It’s become all too common for companies to fall into the trap of carelessly bringing on interns. They’re only temporary, right?
Wrong. Your interns may only be with you for a semester, but a well-developed internship program can act as an effective talent pipeline for future full-time employees. In fact, each year, more employers are choosing to hire specifically from their internship cohorts.
You wouldn’t quickly sift through resumes or hold brief interviews when seeking a permanent addition to your team, so why handle your intern search in this manner? It’s best to think of your interns as future, permanent employees. To ensure you land an outstanding intern for your internship program — a student with the potential to turn into a full-time hire — you must pay closer attention to the potential red flags your intern candidates present during interviews.
Effective intern interviews start with great questions, but then it’s up to you to notice the red flags. Here are 10 warning signs to look for next time you’re interviewing potential interns:
1. A late arrival time. All excuses aside, a late arrival to an interview should be an immediate red flag for you. This student is likely one of those individuals who is constantly battling chronic lateness or they’re just not that interested in the opportunity.
If your intern is truly invested in impressing you, they’ll arrive early with all the necessary materials in tow. Many interns will even map out their route beforehand and take a practice trip to ensure they don’t get lost on the day of their interview.
2. Downright unprofessionalism. Did your interview candidate just use the phrases “cool” or “sweet” while lounging casually in your office chair? Sound the alarm.
General unprofessionalism can range from inappropriate interview attire — exposed chest hair and light wash denim — to overt casualness in terms of the interview conversation. First impressions matter. If your intern can’t put together a professional outfit for their first time meeting you, they’re probably going to struggle throughout their internship.
As for an unprofessional tone, depending on your company culture, this could be a huge problem. Your potential intern may struggle with sounding disrespectful toward his or her intern supervisor or even customers.
3. Money talk. First and foremost, internships are learning experiences. It’s important to fairly compensate your interns, but if your intern only seems to want to talk about pay during the interview, they’re probably not going to make a great addition to your team. Students who seek out internships solely for monetary value usually aren’t passionate about their industry or invested in gaining valuable hands-on experience.
4. Too much confidence. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance during the interview phase of the hiring process. Your intern candidates should be prepared to tout their experiences and skills to ensure they’re the perfect match for your internship. But if this ends up sounding like a bragging session, you might have a student with an ego on your hands. They’ll likely end up being hard to work with and self-centered.
5. They lack the necessary experience. Your intern candidate’s previous experiences will be a strong indicator as to whether they come to your company everyday to learn or simply stare at the clock until it’s time to leave. Has the candidate participated in a number of extracurriculars, professional organizations, or previous internships? Be sure to get more information on all the relevant experiences your candidates have listed on their resumes.
Seek out candidates whose resumes are filled with a variety of industry-related experiences. This will show their true passion for your industry and their committed to learn and grow in their time with your company.
6. Values aren’t matching up. Your interns could have all the experience in the world, but if they’re not a match for your company culture, you should probably keep looking. Some of your interview questions should be in place to directly assess whether your intern has a similar set of values as your other employees and the company.
For example, if you ask your intern candidates to share three qualities that make them the best fit for the position, they should share at least one thing relevant to your company values. For some companies it’s innovation, for others it’s the ability to think quickly on your feet.
7. Generic, unenthusiastic answers. If your intern candidate comes off as bland as cardboard, let it be a cue for avoidance. Regardless of personality type, passion and enthusiasm should be easily displayed in every aspect of your interactions with potential interns. Receiving short, bare-minimum responses to your questions is a warning sign for an average candidate. Your company deserves someone outstanding and thrilled to share an experience with you.
8. They can’t take the heat. As the interview progresses, it’s important to ease into harder questions. For example, you may ask your candidates to give you more insight into their experiences at a previous internship. Students who freeze during this portion of the interview and fail to deliver valuable information may not be a match for your company. This may be a warning sign for inexperience.
9. No questions? Serious intern candidates will have a slew of questions for you at the end of the interview. They should want to know every detail about the position and your company. If your candidates don’t come with questions to their interview, they’re probably not interested in the position.
10. You’re not sold at the end of the interview. Outstanding candidates should leave you feeling convinced of their abilities after an interview. Let any post-interview doubts be a warning sign. If it isn’t something you can easily address with a follow-up set of questions, you may want to choose another candidate.
Hiring better interns means improving your interviewing process to ensure you’re more aware of the warning signs of a potentially bad hire.
What’s the biggest warning sign you wish you would have caught?