how to hire an intern

How To Hire An Intern: The Interview

Your computer is groaning under the virtual weight of applications, you’ve shortlisted some awesome candidates, and it’s time to take things OFFLINE. Yikes. Interviews ahoy.

Moist palms, nerves bristling with anticipation, the bit between your ears shouting “what if they don’t like me? What if I don’t like them?” – it’s either a first date or an interview. In the absence of acceptability of Dutch courage in the latter, here are our How To Hire An Intern tips to make conducting an interview as painless as possible for all parties. Godspeed.


how to hire an intern



Repeat the fundamentals

Cold hard facts are an undervalued currency. When you get in touch with your prospective intern to offer them an interview, use the opportunity to run through the terms of employment again (remuneration, working hours, start and end date, location), so that everyone knows what’s on the table. If the offering is clear from the outset, embarrassing misunderstandings later on will be banished to the dusty realms of Yesteryear.

Consider your questions

Though you don’t necessarily need to arm yourself with a terrifying Interview Script to face your subjects, it’s important that you think about what information you want to get from each candidate. Keep your questions as focused and specific as possible – not only will it make what you’re asking clear, it will mean your interviewee will have to be equally specific with their answer.

Interrogatory food for thought:

Have they worked and thrived in a team before? Can they prove their work ethic? Do they have any experience pertinent to the industry you specialise in? Do they pursue passions of their own (and if so, how exactly)? What are they brilliant at? What have been their great successes and great failures, and what did they learn from each? What do they already know about your company, competitors and industry, and where do they see themselves fitting? And for a bit of light relief… what’s their favourite joke?

And if you set a filter question during the online application process – particularly one of a competency-based ilk – this is the time to follow up on their answer and get going with a juicy discussion.

Consider your answers

You’re not the only one who’s going to pipe up with questions, after all. Smart candidates will want to put you under the microscope too, fair and square. Have a think about how you’d succinctly sum up the ethos of your company, its history, its mission and – most importantly – the new role within it. A canny candidate will want to fully understand the job they’re undertaking, how it relates to the company in a broader sense, and what value they are going to glean from their time there.

What does the future look like?

The candidate will probably ask whether there’s a future in this role beyond the internship. If you haven’t already covered this old chestnut at a previous stage (naughty naughty), make sure you know what the answer is.

Let unsuccessful candidates know

It may seem like a small thing, but drafting a kindly rejection email and sending it to all who applied but don’t make it to interview stage will set you apart from other, tighter-lipped companies. People lament being left in the dark in any corner of life, and this small gesture of courtesy could turn a disgruntled job-seeker into a beaming brand ambassador. (Well, maybe not – but at least they won’t crucify you on Twitter).




Not that you’re going to kick them through the door, but an offer of a tea, a coffee or a delicious biscuit at the start of an interview can put a lot of nervous candidates at ease. This might be the first official interview your candidate has ever attended, so give them a couple of minutes worth of breathing space with some breezy small talk before questioning commences – the less they’re worrying about their first impression, the most focused they’ll be when stuff gets serious.

Body language

…is important. Estimates range from 55-93% of communication in sum. We all know this, right? But here it is again, lest we forget: smile. Open arms. Eye contact. And keep the smartphone-poking as minimal as one can bear.

The power of silence

As the interviewer, it can often feel like you are responsible for keeping the conversation flowing. The problem with this is that you end up getting more airtime than your interviewee. Don’t be afraid of occasionally waiting for a little more detail from your candidate – if you leave a couple of seconds, mitigated by an encouraging nod or two, they’ll be tacitly encouraged to expand on their point. Take it slow and easy. In short, don’t clock-watch, or you might clock-block some thoughtful responses.



Hold your horses; it ain’t over till it’s over.

Take notes

Sometimes, unsuccessful applicants to ask for feedback from their interviewer. If your interview process takes place over a week or so, names, faces and life stories have a tendency to turn into a tumultuous game of Twister. Take notes on the positives and negatives of each candidate after they leave (try not to take notes during the interview itself), and you’ll be able to dish out constructive criticism without descending into a panic about the state of your memory.

Don’t be hasty

Got your eyes on the prize? Before you give the bad news to those people who didn’t quite make the cut, make sure you have a concrete confirmation of acceptance from your preferred candidate – ideally in writing. Sudden changes in circumstance are not unusual, so don’t be hasty about cutting ties with others. It may transpire that you need to regroup and contact your second choice of candidate, and doubling back on an initial rejection will make you feel like a snake.

So. You’ve interviewed, deliberated, discussed, decided, offered the person a position, and it’s been gleefully accepted. Great success! Watch out for the next installment on how to structure an internship that is mutually beneficial, and engenders warm fuzzy feelings all round.



PART ONE – How to hire an intern: nailing your company profile

PART TWO – How to hire an intern: writing the perfect job description


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