Interns are a budget-friendly resource that small business owners almost always overlook. While some interns are more than happy to work for free, particularly if the internship accommodates a remote-friendly work environment, other more skilled talent might welcome a stipend in exchange for services rendered. An internship affords small business owners a mutual exchange with budding talent for a contracted length of time. You, on the one hand get affordable talent, the chance to practice management skills, and the possibility of developing a star future-employee whom you have the luxury of working with before hiring. Even when working for nothing, interns are reaping benefits of another variety. Internships allow young professionals to develop career connections, hone skills, and develop a successful track record that often launches a successful new career opportunity.

Finding the Best Interns for the Job

The first goal is getting the right star intern to work for you. Alarmingly, this is where most small business owners fail. Most small business owners (and their employees) have limited talent recruiting and vetting knowledge, including how to conduct a successful interview. This means that most often the right talent walks in and right back out. If they didn’t slip through your fingers, then they were astute enough to see that you weren’t the right business fit for their career track. What you want is that intern that not only helps your business succeed, but who also promotes it by drawing in the right attention. You don’t want to be that company whose intern highlights the business through climatic failures. Take for instance the intern who burned down the entire office, who deleted 80,000 lines of code with a single keystroke, or who unplugged his company’s main server in order to charge his phone. Nobody wants these people. In order to avoid hiring these people, you should ask these three key questions during your interview process:

  1. How much do you know about the company?

    The right answer won’t just include information sifted from your website; it’ll include industry and competitor statistics. Have they taken the extra steps to consider and discover this info? Have they connected the dots or discovered gaps between the industry, your competitors, and you? If so, they’re initiators that think outside the box. Interns who took the time to look through recent press releases and press pitfalls should get bonus points. These are people who understand that your business has a greater function in the community.

  2. What do you do in their spare time?

    This question is crucial, particularly if you’re internship is unpaid or offers a minimal stipend. If your potential intern is pursuing a parallel passion in their downtime, chances are they’re going to bring that passion to the table at your company. People don’t like working for free, but people who are passionate about their work will pursue that goal even when they’re not getting paid for it. These are future stars.

  3. Tell me about your grades.

    Talking about grades is a major tell in an interview process, even if it’s been a while since college. Interns usually only have grades to show for any sort of career history, so this is a pretty major area for self-reflection. There are red-flags for both those with poor and excellent grades. Poor GPAs that come with excuses should trigger a big red flag. However, if your intern recruit is admitting to short comings, see it as a sign of accepting responsibility and learning from mistakes. On the other end of the spectrum, high GPA red flags potential arrogance and pride. Sure this person has worked hard, but is it accompanied with humility? A high GPA recruit won’t be able to tell you much about how that individual deals with failure, which every working professional is bound to encounter especially early on.

    Considering that 85% of employers have reported a positive experience in hiring an intern, it makes sense for your small business to consider adopting an official internship program. As you embark down this fruitful path, consider that only a mere 47% of employers actually have a structured internship program. Having a structured internship program affords small business owners a chance at attracting cream of the crop talent, often ushered straight from college counselors. It also eliminates inefficiency in training and development, ensuring that the talent doesn’t have a poor experience that reflects negatively on your company.