‘Why should I hire an intern?’ and ‘what can an intern do for my company?’ are probably two of the most common questions startups, or any company at that, may ask when they’re thinking of hiring an intern.
Generally, startups are small teams and have little time to focus on just one task or new projects. Internships are a great way to recruit bright talent to carry out these new and smaller projects, or even to act as a trial period before a permanent offer is made. Having an extra pair of hands to develop new products and pieces of work that will contribute to business growth, while subsequently allowing the startup to gain some fresh ideas and boost team productivity, is definitely worth the investment.
So, if you’re a tech startup and are considering hiring an intern, this blog looks at some of the key tips and tricks you should consider during the hiring process, particularly if it’s your first time in taking on an intern.
1. Take time to work out where the gaps in your team lie
What are the main pain points in your team that you need support with? Are you looking to develop a new product and need an extra pair of hands in doing so? What tasks are you not yet able to fulfil as a team that would have an impact on your company’s growth?
Before jumping straight into the hiring process, it’s important to take time to consider where your real needs as a company lie. Without thinking through what you could do with some extra support on and what you’re hoping to achieve in the next few months, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to develop a worthwhile internship opportunity or find an intern who can support your team in a beneficial way.
Once you’ve figured out what your team’s priorities are and what you’re looking to build on, you’ll be in a much better position to create a meaningful internship role that really fits the skills gap your team are facing. Interns are there to provide real benefit to their host startup – They’re not just there to make the tea or do the photocopying!
2. Plan realistic and beneficial timelines for the intern’s work
Now that you know where the gaps in your company lie, consider what form the potential internship role could take. Will the intern be supporting an existing project? Or will the intern be working on a new, short project or task?
To make the most of the work the intern will do for you, make sure to give them key responsibilities and tasks they can take ownership of. Giving the intern at least one (non-critical) long-term task that they can lead themselves, or alternatively, several key tasks they can take ownership of will greatly contribute to the impact the intern brings. They are there to learn as much as possible and to make an impact on your business, which won’t happen if they are unsure what they are responsible for or what they can take on board as their own.
3. Be really clear about what the internship involves
You’ve figured out where your needs as a team lie, and you know what shape the internship will take. Now it’s time to consider what the internship really means for the intern, including what key skills they’ll need to do the role and what your expectations are of their work.
Considering what skills can be taught during the internship and what knowledge candidates need to come equipped with before the internship kicks off will help you find the best candidates for the position. Interns generally don’t have 3-5 years of commercial experience, but setting realistic expectations of what they need to know before they join and what knowledge you can help them gain will make the hiring process that little bit smoother.
What will you aim to do with the intern’s work? How will the internship help you long term? Future planning and looking ahead to beyond the end of the internship lets you be really clear on what you want to get out of the internship, helping you set your expectations for the intern’s work, as well as consider the value their work will bring you. It also helps prospective candidates visualise their fit in your team as well as understand the wider goal that they are contributing to.
4. Consider additional support for the intern
Interns are, generally, capable and highly skilled individuals who are keen to bring value to their host startup. However, it may be their first time working in the tech scene or even in a startup.
Consider, as a team, the support you can give the intern during their internship and the resource you have to do this. A named ‘line manager’ who oversees the intern’s work, for example with weekly meetings or check-ins to see how it is all going, is an easy first step to supporting the intern’s work. Having at least one mid-internship check-in means the startup and intern can make sure they are getting as much as possible out of the experience and provides an opportunity to talk through any difficulties or issues that either party are experiencing.
An on-boarding session at the start of the internship also provides an opportunity for interns to experience the inner workings of the startup as if they were a permanent employee. This will help them really feel part of the team and will help to grow the relationship between the company and intern.
5. Utilise your network
You’ve got the intern role in place, now it’s time to start the hiring! There’s a whole host of networks and channels startups can use to find an intern.
You can look to specialist internship programmes, such as programmes like CAP Talent by us at Capital Enterprise, that link startups to talent for short term placements.
It may also be as simple as posting your internship advert on websites such as workinstartups.com as well as posting the role on social media and marketing channels regularly. This is a resource-light and easy method to give your role more coverage and will contribute to driving a wider range of candidates towards your role.
You can also chat to startups who you know have ‘been there and done it’ and hired an intern themselves, to check out any contacts they have or tips for how they did it. Your network is a powerful tool; use it as much as you can!
Capital Enterprise are London’s startup experts, creating an energising a world-class entrepreneurship ecosystem. We help startups hire talent for internships through our CAP Talent Programme. If you’re a startup looking to learn more about CAP Talent, please get in touch with Gracie Jones, Talent Lead at Capital Enterprise, via firstname.lastname@example.org.