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Your Cheat Sheet to Hiring the Perfect Intern

By Mark Wardell @MarkWardell |

Your business is expanding, your team is working full tilt and you have more projects on your hands than ever before. At Wardell, we call this ‘growth mode’, and it’s a great (albeit challenging) place to be.

On the one hand, you’ve got a ton of projects underway, which are going to take your business to the next level. On the other, you haven’t quite reached the revenue stream to justify hiring additional staff. The solution? An ambitious, capable intern.
An intern? Don’t balk at the idea of bringing on someone who lacks experience. When budgets are tight, an intern can help your business complete all of those projects on your plate (you know, the ones that aren’t quite making you money yet) in the most affordable way.

So, how do you find the right intern?

First, look to your local colleges and universities to find out what types of internship placements they’re facilitating, relative to specific programs-  i.e. business, marketing, architecture. Connect with the program coordinators directly to ask about and set up a work placement. Sometimes this can be as simple as letting them know your business is accepting placements.

Next, you’ll need to conduct interviews in the same manner as you would any potential new employee. But look for “smart and motivated” rather than “experienced and connected”. Take them through your standard hiring process, ask what they hope to learn and contribute, and, above all, check references. (I’ve seen countless businesses go through several interns before finding the right one, simply because they didn’t screen meticulously.)
A big reality check to keep in mind is that today’s young Gen Yers don’t tend to strive to impress the way Gen Xers do, yet they do tend to interview really well. It’s a common complaint among business owners that their interns weren’t actually willing to do the job required (i.e. they had other loftier goals in mind). To avoid this, be especially clear about what exactly their day-to-day work will look like. Don’t assume anything.

Developing a system is the most efficient way to give your intern a successful start. Develop a crystal clear strategy for projects your intern will manage, along with detailed training for exactly how they should proceed, including details for how they should measure results.

By developing a system that your intern can follow, you’re automatically setting them on a path to success. Plus, you can easily adapt this system to be used for other future hires in a similar role.

One way to inspire your intern to excellence is to ensure you’re making the opportunity as valuable as possible. To do this, find out about your intern’s goals for the future early on and try to make the experience an exceptional one.

For example, if your intern is interested in marketing, you could give them access to some of the behind-the-scenes work involved in that position at your company- i.e. pitching media, chatting to industry professionals, managing campaigns. Provide additional inspiration to your intern whenever possible and it will pay off in loyalty and performance.
In addition to coming at a bargain, an intern can bring a fresh perspective, idealism and drive to your business and the projects they take on. Depending on your industry or profession, a student-intern can also bring you access to the most current research and perspectives in their field.

And perhaps the best part about bringing on a fresh young recruit, is the possibility that they’ll one day come back to be a part of your all-star team. 

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