The “Win-Win” Internship: How To Select & Savor Interns Who Will Enrich Your Business While You Enrich Them.

Linda LaitalaBusiness, EmployeesLeave a Comment

One of my favorite months of the year is September.  O.K., partly because it’s my birthday month (yep, I’m a Virgo), but it’s also the month that a new crop of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed juniors and seniors go back to school.
Each year I contact the accounting teacher and/or business teacher at our local high school and ask them to find me two or three of their brightest and best students to be interviewed for an intern position at my company.   
I focus on hiring high school students because there is no college campus nearby.  However, the information I’m sharing with you will work for both high school and college students.
In the past 15 years I’ve learned:

  1. Quiet and shy is good, but if you have to pry answers out of a student with a crowbar, two-way communication just won’t happen.
  2. Create a job description or at the very least, a list of the tasks the intern will be performing.  If they’ll be using specific software include that as well.
  3. Ask them to write a short paragraph about themselves, using pen and paper, during the interview.  This usually moves these digital natives out of their comfort zone; it’s interesting to see how they perform.  It’s also a test of their writing, grammar, and penmanship skills.
  4. Make two lists of expectations:
    1. Your expectations of them
    2. Their expectations of you, their employer.  Ask if they have additional expectations they’d like to add to the list.
      These lists have been eye-openers for the job candidates as well as the teachers who refer them.
  5. Include a list of skills they will learn and experiences they will have that will prepare them for the future.  Will they attend meetings with you, organize non-profit events, or be responsible for a project from start to finish?  Those experiences equal bullets on a future resume.
  6. Ask them to do things they’ve never done before.  The truth is many of them will never have done most of what you ask them to do.  Take time to describe the end result you want and let them figure out how to accomplish it.  You’ll be amazed at how resourceful they can be.
  7. Be quiet and listen.  Some of the most creative ways of organizing information or using software has come from my interns.
  8. The best candidate is one that you genuinely like who has a personality that will fit in your organization.
  9. Finally, when the term of the internship is over, write a letter of recommendation for the individual, spelling out their strengths and accomplishments.  Let them use you as a referral for future job interviews.

Click here for an example of the “Job Description and Expectations List” I use.  Feel free to use it or adapt it to your needs.

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