How to find and keep a rockstar intern who adds value to your startup
One of the most common requests I get at The Hub Singapore is this: “Where can I find a GREAT intern?”. We get it - you’re a money-crunched startup on a mission to change the world, and you want to get the most out of your intern.
So..here we are. We have compiled our best tips on finding and keeping a rockstar intern - from personal experience and from our awesome Hubbers! Let’s jump in..
Selecting the right intern
If there’s only one tip you take away from this article, let it be this one:
Meet your intern before you agree to start working together. At the very least, you should be jumping on Skype call with them before hand.
Why? While people can sound smart, capable and perfect via email, it often takes a meeting or two to get a feel for whether this person can do the job, will enjoy doing the job and if they’ll get along with the team.
This is also a great opportunity for you to sell your intern on the job. After all, you’ll be able to offer perks that corporates cannot, like:
- More flexibility to study or pursue hobbies outside of work
- No micro-management and more ownership over their tasks
- Meaningful projects that add value - rather than “get a coffee” internship
- Exciting mission that can use their contribution
- Better chance of getting a job after graduation in your startup
Preparing for their arrival
Before the intern arrives on day 1, establish the objective of the internship together, so that there are no surprises on either end. Most students in Singapore are highly motivated and smart, so you may want to think about the best way to use their time and skills (rather than just off-load Admin tasks that you hate doing). I know you want to, but a remote virtual assistant paid $5 an hour is probably a better person to handle your admin tasks in the long term.
If a part of their responsibility includes not-so-exciting tasks, you may want to use the opportunity to explain why the tasks are important for your business (so that they still feel that their contribution matters) and find some other non-mundane tasks that the intern will actually enjoy getting their hands on.
Ensure that you complete all paperwork associated with having your intern on-board:
- Ask them if there’s any paperwork their university requires them to complete before or after the internship.
- If they are co-working from The Hub, reach out to the membership team to arrange a desk for them.
- Inform the team of your newest member and assign a mentor to the intern, so that your intern feels welcome to ask questions and engage with them.
Keeping your intern happy and productive
Often, interns can feel like “the outsider” or “the baby” when they join your startup, because let’s face it - they are probably the youngest member of your team. However, you have a great opportunity to contribute to what is (possibly) their first professional life experience! So, it’s only fair that we provide an enriching experience for them.
How do we do that?
- Make the experience valuable for them in the long-term: Ask them what they want to learn or what they want to do in the future, so that you can engage them in work that will be meaningful for their next job.
- Ensure that you clearly communicate deadlines and milestones for the project you’re embarking on.
- If there are any general communication or cultural protocols in your team, this is a good time to fill them in on it.
- Use a tracking sheet (even a simple one on Excel) to keep track of their time and also activities they have accomplished. Having a simple week-by-week plan is good enough for most situations.
- Give feedback in a friendly, structured and private manner - so that your intern feels comfortable to grow in your environment.
- Make the internship fun and get to know each other outside of work too. Aim to have a good enough relationship between the intern and the team - so that all of you can go out for a drink at the end of a long day and actually have a good time with each other.
- Remember to acknowledge their contribution to the team. By appreciating their strengths and acknowledging the work they do in front of the team (and outsiders), you help interns feel rewarded and involved in making your company successful. Being valued is absolutely priceless for them and for their long-term career “self-esteem”.
At our January Hubbers Speed Dating event, we invited Richard Biggs https://sg.linkedin.com/in/rbiggs2012 from Blippar. With his experience as a Senior Recruitment consultant as well as leading the successful expansion of the Blippar team and operations, Richard has been sharing his tips and tricks with other Hubbers who were attending. We compiled some of the top tips. Here you go!
- Find the right buddy for your intern. Since people are natural imitators, pairing up your intern with a hard-working “buddy” in your team will help them aim high and get stuff done.
- Don’t make the JD too “corporate”. Let them truly get to know you by cutting the fluff and adding some personality with your company’s story. Making your mission well known will actually make it easier for you to get good candidates - rather than getting applications from a “hardworking, detail-oriented” robots.
- Acknowledge and tackle cultural differences. If your intern is from a different culture which is associated with being too shy or too straightforward (or anything in between) - have a few simple guidelines to make it easier for them to communicate with the team. Anticipate such differences and ensure that you check-in with them weekly to make sure they’re doing ok with the culture in your company.
- See if you can get interns who can push your product forward. Consider hiring smart grad students from top universities, who already have some professional experience behind them. Your dollars will be much better spent getting a fresh pair of eyes to critique your product and take you to the next level, rather than just a “get me a coffee” intern.
- Great tip from Victoria Tam, a super intern from MIT: “Provide outcome-centric projects to your interns. What is the outcome of this project? Will it be presented at a conference or published in a paper / online? Having a clear outcome helps push interns to perform better and also have something they can include in their future portfolio.” Win-win for everyone!
There you have it!
Hope this article helps you find and keep your next rockstar intern!
Want to find capable, rockstar Interns for your team from MIT, NUS and Conjunct Consulting? Become a member and register to the The Hub Internship Program!