Public Interest

How to hire an intern who can do more than order coffee

Internships offer invaluable opportunities for both students and employers. For students, internships provide real-world experience and a chance to apply classroom knowledge in a professional setting. For employers, internships are an opportunity to identify and nurture future talent while getting fresh perspectives and additional manpower. However, the stereotypical image of interns fetching coffee or making photocopies is outdated and does a disservice to both interns and organizations.

Here is how to hire an intern who can do more than just the menial tasks, and instead, contribute meaningfully to the team and organization.

  • Clarify Expectations from the Start

When posting an internship position, be clear about the responsibilities and expectations. Highlight the meaningful tasks and projects the intern will be involved in, emphasizing opportunities for learning and growth. Clearly defining the role ensures that candidates who apply understand what they're signing up for and are genuinely interested in the opportunity to contribute.

  • Focus on Skills and Potential

Look beyond a candidate's academic credentials and focus on their skills, experiences, and potential. Consider candidates who demonstrate a strong work ethic, problem-solving abilities, communication skills, and a willingness to learn. Look for candidates who show initiative, creativity, and adaptability, as these are qualities that translate into valuable contributions in the workplace.

  • Conduct Behavioral Interviews

In addition to traditional interviews, incorporate behavioral interview questions that assess how candidates have handled specific situations in the past. Ask about times when they've taken initiative, overcome challenges, worked in teams, or demonstrated leadership skills. These questions provide insight into a candidate's behavior and capabilities beyond what can be gleaned from their resume.

  • Provide Meaningful Projects

Once hired, assign interns meaningful projects that align with their interests and skills. These projects should challenge interns, allowing them to apply their knowledge and skills while making a tangible impact on the organization. Providing opportunities for ownership and autonomy fosters a sense of responsibility and investment in the work.

  • Offer Mentorship and Guidance

Assign a mentor or supervisor to provide support, guidance, and feedback throughout the internship. A mentor can help interns navigate the organization, clarify expectations, and provide opportunities for professional development. Regular check-ins and constructive feedback ensure that interns are on track and have the support they need to succeed.

  • Encourage Collaboration and Networking

Encourage interns to collaborate with colleagues across departments and participate in networking opportunities within the organization. Exposure to different areas of the business not only enhances interns' understanding of the organization but also fosters cross-functional collaboration and innovation.

  • Recognize and Acknowledge Contributions

Acknowledge and recognize interns' contributions to the organization. Celebrate their achievements, whether big or small, and publicly acknowledge their efforts. Recognition boosts morale, motivates interns to continue making meaningful contributions, and enhances their sense of belonging within the organization.

  • Provide Opportunities for Growth

Finally, provide interns with opportunities for growth and development. Offer training sessions, workshops, and educational resources that expand their skills and knowledge. 

In conclusion, hiring an intern who can do more than order coffee requires a proactive approach from employers. By clarifying expectations, focusing on skills and potential, conducting behavioral interviews, providing meaningful projects, offering mentorship and guidance, encouraging collaboration and networking, recognizing contributions, and providing opportunities for growth, organizations can attract and retain interns who make meaningful contributions and add value to the team and organization.