How First Time Startup Leaders Can Recruit and Manage Interns

3 min readJan 27, 2022

There is always a first time to everything. Being a first time startup leader can be complicated. The startup environment is filled with chaos, adding to it the management of people can even seem daunting.

You are thinking of how to delight customers, make your processes simpler, and ensure that many other things are working. Managing new interns especially those who will be getting their first internship experience from you requires a big sacrifice.

Why sacrifice? Interns could have skills without real world experience. Your company might be the first place for them to use their skills to solve real problems and have that firsthand experience in the startup world.

Sacrifice comes as a result of you having to devote your time in the midst of chaos to give them all the support they need.

Sacrifice also means that you have to help them help your startup grow and help them become better versions of themselves even before the internship is over.

Interns should leave your startup with a true feeling of fulfilment and the desire to keep learning.

How do you recruit them?

  • Through referrals from trusted sources.
  • Through social media (if they’ve been consistently showing up with their skills and you are convinced that they are right for your startup).
  • Through training organizations (e.g. from the digital marketing training by MEST Africa called PREMEST, and many others)

How do you manage the interns?

While some might argue that internship that takes place in a physical location is more effective than the remote one, I believe anything is possible. It all depends on structure and proper management.

As a startup leader, think critically about the what, how, where, and when of the internship after the ‘who’ is figured out.

These steps could help you with your processes and this is a practical example of how I engaged my interns.

  1. Draft a contract of agreement to be signed by your company and the interns. Remember that interns are employees too; they might only be staying for a shorter period than a regular employee.
  2. Identify what the interns will be doing for the period of time they will be with you. This could also be the reason you recruited them in the first place.
  3. Ensure you let them know what the mode of communication will be, and choose the best medium for easy flow of information. This will also apply to how they communicate with one another.
  4. Give them all the tools they need for their work.
  5. Make room for their growth: suggest courses and programs they could take to learn on the job. They are interns, don’t expect that they know it all. None of us does. You can also include avenues for them to improve their presentation skills — they can make presentations from time to time.
  6. Give regular feedback. (This could be daily or weekly feedback. I prefer the daily feedback because it makes you connected to them and assures them that there is someone who is interested in their work).
  7. If you can have a proper onboarding session, please do. If not, a short call for introductions and what to expect will also do.
  8. Be flexible. Plans can change as you go. You are in a startup environment, expect these things to happen. Just let your interns know and update them with the changes.

At the end of the internship, an appraisal is needed. This appraisal should be on both ends. Let them appraise your leadership skills and get feedback from them on what the experience has been.

Be ready to also let them know what their performance was, their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvements.

If you have worked with interns or managed them at any point, let me know your experience. If there is any point you would also love to add to all I’ve shared here, share them in the comments.

If you’ve been in an internship program before, what was your internship experience like?

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