No internship is quite alike. The same can be said for interns. This alone creates a challenge for startups looking to find the perfect match for their internship opportunities.
Startup internships often top their corporate counterparts in a variety of areas. Interns have a chance to experience a one-of-a-kind company culture, interact with an extremely passionate team, and handle meaningful work. But these reasons also make it necessary to find interns who are a perfect match for what your startup has to offer.
Startup interns often share a few personal attributes that make them qualified for working within such a unique environment. Here are eight attributes to consider when hiring a great intern for your startup:
1. Intrinsically motivated. An innate drive is one of the most necessary traits for thriving within a startup environment. Startups are generally made up of smaller, highly motivated teams — making hiring a motivated intern a must. What are your candidates involved in outside of the classroom? Have they won any awards? For startups, interns who are heavily involved outside of campus are usually the most motivationally qualified.
2. Works well under pressure. Startup cultures are known for being high-pressure environments. Deadlines need to be met with efficiency, and turnaround times are usually short. The most successful startup interns thrive under this kind of pressure. Only consider candidates who’ve juggled potentially strenuous workloads and have previously experienced meeting deadlines in a variety of settings. Land pressure-driven interns by clearly defining this trait in the internship description and by asking the right questions in the interview process.
3. Driving passion. Startups are essentially hubs for passion. Your team is likely made up of individuals who wholeheartedly share your vision. An intern who lacks passion will be unlikely to connect with your startup culture and mission. Strive for hiring interns who bleed passion for your industry and vision. You will see this in the way they write and speak about their previous experiences and accomplishments, as well as the glowing recommendations they receive from previous managers and professors. Check for strong personal branding through social media platforms, forums, and blogging.
4. Entrepreneurial spirit. Only the most ambitious need apply. Intern candidates who eventually plan to lead their own business someday are usually a perfect match. Their entrepreneurial interests are sure to make the internship experience far more beneficial due to their lust for learning. Screen for intern candidates who have completed a variety of extracurriculars during their time in school. A plethora of interesting side projects are far more startup-worthy than straight A’s.
5. Fearless leadership. Your internships may not be in leadership positions, but the interns you hire still must understand how to lead. The ability to lead may be a crucial qualification for the internship depending on the workload and the intern’s skills. Do your candidates currently hold leadership positions in clubs or organizations? What about their involvement with volunteering? Startup interns who understand what it takes to lead a team will often be the strongest team members on projects and the best at taking guidance.
6. Self-starter. Your startup interns shouldn’t require much hand-holding. The startup environment is prone to being busy. The best interns are often those who are able to work with little to no supervision, display great self-discipline, and complete tasks effectively. Seek out candidates who are prone to taking action in a variety of scenarios. Ask candidates scenario-based questions about taking action, coming up with ideas, and executing situations without guidance.
7. Experienced. Seeking out interns with previous knowledge and experience relevant to your company can make for a great asset. Consider hiring an individual who has previously interned at a startup, is heavily involved in organizations at their schools, and is potentially even working on creating their own business on the side. This will not only provide you with better quality of work, but also a chance to transition them into a full-time team member if the opportunity arises.
8. Versatility. Startup interns often wear many hats within the company. Some interns love doing this, others just can’t quite adapt. Have your intern candidates held a variety of positions at the same time? Do they have a long list of matched skills and interests? Your intern doesn’t need to have a computer science degree to be a tech wiz, but this extra skill might get you through a variety of sticky situations. Consider hiring interns who are flexible and skilled enough to handle a wide array of tasks and potential scenarios.
Your startup deserves an A-player for an intern. It’s highly unlikely you’ll find an intern with all of these attributes, but even a few are sure to make for a great hire.
What do you think is one attribute every startup intern should have?
Ashley Mosley is Community Engagement Manager of InternMatch, an online platform connecting the best intern candidates and employers.
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