The internship phase is the Rainbow Bridge or star gate on the career path. It is the transitory period where freshly moulded minds leave the safety of the theoretical world of books, assignments, and exams, for the practical world. Not only is this phase crucial for the candidates, it is equally important for enterprises, too. Today's interns are tomorrow's CEOs, leaders, and world-changers. In this light, hiring interns becomes a crucial task to be performed with a great sense of responsibility. Unfortunately, companies spend very little time selecting interns. The minimal selection process makes it a challenge to choose the right candidate with just a few interactions. How does one choose the right candidate, given this challenge? Here are three things to look for and three questions to ask when hiring interns.
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Candidates sitting for internship interviews are at the beginning of their career. The rest of their working life is right in front of them, just waiting to be opened like a new book. Naturally, they're under pressure. It's easy to fake enthusiasm in the face of pressure. But what cannot be faked is clarity. If you see clarity, a clear career plan, logical reasons for applying to your organisation, hire the candidate.
This question will help you detect clarity, or the lack of it, in the candidate. It will also see if the candidate is articulate. A computer engineering student would ideally want a career in computer engineering. However, the knowledge of computer engineering is just a part of the individual you will be hiring. They could also have language skills. They could have interesting hobbies that would come in handy to make the place a great place to work. Interviewers need to be finely tuned-in to look at the candidate's ability to connect not just their qualification, but their overall personality to your business objective.
Look for a people's person in the candidate. Interns will be doing a lot of legwork in your organisation. Most of it will be repetitive and nothing like what they imagined in their classrooms. You need an intern who will not be shocked by the real world. Look for the candidate's ability to get along with people, conversation skills, and any talent, like playing the guitar or whipping up cocktails, for example. The more interests they have, the more interesting they'll be, and the more interesting the place will become where they work.
Question to ask: Have you done any volunteering/social work?
This question will help you assess the candidates experience in dealing with people and situations. Volunteer work is, more often than not, leg-work: distributing pamphlets, manning a stall, managing a queue at a free health camp, and so on. It takes a lot of patience and maturity to do social work. Such experiences are critical to building a balanced, reliable, and responsible individual.
The student world has its own dynamics. So does the world of the nine-to-five. Time management as students is more or less a solo act, without much external influence, intervention, or influence. Time management at work depends on teams, hierarchy, clients, and so on. Interns could find the reality of work life a little unreasonable; having to stay late at work would come in the way of their hitherto usual routine.
Question to ask: Are you willing to rearrange your personal time to suit work demands?
Desperation or eagerness to land the position may make candidates overcommit. However, it is the responsibility of the interviewer to make all things, regarding expected work hours, clear to the candidate.
One of the key characteristics of a good mentor is the ability to see ability. Remember, when you’re hiring an intern, you could be giving the first break to the next Nadella or Pitchai.