Rant On Interns: Advice From Your Future Boss

June 14, 2010

In the last blog post on The Great Debate On Interns I touched upon my personal experience in both being an intern and hiring one. In case my views were biased, I asked a few friends to weigh in on their experiences and have received some amazing responses.

We also got feedback from a head hunter turned career coach, Christian Hasse, where he offers advice for interns.

This one from Erik Anderson was originally intended to be used for quotes — but its just too good a read, I figured it deserved its own post. Erik runs a marketing company, Infinity Print Group, and has had a lot of experience hiring and managing interns. Here’s what he had to say about the Great Debate On Interns: Experience Vs Education.

The whole “best” school thing is bulls*^t in my opinion.  There are 4 strong unis within an hour’s drive of me and I find great candidates at all 4.  Keep in mind that I hire mostly marketing interns.

I look for a good combo of experience and education.  I’m interested in seeing how they juggle jobs with education – gives me an idea about priorities.  If they do nothing but study and get good grades, they are usually ill-prepared for a work environment.  Balance of work/studies/outside activities is where I start.

I find that much of the US university/college education system prepares students marginally at best.  They are doing a better job at  preparing students for team-working environments WAY better than when I went to school, but the content isn’t really all that useful except in certain highly technical fields (accounting, graphic design, IT, etc.).

For these reasons, I put the interns through the paces in an interview.  They are all coached to answer certain questions certain ways.  I don’t generally ask these questions, so there is a level of discomfort at the beginning of the interview process.  I tell them my interview style is different so don’t worry about answering the questions you have been prepped to answer – I’m not interested.  I want them to carry on a conversation with me.  If they can do that, I find out so much more.

For what I hire for, I generally need good thinkers that can communicate, be flexible with multiple projects going on at once, work in a team environment and in a small business (I have 7 employees). It is hard to really find these things out in earnest if I ask directly.  And this is only the first interview!

So for me, it less about education or even experience than it is the things previously mentioned.  A good foundation of marketing skills is essential, so I rule out any non-marketing types right away.

Another thought: sometimes too much education or education from the “best” schools brings a know-it-all attitude and an unwillingness to learn or adapt.

because I screen thoroughly, I have only had 1 mediocre intern in the 6 years I have had interns (10 interns total).  I find that college/uni students are smart and work hard if given clear direction and expectations.  I always tell them to ask questions and be flexible and open-minded – their education may not help them much in a direct sense, but if they learned critical thinking skills they should be able to kick butt.

Erik Anderson, Partner at the Infinity Print Group

What are your thoughts? leave a comment!


4 Responses to “Rant On Interns: Advice From Your Future Boss”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melissa Smich and Melissa Smich, Melissa Smich. Melissa Smich said: @infinitypg its up! let me know if you want any changes made before I promote it 🙂 http://bit.ly/aoKU1l […]

  2. Thom Reed Says:

    Erik’s remarks are extremely timely. I joined my company two weeks ago and am hiring an intern for the first time in my career. These points “hit the nail on the head” for me. I will take his advice and apply it today.

    Thanks Erik!

    Thom Reed
    Director of Marketing, BidSync

  3. […] The Great Debate On Interns: Experience Vs Education *Guest Post By Your Future Boss* […]

  4. […] Rant On Interns: Advice From Your Future Boss […]

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