Back in the spring of 2016, I really wanted to hire the perfect intern, so I decided to launch an internship program for my virtual assistant business that would allow aspiring VAs to work one-on-one with me in order to learn how to start and grow their own businesses.
The idea behind this program is a total win-win! I am able to hire help for myself at a low rate, while also doing something that I love so much — teach virtual assistants how to succeed — plus, it allows new up-and-coming VAs to gain knowledge from me in an exclusive mentorship experience.
After running this program for a few months and seeing how awesome it was, I knew that I wanted to make it part of my long-term business plan, but I really wanted to systematize it a lot more.
I decided that, instead of seeking out a specific person who had the traits I was looking for, I would simply create an application and allow anyone who was interested to apply.
How to Hire the Perfect Intern for Your Business
Creating an Application for Your Internship
In order to hire the perfect intern, I needed to create an application that would allow me to easily see who I was and wasn’t interested in. (I created mine using Typeform.)
Since a lot of my time and effort goes into training and teaching each of these virtual assistants, it was important that I be able to quickly hire the perfect intern every time I re-launch the program.
In order to get people to apply who are truly qualified and the right fit, you need to be pretty strategic when creating the application.
Educate Them About the Opportunity
Before you even start asking any questions, give a short description of what the internship is and what it requires. This will make sure that people aren’t just randomly filling out your application, with no idea if it would be a good opportunity for them or not.
Here is what the first page of my application looks like:
Get to Know Them as a Person
I personally think that it’s really important to make sure that you mesh well with each member of your team. There might be certain types of personalities or traits that you just don’t want on your team.
For example, if you are creating an internship for your health coaching business, you’d want someone who is super passionate about living a healthy lifestyle. If your top applicant’s favorite activity is eating ice cream while napping….they are maybe not the best choice.
Even if you don’t care about their lifestyle, certain people just don’t get along with one another. You probably will want to hire someone that you could see yourself being friends with! Keeping the peace between team members is an important consideration. You want to make sure that everyone vibes well with each other.
A great way to do this effectively in your application is to ask them a simple question like “Tell me about yourself and why you are excited about this internship!”
From how they answer, you will be able to get a good sense of what their personality is like. This will help you start to figure out if they are a good fit for your team.
Choose Your Questions Strategically
First of all, obviously make sure to ask all of the basics (like “what’s your name,” etc.). But also consider adding in a few strategic questions to help you make sure that you will hire the perfect intern.
In my own application, I include a few “trip” questions with specific right or wrong answers, allowing me to weed out the applicants who would not be good choices for the position.
The trip questions I use in my application are:
- Do you understand that deadlines are important, and must be fulfilled unless a huge emergency comes up?
- If an important task comes up, how many hours of advance notice would you need to complete it?
I look for the correct answers: (a) Yes, and (b) 24 hours or less.
Unpaid or Paid Internship?
Once you have the application all ready to go, decide how much you are going to pay your intern(s).
This is a personal preference and is totally up to you. But just keep in mind that (in the U.S.) unpaid internships are only allowed for nonprofit organizations and usually involve some type of college credit.
If you have decided to go with a paid internship, I recommend offering at least minimum wage. Most that I’ve seen start around $10/hour.
If you are willing to pay your interns a decent wage, you will get a much more qualified pool of applicants. So, if you want to hire the perfect intern, having a budget of at least $10-20 per hour is a good idea.
Plus, more people will take you seriously and realize that you have a legitimate program here and genuinely care about the welfare of your team members.
But, regardless of how much you choose to pay your interns, you should prepare yourself to come across quite a few unqualified applicants who are simply looking for easy money.
Promote Your Application
The next step to be able to hire the perfect intern is to promote your application! You obviously can’t just create it and hope that people will stumble across it.
The last time I launched my internship, I promoted it in two places:
- Facebook groups
- My email list
Just by sending out one newsletter and posting it in one Facebook group thread, I was able to get 114 people to apply! This still seems absolutely crazy to me. How could that many people possibly want to work with me?
But when I really thought about it…my interns do get so much out of it!
And I was able to have a huge group of people from which to hire the perfect intern.
Be Clear About the Value
When promoting your internship, it’s important to have a firm grasp on why exactly people would want to apply.
If you’re truly looking to hire the perfect intern, you will want to strongly highlight the benefits of your program in order to peak their interest!
To give you an example of what I mean, here are the benefits of my own internship:
- Direct 24/7 access to me. Interns are allowed to ask any and all questions they have, and I will always be around to help them, give advice, and lead them in the right direction.
- My membership program: The VA Vault. Normally $19.95/month, interns get the entire program for free for the length of their internship.
- An inside sneak-peek into how I run my business. As an intern, they get the same clearance as each of my other team members, meaning they get to see the inside of all of my systems, including full access to my Asana account. They can see everything that I have set up for on-boarding, project checklists, and everything else about how I run my business from behind the curtain.
- A broad variety of skills training. At any given time, I serve between 10-20 active clients, all of which have very different businesses and needs. Working for me means that they will get experience completing tasks in tons of different areas. I also try my best to accommodate specific requests, such as if they are extremely interested in learning how to use certain programs or complete different types of tasks.
- A testimonial from me. After they have finished their first two months of interning, I supply a testimonial about the quality of their services.
Interview Your Top Applicants
When you want to hire the perfect intern, a Skype interview is a great thing to include in your application process. Remember when I talked earlier about how they need to vibe with your team?
A Skype interview is the perfect way to assess their personality and choose the best person for the job.
It’s totally possible for someone to look amazing on paper, but then be a bit of a dud once you meet them. Scheduling a Skype interview with your top 3-5 applicants will help you get the best idea of which intern you should officially hire.
This is also a good way to ask them any other, more specific, questions about themselves. For example, one of the applicants I interviewed had checked off that she knew how to use Facebook ads, but in the Skype call when I asked her to embellish on this, it turned out that she’d misunderstood the question and had actually never used them before.
Remember to take notes during each call so that you can refer back to them later. Once you are done with each interview, decide who is ultimately the best intern for you!
Send them an email welcoming them to your team, and start the on-boarding process.