What to Look for When Hiring an Intern

By Adam Robinson,
April 18, 2014

There’s no denying that the key to getting an entry-level job today is internship experience. According to Forbes, “internships truly have become the ‘new interview’ in the job search process for students and employers alike.” But with so many students vying for a limited number of positions, it can be difficult to determine just which candidate you should hire for the summer.

Hireology’s marketing department has spent the last month trying to find a graphic design intern who has an innovative approach to design, understands our brand, and is a culture-fit. This isn’t our first go-around, so with use of our interview guides and scorecards, we were expecting the hiring decision to be a breeze. The good news was that we had great candidates apply. Out of the 58 total candidates, we interviewed 13. We narrowed down the candidate pool to six candidates, but for nearly a week, we just couldn’t decide who to hire.

Even us, the hiring experts, still struggle to decide just who the best person for the job is. But when it came down to it, we realized we were struggling to make a hiring decision because we were distracted away from the core goals of the position. So here’s three tips to keep in mind when it comes time to hire your next intern:

Don’t become distracted

You wrote a job description for two reasons – to give candidates a better idea of the responsibilities of the role and to help yourself better identify the right person for the job. That being said, you are going to get resumes from candidates under-qualified, overqualified, and just right. But the key is determining what just right entails.

We needed a graphic designer who also had a passion for marketing. Someone who could understand the impact their designs have on a given audience and make adjustments to determine which has a greater impact. We were also looking for a candidate who had basic knowledge of HTML and CSS. Most importantly, we needed an intern with layout experience. We knew exactly what we needed, but after narrowing down our candidate pool, we found ourselves debating between hiring someone with advanced coding knowledge and minor layout experience versus someone with basic coding knowledge and lots of layout experience. 

So when it doubt, look back to your job description. If you have two great candidates, both of whom have scored well on their interviews and have passed all necessary verification checks, hire the person whose experience most closely mirrors your job description. 

Don’t settle

While you may just be hiring an intern, that doesn’t mean you should settle. You’re making an investment, so make it pay off. There are candidates out there who have what it takes to excel in your internship, you just have to make sure you’re sourcing in the right places. Here are a few places to find great candidates:

  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Local university job sites

There will be growth

Whether this is your intern’s first of seventh internship, they are going to learn and they are going to grow. It’s up to you to show them the way, to help them succeed in the role. The more you put into training your intern, the better their work will be.

About the Author

Adam co-founded Hireology with the mission to help growing companies make better hiring decisions through data and better technology. Adam is passionate about entrepreneurship, donating time to a number of organizations that support the entrepreneurial cause. Adam completed his undergraduate study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and received his MBA from DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

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