3 steps to ensure that your summer intern doesn’t turn out to be a disaster

Ryan the office intern new hire
First of all, you’ve got to hire the right people. NBCUniversal Television Distribution

If your interns aren’t up to par, it’s probably mostly on you.

So, how can you make certain that your summer interns actually add something to your organisation, and gain valuable experience?

Here are three pieces of advice on how to ensure that your summer intern doesn’t turn out to be a disaster:

1. Take your hiring process seriously

Yes, internships are temporary, so hiring the wrong intern is a less dire mistake than hiring the wrong CEO. Still, that doesn’t mean you should just wing it.

You can’t expect interns — most of whom are either students in high school or college or young people at the start of their careers — to have fantastic interviewing skills. However, you can still pay attention for red flags like obvious indifference or a lack of knowledge about your organisation.

“Some intern candidates are clearly in it for all the wrong reasons,” says Mark Babbitt, the CEO and founder of internship site Youtern. “They feel they must have an internship or three under their belt before graduation. Or they can’t stand the thought of a gap in their resume. Or maybe they want to take advantage of your company’s prestigious brand name. If your intern wants to come on board for any of these reasons, they probably should not be offered this internship.”

2. Spend time teaching them

If you just throw your intern into the deep end without warning, there’s a good chance they will sink. It’s on the employer to educate interns and set them up with appropriate tasks and projects.

“By default, interns do not know as much as most people in your office, about the company, culture, the role, and so much more,” Babbitt says. “So expecting them to walk in and contribute from day one just isn’t realistic. Take your time. Serve as a mentor, not a manager. Share what you know. Then assign responsibility based on a combination of work ethic, training, and potential.”

3. Don’t extend a job offer unless they’re truly a good fit

Sometimes, interns turn out to be just ok — not ineffective, but perhaps in need of a few more years of experience in the professional world.

The disaster comes about when you hire such an intern to work full-time. Babbitt explained some signs that you should hold back on extending a job offer at the end of the summer.

“On the subtle side, you may notice the intern seems less engaged and enthusiastic about their role and perhaps the company,” Babbitt says. “Or you may see the effort level that once was outstanding is now just ok … Bottom line: Not every intern is a good fit as a full-time contributor. And making the proverbial square peg fit into a round hole isn’t a good long-term move — for the intern or your company.”

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