By Sandy Sponaugle
Posted on May 27, 2020
Filed under: Business Development

5 tips for hiring & managing interns – virtually

Earlier this year, we planned on hiring a paid marketing intern for the summer. Then, COVID hit and the world changed almost overnight.

Our team began working remotely from home. Our economic development clients became front-line responders and we worked alongside them to get information out to their communities as fast as possible.

Amidst this whirlwind, we went forward with hiring not just one intern… but two!

My heart went out to the graduating class of 2020. They are entering a drastically different job market than several months ago and many have lost opportunities they thought they had secured.

I challenge you to think about what you can do. Can you hire one or two interns? While you can’t give them all a job, you could make a big difference in one or two young graduates’ lives.

I’ve always believed in the importance of hiring interns. We’ve had over 30 interns work with us at Platinum PR – many of whom then became star employees.

Internships can be a great first job for someone and a way to supplement and next-level their education in a real-world environment. Hiring interns can be a great way to support the next generation of our workforce while bringing in new, fresh energy and ideas into your organization.

Now more than ever, students (and recent graduates) need the opportunities we can give them. However, you might be wondering: How can I bring in an intern in now and manage them virtually? 

Here are five tips for hiring and managing interns virtually:

1. Interview and onboard your intern virtually using the same procedures as if they were working with you in person.  

Many of the onboarding procedures and aspects of the application process can stay the same as they might have been before we transitioned into the virtual environment, such as:

  • Create a description of the ideal intern you need. For example, you might be looking for a writing intern, marketing intern, tech intern, graphic design intern, etc.

  • Reach out to local colleges and universities. They can often help you find an intern that is the perfect fit for you.

  • Post your internship opportunity on online sites such as LinkedIn and Indeed.com, outlining the specific duties of the internship.

  • Use the same interview process. In conversations over a video call, lay out your vision and the organization’s goals and find out the goals of the intern.

  • Look for gaps and experience in the intern’s education. Try to get an idea of what experience the intern has and what they want to learn.

  • Give them a project to take ownership of. I like to have one project an intern can take ownership of as they are with us for four or five months.

2. Be very honest in terms of expectations upfront.

It’s important for you to find out what their expectations are and what you can do to help them next-level their goals.

Similarly, within your company, you might (or might not) have the opportunity for them to lead into a part-time or full-time position at the company. Be very honest with them upfront about this possibility.

Ultimately, the internship needs to be a good fit for all parties – professionally and personality-wise. Make sure that your expectations for them are clear upfront, as well as their expectations for this position.

3. Have an initial conversation about the types of software that will be used.

One concern among organizations might be if an intern would be able to virtually access software programs with necessary security features.

As you have moved to a virtual environment, see if there may be a workaround or a way to adapt with someone new on your team.

Many technical details such as the option to give an intern a company address or to use their own may ultimately be flexible. Still, these details must be decided on, clarified and communicated in order to properly move forward.

Our preferred virtual team tools include Google Docs, where we can see one another’s edits in real time, as well as Dropbox, where we can easily and effectively keep shared files organized and accessible for the whole team.

4. Incorporate the intern into your regular team communications.

Do you use a project management tool like Asana, a communication tool like Slack, or keep in touch with your team over group text? Whatever it is, make sure that your intern feels like a part of the team. Include them in the communications, whether they are part of a communication system with the entire company or a division within. Make sure they feel included rather than isolated.

5. Be very clear about how you are tracking productivity. 

It’s important to track progress and productivity, especially while working virtually.

In our company, each team member creates a daily report and where they list what they have done that day. They make note of any issues or anything they are waiting on other team members for.

Through putting this information in writing and reminding someone of what needs to be done, communication is able to flow throughout the organization.

At the end of the day, remember that interns and new college graduates can provide so much energy, passion, and great ideas to an organization. Bringing them aboard your team as an intern is a great opportunity to give them a chance.

You never know… they might be your next superstar employee!

Have you considered bringing interns into your organization? How might they play a part in upleveling creativity and productivity? Share your thoughts in the comments down below!

‘Til next time,
Sandy

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