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Hiring Interns You Love

Published October 16, 2018

Internships have historically involved a lot of coffee runs, administrative tasks and fighting losing battles with copiers. The goal for the company doing the hiring was to find a low-cost resource to help around the office; the goal for the intern applying was to get a name on their resume that could open doors to actual jobs after college. 

Well, thankfully, times have changed. The ownership of the intern experience has shifted onto the employer (part of this is due to stricter laws around the specific intern's duties), which essentially means that interns should be hired to learn - and it's your job as an organization to teach them. By following this mindset, we have fostered many interns into long-standing team members, and we couldn't be happier.

The 'Rules'

We have primarily hired interns from the YWeb Career Academy (a coding bootcamp in Madison). Although the backgrounds, ages and interests of the candidates have been widely diverse, the expectations have been the same:

  1. Soak it all up - This internship is for you to learn about the world of software development to see if you are interested in moving forward with a career in it.
  2. Take initiative - This is a loosely structured program to give you an insight into all things software development. It is up to you to make the most of it.
  3. Find an edge to hang onto - Pick a stack, process and/or area of interest and run with it.

Do all the things!

As a tech company, we want to give those interested in a tech-focused career the opportunity to get experience in all things related to development (not just programming). A typical week in the three-month internship may look like the following:

  • Monday - Project Management
  • Tuesday - Technical Processes 
  • Wednesday - Mobile Development
  • Thursday - Quality Assurance
  • Friday - Dev Ops 

This could include pairing with more senior developers on a framework change, making your very own pull request or sitting on a client meeting and taking notes. Over time, the intern starts to find an area that interests them and focus their efforts there.

A disclaimer: the experiences involve real client work, but we do not hold them accountable to client-enforced deadlines. 

What we look for

We want to create an environment for individuals to find inevitable success - especially for those just starting out (or making a career change). In order to do that, we structure our interview questions to look for the following:

GUMPTION
There are no tasks immediately assigned to you today. What do you do? Why?

Look for: resourcefulness, eagerness to contribute

INVESTIGATIVE NATURE
You get a complaint that an app keeps crashing every time users click a specific button. What are your steps for investigating this?

Look for: Detailed steps, cognitive reasoning behind approach

DESIRE TO LEARN
Describe the project you've worked on that you're most proud of. What did you do that worked out particularly well? 

Look for: Do they tend to gravitate towards situations where they are outside of their comfort zone, what interests them

OWNERSHIP
Describe a recent unpopular decision you made. How was it received specifically? How did you handle it? 

Look for: blame, excuses

We <3 our interns

After three months, we give the choice to continue employment with us (either through a six-month developer apprenticeship or a junior full-time position). The stakes change at that point, but we hope that through the three-month learning process, the individual has a more clear trajectory on their career/skillsets, and we have an awesome new member of the team. 

Special shout-out to our interns over the years:

Kate Powers, Charielle McMullan, Kevin Fahy, Hilary Stohs-Krause - we are so happy to have you!

Author details

Katrina Tofflemire

Director of Strategy and Operations