Interns are an attractive option for startups. The benefits are clear. They’re low cost, eager to learn and need the cash. We have two developer interns working for our website motioning startup right now. The alternatives to interns are either expensive freelancers/contractors, low cost but inflexible off shoring resources or permanent staff. I’ve posted before about finding and working with freeelancers or off shore companies. Despite the benefits care needs to be taken in finding the right interns and setting an effective working relationship.
Our experiences goes against Seth Godlin’s and Loic Le Meur’s. Seth believes “internships are overrated” and “we (employers) are doing them a favour”. We’ve found this is not the case if you find the right people, pay them and work together on clear objectives.
- Finding the right people – We directly approached 12 Universities and assessed 20 students. Our criteria was they had paid work experience; were skilled in our development platform and they showed strong initiative. We were lucky to find two motivated interns who had worked at Google and a London digital agency. We also thought it was better to employ two interns rather than one. With two they can share ideas and work out problems together.
- Paying interns – Despite being a cash strapped and starved startup we think it’s better to pay interns. Paying them changes the nature of the relationship because they are expected to deliver on objectives. Also interns who have paid experience expect to be paid for their next project.
- Clear objectives – Like all employees they need managing and trusting. Student’s aren’t dumb. Treat them as adults. Let the interns set their own objectives and work with them. If you’ve found the right interns trust them to solve problems and they probably will deliver.
Our experiences of interns so far is great. Yes, it does take a chunk of management time to get them up and running. But that’s OK, because if they’re good you will get that time back later on in the summer as they become more productive. I know several other UK startups including EveryCity and Huddle who also have employed interns. And they think interns are great too. Sam at Chinwag posted his positive experiences of their intern at Chinwag.
Our interns Dave King and Phil Howell have done an incredible job for us. I dread to think how far behind our software development would be without them. From our experience I would highly recommend interns. They bring new fresh ideas to the project and they’re eager to learn. But like all recruits you’ve got to find motivated, responsible and self disciplined individuals for it to really work. You can’t just blame them if it doesn’t.