Virtual Interns: How to Hire the Best of the Best

August 22, 2013

12:45 pm

Fall is just around the corner, and students are heading back to school. With new classes to deal with, students will be looking for internships with more flexibility. Virtual internships are perfect for students trying to juggle a new career opportunity with classes and other obligations. In fact, 71 percent of students are open to the idea of a virtual internship — and 55 percent would love to work remotely at least one day a week.

Virtual interns are great because they can work from anywhere and still provide a lot of value to your company. They can handle the work that requires less supervision, and they don’t take up physical space in your office.

If you’ve decided to take advantage of this trend and start a virtual internship program at your company, the next step is hiring. You can hire virtual interns from anywhere and everywhere, so where do you start?

Company Branding

Before you begin to reach out to prospective interns, you need to evaluate your company’s brand. Make sure everything about your company is appealing to students. Nearly 60 percent of students primarily seek out internships with the goal to gain experience and build a portfolio. To attract these interns, you need to show them they will be able to fulfill these goals.

Showcase intern projects on your career page, offer them networking opportunities, and promise to teach them new skills they wouldn’t learn in school. Make sure all these benefits are clearly highlighted on your website and in the description of the internship.

Your next goal is to stand out from other companies also seeking virtual interns. What makes your internship program special? Whether it’s unique experiences, great pay, or cool perks, be sure to list these details on your site as well. Company culture is a big decision maker for today’s interns.

Get the Word Out

Once you’ve evaluated your brand, the next step is to make sure students hear about the opportunity. There are a number ways to go about publicizing your internship.

A good place to start is social media. Use your company profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to advertise the opening. Social media is great because it allows you to reach out directly to fans of your company. Students who follow your company’s social media will be the first to know about the internship, and you can link them directly to your careers page.

Another route to take is to reach out to the career centers of different universities. They can send your job description right to the most qualified students. Start with your alma mater and go from there.

A third option is to post your job description on various job and internship boards. Plenty of potential hires read through these regularly. Just be sure to highlight the fact that your position is virtual.

Video Interviews

The next few steps in the hiring process aren’t any different from standard internships. Hopefully you’ll receive an influx of applications, resumes, and cover letters. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, you can pick some candidates to interview. The problem with virtual interns, however, is you can’t bring them into the office to evaluate. You have to rely on virtual interviewing methods instead.

One way to accomplish this is through a live video interview. You can use a program like Skype to meet with candidates face-to-face. These interviews allow you to maintain the same back-and-forth nature of a regular in-person interview without having to be in the same room. You still have the opportunity to read a candidate’s body language, vocal cues, and other off-the-cuff reactions.

If you don’t have the time to sit down with all of your candidates on Skype, you can also organize recorded video interviews. Sites like Spark Hire allow candidates to record their answers to questions you establish ahead of time. This makes the process more convenient for both parties and saves you a ton of time.

No matter how you decide to interview your candidates, there are plenty of options for hiring virtual workers.

Despite the benefits, only one in three employers has taken advantage of hiring virtual interns. Once you get organized, the hiring process is simple, and plenty of students will jump at the opportunity.

What other advice do you have for companies looking to hire virtual interns?

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Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010). Find Heather on Google+.

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