Three steps to hiring the best interns » SMEInsider

Three steps to hiring the best interns

Hiring interns can be a great way to get fresh young talent into your company, growing the business without having to commit to full time employment straight away. But treat it simply as a chance to rake in free labour and you’ll do yourself more harm than good.

Here are three essential steps to getting the best people in – and the best out of their time.

1. Pay them

If someone is prepared to work for you then you must – I repeat: must! – be prepared to compensate them for their time. Failing to reward someone for doing valuable work is not only unethical; in many cases, paying below the minimum wage is actually illegal. Plus, by ruling out the millions of graduates who lack the rich mummies and daddies (generally) required to work for free, you are dramatically limiting your talent pool.

Even if you don’t give a damn about the moral side, failing to pay interns the minimum wage makes bad business sense. Someone who feels undervalued and de-incentivised by your pointed lack of payment is unlikely to be very motivated, whilst spending much of your day worrying about impending bills (or half-asleep from a nocturnal pub job) is hardly conductive to producing great work.

2. Hire based on fit, not experience

The reason internships exist is to help grads with more potential than experience to give the first and gain the latter, so focussing on similar work done before is a tad unhelpful. While it might seem like a great idea to hire an “experienced intern” the truth is that, unless the internship is in a different field to those completed before, an applicant with a string of internships and no full time offers behind them is probably teetering dangerously on the edge of bitter and jaded. You may well find that someone new to the industry will be far more enthused.

There are tips and tricks for interviewing based on skills rather than experience, detailed here. The most important thing is to find someone with a great attitude, who seems genuinely excited and passionate about the industry, is willing to pull their weight and wants to learn as much as they can. An intern that can bring a real buzz and energy to the workplace, and who is bursting with ideas, will bring far more to your workplace than someone who once spent a summer doing a similar job but lacks any real spark.

3. Value their input

Taking on bright, ambitious people at the start of their careers is a wasted opportunity if you don’t then welcome their talents and ideas. While minimum wage should be the baseline, the kind of person that is going to make a difference to your business is not going to feel satisfied with making enough money to survive and then clocking off at 5pm.

People who do internships are hungry for experience in their chosen field – that’s why they’ve taken a low paid, zero security role at your company rather than picking a nice, safe, reasonably paid job that gets them home in plenty of time to watch EastEnders. If you want them to quickly add value to your company, ask for their input, give them genuine responsibility and create opportunities to learn. And, whatever you do, talk to them like colleagues you respect, rather than naughty kids in a six week detention.