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How to Find the Right Intern

When you want an intern, it can be confusing to know where to look. (Kids these days! Who knows where the heck the cool kids go...). But with the right job description, smart searching, and a great opportunity - you can find one. 

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Create a detailed description of the job at hand, not a bait and switch. This doesn’t mean a long description, just an honest one. Be clear on the good, bad and ugly. Also, avoid being generic… everyone needs someone that is “hard-working.” The more details you give, the more they can self-select with either pure excitement of "I love talking to customers" or the it's not for me realization, “I’d rather stab my eye out than greet customers.”
  2. Post your listing with the right school and/or professor. If you run an analytics company, find an honors math professor and reach out. Artist that works with metal? Reach out to the fine art department and find the teacher that works with those students. A little research on your end can go a long way.
  3. Compensate them in every way you can. I am big on paid internships, but if you can’t swing that – at least do everything you can to make it for course credit. If you have a start up or passion project that isn’t bringing in money – that’s one thing. But if you need an intern because you have more work than you have money to hire, you need to focus on your business plan, not on coasting on the back of a student. Even giving them minimum wage shows that you value their time and expect them to work hard. If you value them, I guarantee they will care about and put more value in to their work-making it worth that additional investment.
  4. The interview isn't just the questions. It’s the whole process. Did they show up on time? Were they dressed appropriately (not a necessarily a business suit, but in a way that makes sense given your company)? Did they bring a copy of their resume? Show that they were eager and wanted the opportunity? And it’s ok to wiggle a little if they aren’t perfect. Students are young and can make rookie mistakes. Be discerning and forgive them for things you know that you can help them develop.
  5. Check references and ask detailed questions. Ask for three people to call, and give them a ring. Ask them important specifics you anticipate could be a problem such as, “My company has quite a bit of heavy duty manufacturing equipment. While they won’t be working on it, are they the kind of student that will respect the rules of my studio?” Or, “We handle private client information that can’t be shared publicly, does he/she have the maturity to understand the consequences of sharing private information?” Chances are an adult will shoot you straight. It’s one thing to call Bobby a great kid, but it’s another to know he’s got a huge mouth and confidential material may not be something he’s ready to handle.
  6. Make a clear offer with expectations for you both. Once you find the right student to take on – set your expectations for them AND the expectations they will have for you as a mentor. “I expect you to work 12-15 hours a week, and I will make a point to set aside an hour a week to answer questions and talk about anything you would like to in regards to the internship and your career.” Remember, you’re just as lucky to have them as they are to have an internship. Treat them with the respect you’d want your son or daughter treated. Have both of you sign a work agreement with expectations for you both. Teach them good business practices, and take your role as a mentor seriously!

Have more? Add them to the comments!