the great hidden benefits of hiring college interns is that they bring the newest tech ecosystem with them. The knowledge and exchange goes both ways.

There you have our 7 Tips for Hiring and Managing Interns. Thanks for asking such a great question Rachael.

Have you had success hiring interns? Have you had challenges? Please feel free to comment below.

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