How to Prepare Your Intern to Be a Great Hire

Many internships are a waste of time. Do all employers a favor and prepare your next intern for the working world.
May 18, 2012

Even if your summer intern isn’t destined to be your next permanent hire, he or she will likely be someone else’s. Do business owners everywhere a great service and infuse the community with effective employees. Here's how to prepare your intern for a full-time job. 

Do Some Pre-Planning

My first internship was a joke. I was hired by a communications firm to shadow account managers, but ended up stuffing envelopes most days. This was a failure on my boss’s part; she hadn’t planned for my arrival. For three months straight, she ran around the office trying to find something for me to do. 

Learn from my experience and plot out your internship program. Meredith Kinsey, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Linda McDougald Design, an interior design firm in Greenville, S.C., recommends asking yourself these questions before your intern comes aboard: 

  • Why do I want an intern?
  • What do I need an intern to do?
  • Does my intern need to be full-time or would part-time be better?
  • How will I structure my intern's time to accomodate his or her needs?

Give Them Autonomy

Interns at Digital Talent Agents, a public relations firm in Columbia, Mo., are regularly given loose directions and then sent free. “We want them to figure out the best way to do things on their own,” says Kelsey Meyer, co-founder. "It’s interesting to watch what they come up with when we aren’t breathing over their shoulders.”

Autonomous thinking is an excellent skill to have, says Meyer. Equipped with this experience, college graduates can enter the job force without always having to be micromanaged.

Get Them Involved

While trial-and-error learning can be effective, so can observation. Kinsey recommends taking interns to client meetings, strategy brainstorming sessions, trade shows and so on. Show them what your industry is about and “they will have a better sense of whether or not it is a field they want to pursue,” she says.

Check in Regularly

Meyer checks in with her interns every Friday. They chat about what happened during the past week, what’s on par for the following week and how the intern feels about current tasks.

“I want to know if they like or dislike responsibilities,” she says. “If they don’t like something, I will switch things around.”

According to Meyer, interns with a background in open communication will come to permanent jobs with the confidence to speak up and are more acquainted with their individual skill sets.

Task Them With Idea Generation

Every so often, Meyer will ask her interns for ideas that can help the business. And since chances are good that new interns will fall silent, she’s made the process more fun.

“We make it into a contest,” she says. “If we are having a problem with a client, for example, I will task my interns with coming up with at least one solution by 2:00 p.m. The person whose idea we choose to use will receive a gift certificate for a smoothie at a nearby restaurant.”

Why does this practice groom interns into great candidates for permanent jobs?

“When you are looking to hire someone full-time, you want to know how they will add value to your company,” Meyer says. “This exercise teaches them how to think strategically; the more strategically an employee thinks, the less they will think about having to leave at 5:00 p.m. They will instead be thinking about how they can contribute to making your company better.”

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