Bringing on an intern can be a great (and economical) way to get extra help, while also building the potential for new hires and positions within your company. But when you are taking on a new hire, no matter what their position, credentials, or timeline, it’s crucial that you undertake the task with certain things in mind.
- Have a plan. Chances are your intern is going to be on your team for a very specific timeframe, so if you don’t have a plan, you may be wasting both your time and money. Before you even choose a hire, decide what type of tasks they will have and make sure to set clear and realistic boundaries and expectations. If the internship is only for a month, don’t start them on a project you know will take six.
- Make it clear. I know I already mentioned clear expectations, but that extends to more than just the tasks you are delegating. Make sure to clearly define the position you are hiring for, from job and skill requirements to length of employment. Not only will this prevent confusion, but it will ensure you start your working relationship based on honesty and clarity.
- Assume they are ignorant. I know you don’t want to imagine hiring a complete idiot, but you should always assume your intern knows next to nothing about what, how, or why you do what you do. Take things slowly and make sure to give yourself and them plenty of time to adjust to the tasks you are assigning. That doesn’t mean you should give them only mindless, meaningless busy-work–on the contrary, you should try to inspire and motivate them—but you should make time to nurture your intern and actually train them in the position they are filling or neither of you will be satisfied with the outcome.
- Enable your hires. You will want to set your new team up for success by setting clear expectations, providing challenging (but doable) tasks, offering honest feedback, and creating systems of checks and balances to keep them accountable, while also offering individual freedoms to work as they see fit.
- Evaluate. Just as you would perform systematic evaluations for your regular employees, so should you provide evaluations for your interns; but because an intern might have a decidedly shorter term with you, you should feel free to conduct these evaluations as often as necessary (rather than just at the end of the year, etc.). These critiques can help you avoid common pitfalls and teach your interns what they are doing right, as well as what could use improvement—a benefit for their learning and your business.
If you have a strong relationship with your alma mater, reach out to your career development center and see if you can facilitate any internships with someone from your old stomping grounds. Schools love promoting their alumni and it will give you an idea of the type of person you are bringing into your team before you even interview them.
If you are a service business, consider starting a trade program, and offering work opportunities/internships in exchange for free access to your services. Hiring someone who already knows, understands, and loves your business can be a great way to turn their passion into an additional business asset for you.
Have you had experience with an intern? What did you find were the pros and cons? What worked for you? We’d love to know! Tell us in the comments below.