Be Purposeful When Hiring Interns

Cintrifuse recently implemented a program matching startups and university interns. Two startups who took advantage of the program, Hello Parent and Skinny Mom, shared their intern experiences with us. And overall, both had nothing but positive things to say.

Hello Parent’s intern helped them in their ramp-up to demo day and completed work so fast they could barely keep up. Skinny Mom’s graphic design intern helped them grow their presence on Pinterest.

But, for companies looking to get the most out of their interns, both companies had very similar advice from past experiences.

Seniority Matters

For freshman and sophomores, college is a new experience. They are just starting to understand how to juggle school work and their social life. Throwing an internship into the mix can be difficult for them.

Not that you shouldn’t hire freshman/sophomore interns but if you decide to go with a freshman or sophomore, make sure they do freshman level work like research and data entry. Save the more complicated stuff for junior and senior level interns.

Ask For Examples

If you’re in a startup, chances are you need help with graphic design and web development. Lucky for you there’s plenty of graphic design and web dev interns to go around.

But before you hire anyone, intern or not, always ask for examples. Cover letter and resumes are good, but nothing beats solid proof. And if they don’t have a portfolio, ask for recent class work or completed projects.

Don’t Go Overboard

When you look for interns, the shotgun approach doesn’t work. Find specific tasks then design the internship around them.

And their major matters. Look for interns whose course work aligns with your needs. Knowing their course work also helps you tailor their workload and makes them more efficient.

Ask the Right Questions

Challenge the candidate to give concrete examples and try to limit the use of questions with yes-no answers. Here’s some examples of behavioral interview questions you could use during the interview.

  • What do you do outside of school to learn?
  • How have you motivated yourself to complete an assignment?
  • How do you determine what your top priorities are?
  • Tell us about a time when you planned and pulled off a complex assignment.
  • What are examples of how you work independently?

Also, try to get a feel for cultural fit during the interview. Companies are like people, they all have their own personalities. If your intern’s personality doesn’t mesh with your startup’s personality then neither of you will have a good experience.

The Right Intern for the Right Job

Interns are a valuable resource for startup companies. They pick up slack, fill talent gaps or just help out with general admin work. They also save you on the cost of a full time employee. And, with four universities in the Greater Cincinnati Area, the region has an enormous pool of potential candidates.

But you need to be careful when bringing on interns. Know your specific needs, have concrete examples of their capabilities and make sure your intern is a cultural fit. If you’re purposeful with your hire then your company and your intern will have an awesome experience.


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