Recruit and Hire Interns

Small Business Interviewing Tip: Involving Employees in the Interview Process

It’s important that an intern fit within the corporate culture of a company. But when that company is a small business, it’s essential. The intimate structure of a small business means that each member of the team interfaces with the others. And one wrong hire can disrupt the harmony of the system (yes, even when that hire is an intern).

No matter how in tune the owner or person doing the interviewing, he or she is only one individual. Also, the interviewer generally doesn’t work side by side with, or supervise, the intern on a daily basis. Therefore, even with strong interviewing skills and the best of intentions, interns chosen by a single person don’t always mesh right with the rest of the team.

Finding Interns That Fit

The best strategy for small businesses to find interns that fit is to have prospective interns interact extensively with employees during the interview process.

Why is employee interaction so beneficial?

•    Staff members see things a business owner doesn’t. Employees are acutely aware of which characteristics are most important in day-to-day dealings. Therefore, they are better able to assess whether a potential intern possesses them.

•    Candidates relax around other employees. Once the business owner has left the room and an intern is alone with existing employees, they are more likely to let their guard down. This gives “interviewers” a more accurate picture of the intern’s personality. For example, an intern will often ask questions—or reveal responses—they wouldn’t in the more formal-feeling portion of the interview.

•    Employees can assess chemistry. Most importantly, it’s difficult for a third party to determine whether there will be chemistry between an intern and staff members or supervisors. Similar to setting up a blind date, just because a business owner clicks with an intern, doesn’t mean others will mesh as well. Making employees part of the process increases the chances of a favorable—and more mutually beneficial—working relationship.

Steps to Incorporating Staff Members into the Interview Process

There’s more than one way of doing things. However, the following steps represent a sample interview strategy:

1. Have the small business owner or manager meet with the intern alone. Here, he or she will conduct the more standard portion of the interview.

2. Invite in, and introduce, the employees who will be working most closely with the intern. Keep this group to three or four at most, so the intern doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

3. Have the small business owner leave the employees alone with the intern for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Instruct employees to ask questions in a more casual manner and to encourage questions from the candidate. While one goal is to get answers from the intern, equally important aims are to assess chemistry among the group, as well as to watch for red flags.

4. If desired, the owner or original interviewer can close the interview alone. Or, he or she can join the group for the final few minutes of the process.

5. If the candidate is being seriously considered, he or she can meet any additional employees in the same manner during the second interview.

Employer takeaway: Chemistry and cohesive personalities among interns and employees are crucial in a small business environment. Including existing employees in the interview process reduces the possibility of hiring an ill-fitting intern and sets the stage for seamless working relationships.