How to Recruit and Interview Interns – Part 2

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All right. So, you've selected an intern and have brought them in to explain the position to them, get a sense for who they are and let them ask whatever questions they want. But how should you do all that? Do you know?

Early in my career when I started interviewing interns to be hired for The Onion, I would have a checklist of questions to ask. Eventually – and I also took this approach with feature interviews when chatting with folks like Lewis Black – I chucked out the questions I "had to ask" and tried to get a conversation going. Just something resembling camaraderie to take the place of what this really is: two complete strangers sizing each other up to see if we can get along for any stretch of time. Anyone who's ever been on a blind date knows there's nothing potentially more awkward than this.

"Interviewing for interns is difficult because they usually don't have much work experience to discuss," said Josh Saunders of Uncorked. "Instead, we generally focus on their fit with our company and want to learn about their career interests. I always ask them to tell me what specific skills and knowledge they want to have learned when their internship is completed."

That's a very good point. I always stress what interns will walk away from this internship with: not just another contact but hopefully skills that will carry them further into their career and help them along the way. I always try to touch on what their goals are for the internship so I can internalize that in my day-to-day dealings with them and help customize their experience so they're getting what they want out of it while we're getting what we want out of it.

Speaking of which, Joseph Harris, an employment lawyer in New York, clarified something very important: "The No. 1 best practice for hiring interns is to ensure, if the internship is unpaid, that the program is legal… exchanging experience for free labor is not legal, even when the intern agrees to be unpaid and the employer has nothing but the best of intentions." It's something I touched on before recently in the piece, How to Do Right by Your Interns, which lists the federal guidelines that must be met for an internship to be on the up-and-up

Otherwise, the only thing I can really drive home is to listen. Don't take up too much of either party's time. And then, if you decide not to hire someone, please let them know. Don't leave them hanging. Not only is it kinda rude, it's just inconsiderate as a human being. And you're better than that, ain't you?

After you've picked an intern, you're ready to give this a read: Nicole Williams' recent piece on LinkedIn's blog about how to be a good boss to your intern.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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