5 Things You Need To Know Before Hiring Startup Interns

Posted by Guest Author /May 8, 2014 / Hot Topics, How To, Uncategorized

This guest post was written by Nathan Parcells, founder and CMO of InternMatch, the leading website for Millennials to discover employment at amazing organizations. He has written about employment and careers in Huffington Post, Forbes, Fortune, Business Insider and more. 

It’s that time of year again, intern-hiring season. Interns are an essential part of every startup team, ensuring that a company grows with pre-vetted talent. At a startup, interns can fill in skill gaps that small teams are missing–whether that is design, content writing, or sales. Many famous startups, from Facebook (FB) to Nest,  have built up their teams using smart intern strategies, by hiring top notch engineering students before they even hit the job market.

But startups generally lack a human resources department or the funding to hire university recruiters. Don’t worry– hiring interns can be easy.

Take these 5 tips for hiring and onboarding your next startup interns:

1. Pay is the way to go!

There are three advantages to paying interns. One, paid interns are happier and more engaged. Two, paid internships attract a more diverse range of candidates. Three, you will avoid costly lawsuits. That’s right, lawsuits – plural! In terms of how much an intern should be paid, here’s the general range you want to hit for each position type:

Communications/PR: $10-$15/hour

Marketing:  $10-15/hour

Computer Science/Engineering:  $15-30/hour

Graduate Business Student:  $15-25/hour

Non-Profit: Unpaid/Stipend to $12/hour

2. Recruit a month or two before the university quarter/semester system begins.

 Although there are peak times during the summer when more students are on the hunt, they’re ALWAYS looking for internships. Internship postings are typically structured around seasons that fall inline with university’s quarter/semester systems. Here’s a guide:

Season                                 Begin Date                          End Date                                   Avg. Hours 

Fall                                         Mid-Sept.                                Mid-Dec                                      10-20

Spring                                    Mid-Jan.                                 Mid-April                                     10-20

Summer                                May – June                            Mid-August                                20-40                                      

3. Hire with style.

Working at a startup is much different than working at a large corporation. The intern you hire needs to be well-informed about the startup lifestyle and your company culture during the interview process. On top of that, you want to look for an intern who’s a self-starter, doesn’t need much direction, and takes ownership over their own projects. Interns can fill in your company’s missing skill caps in areas of creative work, business development, content marketing, analytics, and engineering. Here are some hiring steps:

Step 1: Have a 15-30 minute phone screen.

Step 2: If you like them, have them complete a mini-project or task after the initial screening interview. Some examples include researching and writing an article, coding a funny webpage, putting together a short marketing presentation, providing you with 3 campaign ideas to increase user base, or solving a business case. This will:

a. Give them an idea of the type of work they’re going to be doing.

b. Allow you to see how well they’re going to do as the actual intern.

c. Clear out any misunderstanding or miscommunication of what the position entails.

d. Most importantly, show you if the intern is a hit or a miss.

Step 3: If they have done an exceptional job on the project, have a follow up interview. Ask them to come into the office or have it over video (Skype or Google Hangout is the way to go). By now you should be down to two or three candidates and any questions you ask here is to ensure that you’d get along with this intern and that they’d fit in at the company.

4. Have a dedicated intern manager…better yet, a mentor!

An intern should have someone to report to throughout the internship period. This employee can work both as their dedicated manager and as their mentor. It’s most likely going to be the person who runs the department that the intern is hired into, but hey – no rules about who. It’s important that the mentor meets with his or her intern on a weekly basis to go over project progress and to answer any questions.

5. Treat interns like real employees.

It’s mind blowing how much an intern can contribute to a growing company. The traditional intern stigma of getting coffee and filing papers is long gone, especially in the startup world. It’s important to treat interns like full time employees right at the start and assign them valuable work. Whether it’s redesigning a section of your website, or researching for a white paper that will generate huge leads, have the intern do some of what you would do. This also includes having them sit in on meetings to better integrate into the company and to get a sense of what everyone else is up to.

The important thing to remember is that these interns you onboard can potentially become full time employees. If they are exceptional during their internship period and you happen to have job openings, they will be one of the more qualified candidates to fill that position.

Don’t underestimate the power of interns. That intern you hire can be the one to take your startup to the next level. Now good luck hiring!

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