Interns in Startups

Over the years I’ve hired dozens of interns with much success. In fact, the first summer at Pardot we had 11 full-time interns and only three employees. Interns are great in that they’re excited to learn, eager to prove themselves, and want to be there. But, there’s absolutely one trait that’s required for the employer to have a great experience: the intern needs to be self-starting.

Self-starting is the most important trait when hiring an intern.

Think about it. An internship schedule is one where there’s little time to ramp up and be productive before the internship is over. During that time, the employer has a number of existing day-to-day tasks that have to get done outside of coaching and training the intern. Interns who are self-starting are more resourceful, more likely to figure things out on their own, and more likely to have the right balance of productivity to management effort.

Finally, interns are a great way to build a talent pipeline. Finding smart people that get things done is hard. By investing in interns there’s a continuous opportunity to find strong candidates for full-time positions as the startup grows. We’ve hired many interns into full-time roles.

Entrepreneurs would do well to develop a program for interns, especially in the scaling phase of the startup.

What else? What are some more thoughts on interns in startups?

5 thoughts on “Interns in Startups

  1. Great post, David. I forwarded to my son with the words “Self starting means making your best guess at what needs to be done even if you don’t have a clue, doing that thing you determined, and being comfortable being told it’s wrong (which most of the time doesn’t happen).”

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