Interns Gone Wild: Bad Strategy or Bad Hiring?

Is hiring interns a bad idea?

A recent Entry-Level Rebel blog on BNET.com, Why Unpaid Interns Don’t Equal Free Work, highlighted a blog post by Barry Moltz that raises this controversial issue.

Moltz suggests that for entrepreneurs, hiring interns can be a bad strategy – for both parties. However, he then lists six steps employers can take to ensure a successful internship experience.

  1. Goals for internship period
  2. Train the interns and give them a copy of the employee manual
  3. Monitor the interns’ progress, weekly
  4. Get other employees (in addition to the supervisor) involved with the interns
  5. Conduct an exit interview
  6. Pay an honorarium

So, according to this blog… Is this bad strategy? Or bad hiring?

Interns, like any other team member, come with various skill sets and most certainly varying levels of experience and maturity. So in addition to being prepared to integrate interns into your operation, you need to maintain a recruitment process that encourages hiring the right person for the right role. In other words, in many cases the intern hiring process is similar to that of hiring full-time employees.

Interns as Employees and Valuable Contributors

Interns require varying amounts of training, depending on the role they are being asked to fulfill. As stated in a previous YouTern blog, an increasing number of “student” interns now arrive at the doorstep of small and startup companies with considerable experience under their belts – including government, political, public relations, social media, web development, marketing and even Fortune 500 experience.

With increasingly experienced interns joining companies, the emphasis should be on mentorship and developing the talents the young professionals already possess.

Yes, some interns are more “green” than others and will undoubtedly need more guidance. Managing and molding – maybe even hand-holding – however, isn’t a unique management challenge exclusive to interns. In the ranks of workforce veterans, there are those who theoretically shouldn’t need “training”, “guidance”, or “mentoring”. Yet these people end up being, for lack of a better term, “high-maintenance”. I know – I’ve managed them!

As with any new employee hire, hiring the wrong intern will cost you time and productivity. Make the right hire, however, and there are tremendous rewards and benefits for both parties.

About the Author: Joe Gagliano, a founding member of YouTern and our CMO, brings years of start-up management, strategic planning, marketing and market research experience to the team and his blog posts. Joe, who runs our learning center for interns, also brings a passion for start-ups, entrepreneurship and mentorship to our team.

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  • http://nicole-simon.eu nicolesimon

    The problem with that is, that most people already fail with
    “Goals for internship period”
    and even if they get that

    “Train the interns” – they don’t know how
    ” and give them a copy of the employee manual” they don’t have one.If I had been 20 years younger, I am pretty sure I would have ended up in organisational development, but truth to be told, working in corporate for 15 years and doing trainings for nearly two decades: Even today I can stop most seminars after 5 minutes because the attendees have no clue about stuff like you mention above. structure, procedures and workflows are considered as annoying and to be ignored, and yes in many cases they are set up bad. People do need to learn basic things about how to work again – and I am not talking interns here. The employees in most cases don’t even know how to do that themselves.  So if the trainer does not know how to do stuff, how should the intern?this is long long long long before you come ot the point of ‘is it a good or bad intern’

    • http://www.youtern.com Mark Babbitt

      Nicole, we appreciate your comment. We agree with you that Mr. Moltz’s blog perhaps fits a large corporation best, and makes several assumptions about the quality of the trainer and organization, including the existence of an employee manual. That is why we were inspired to respond, and perhaps why you were also. To clarify: as shown in the link and text, YouTern — where we believe much more in “mentorship” than “manuals” — did NOT make those assumptions or create the numbered list, we commented on them.

      As for being “long long long long”… well, that is a bit confusing: a) the entire post is just over 400 words; many of which are used to frame/summarize the blog that inspired this post b) we are always learning how best to present our content — and welcome your suggestions.

      Lastly, you are so right about the need to learn “how to work” again — couldn’t agree more. Through mentorship, advocacy and education… we’ll get there.

  • http://fingercandymedia.com/ Jessica Northey

    when I saw the title was thinking this post was going to be something else. LOL you put out awesome content! always love reading your blog and have referred to many of the broadcasting industry folks I know. One day I will have an intern, not in a monica lewinsky way either…wonder what ever happened to her?
    I was an intern in all kinds of political offices and yeah there are some creepy people out there but my grampa was 6’5 and really well known here in AZ so I think people were scared to mess with me…but I have heard stories….anyways…i am rambling…on your blog…usually that just happens on mine LOL xo

  • http://greatintern.com Eric Woodard

    Here’s a curve ball…

    Remember, new staffers take time to train too and, if a company has its act together, it will expend resources to keep good staffers and promote their professional development.

    Actually not too different from what a good internship program should do. A good company will not only mentor its interns, it’ll mentor everybody.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1252443770 Sharon Solesbee

    Hiring an intern is typically an advantage of firms to get
    free services from an existing or prospective future professional. That’s fine
    for anyone needing to prove a point that they’ve got what it takes. Yet few
    intern bosses have time to notice a novice intern. Nevertheless, mentorship is
    where the value-added connection is if both parties can hear one another. It’s
    what we learn after we know it all that counts.  

    • http://www.youtern.com Mark Babbitt

      Brilliant: “It’s what we learn after we know it all that counts.”