I was hired as a summer intern at Kuvio Creative in June 2017. As you have probably realized, I was able to extend my internship into a part time position with the company and am still a part of the marketing team. Both interning and working here have been an amazing learning experiences. In addition, the interns we have hired have had positive lasting impacts on the company. If you don't have an intern program at your company I would highly recommend it. In order to get you started I have scoured the internet, chatted with employers, and questioned career advisors to compile a list of helpful tips.
1. Hire interns for longer periods
It is possible for a three month summer intern to do meaningful work, but hiring an intern for five of six months gives them time to get truly acclimated, come up with new ideas, and see those ideas through. More and more universities offer programs that give students credit for internships, incentivizing students to commit for a longer period. Additionally, if you are able to do so, paying your interns can also be meaningful. A great intern will work just as hard even if they are not being paid, but it is great to teach students the amazing feeling of earning money while doing work they love (and for some interns this is the kind of motivation they need to stay committed to the role).
2. Give meaningful tasks
It’s great to have someone make copies for you and to head out on that afternoon coffee run, but giving interns meaningful assignments will improve the experience for everyone. When given tasks that interest them and that will have an impact on the company, interns will be more motivated, more creative, and more successful. In addition, by having interns do strictly administrative work, your company is missing out on the great ideas they have to share.
3. Look for transferable skills
It’s possible the applicants will not have a lot of field related work experience on their resume, but that does not mean they will not be a good intern. Pay close attention to on-campus activities, volunteer work, and even part-time jobs that they have had, and consider how the transferrable skills they learned there can come into play at your workplace. For example, someone who has worked in a restaurant kitchen is adapted to a fast-paced environment and knows how to follow procedures. Someone who is co-president of their sorority likely has great leadership and collaboration skills. Job specific skills can be taught, just focus on finding someone who has had useful life experiences.
4. Do they follow directions?
An intern who can follow directions will be a strong asset to your team. While creativity is also important, you need someone who will also complete the tasks you assign by following the procedures of the company. A great way to check if a candidate is careful to follow directions is to ask them to upload their application materials in a specific way, for example asking them to attach their resume as a .pdf with a unique name. If the candidate does not follow these instructions it’s possible they won’t follow them on the job either. This is a great quick screening technique.
5. The interview is important
I know that managers are very busy and you may want to hire based on resumes alone or after a quick phone screening to save time. However, the hiring managers I spoke with stressed how valuable they found face to face interviews (in-person or video chat) to be. This allows you to truly get a sense of what the person is like before hiring them. Are they on time? Did they dress professionally? Do they maintain eye contact? These subtle behaviors can be very helpful when choosing between your top candidates.
A note on video chat interviews: I once spoke with a manager who would ask candidates to stand up to see what kind of pants they were wearing for the interview (if any at all). I think this is a funny tactic although I am not sure how useful it would be.
6. Ask what they hope to learn
During the interview, a great question to ask is what the intern hopes to learn. If they have a good answer to this question they likely did ample research about the company and role and have clear goals. This one question is a great way to separate candidates who want to fill their resumes from candidates who want to make contributions and create great work.
7. Reach out to references
Contacting applicants’ references can be time consuming, but it can also provide you with major insights. Obviously, if a reference does not recommend a candidate that is a major red flag, but talking to positive references can also provide great information. You will get to hear about the intern’s skills that they may not have self-identified and find out what made them successful in their previous role. If these things align with your company, they are likely a good fit.
8. Attitude is everything
The most common tip I heard is to focus on attitude. Interns will need to be taught and they will make mistakes, maybe even big ones. But what is most important is how they will handle being pushed out of their comfort zone and how they will respond to feedback. Look for someone with a positive attitude and a strong desire to learn. When working with this type of intern it will be easy to make the experience great for everyone!
Hopefully, with these tips you can start a successful internship program! Do you have additional ideas for hiring interns? Let us know on Twitter, @KuvioCreative.