How to hire interns for your startup

One of the best ways to get work done cheaply when you’re a startup is get interns on board. Most of the times they’re smart, driven, willing to learn, and can be very affordable. However, you have to be careful as both hiring and getting them up-to-speed can be quite time consuming.

I’ve hired a few interns in the past few years since I’ve been building companies, and I’d like to share some of my learnings with you.

Look for potential, not experience. The reason why people do internships is to get experience. If someone with 2+ yrs of experience in a specific industry is still doing internships, it means there’s something wrong there.

Hire fast and fire faster. When you find someone you really like, hire her or him, don’t wait. Momentum is very important when getting interns on board. Get them excited about the company, get them on board, assign responsibilities and get it rolling. But please, you will thank me later for this: if it doesn’t work in the first week, stop!

Don’t pay an intern too much. If you’re hiring an intern in London, anything from £10 to £30 per day is enough. If you pay more than that it means they’re doing it for the money, and that’s not the type of intern you need. You need someone willing to work 24/7 even for £10 / day, just because they love the team, the business and whatever you’re doing.

Be very careful if hiring MBA interns. I recently got burned with one. MBAs can be super-smart and can bring tons of value to the company, however most of the times they: a) think they’re smarter than you, b) think they have more experience than you, c) think they deserve better than an internship so they start calling themselves consultants and d) are expensive. I know people who’ve gotten brilliant MBA interns on board, I know people who’ve experienced exactly what I have. So be careful with this one, and only hire if they have some key skill that you can’t find in an undergraduate / student intern.

The best ways to get interns I think are through your network of friends & business contacts, on gumtree.com (surprisingly good applicants, if you have someone to go through all the crap applications you’ll get) or enternships.com. I hope the tips in this post will help you in the quest for the best intern for your startup!

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