A complete guide to hiring interns for your startup

About the author : Shadab Alam, an NIT-J graduate, has been the Head of Employer Relations at Internshala for around 3 years. He believes that a strong internship culture can bring about a great difference in any organisation. In this article, he brings together his experience of handling interns and employers, along with his knowledge from being an avid, voracious reader.

For startups, internships are a great way to get some quality work done and explore some good talent for eventual inclusion in your company. But hiring interns, without any prior work experience to gauge their attributes, could be quite a tricky task.

This post is meant to address that segment of recruitment which is concerned with interns.


Before hiring –

Hiring interns just for the sake of it or for frivolous tasks defeats the purpose. For students, internships are to learn the ropes of a profession and to build a career on it. A student I once met during my presentation about the importance of internships at a college recounted his futile internship experience at a firm where all he had to do was, as he described – ‘copy-paste tasks’.

a. Ask your departments if they require interns. Also, ensure that there are people to mentor the incoming interns.
b. Have a lucid job description and be clear of your expectations from interns.
c. Along with the CV, ask the prospective candidates to submit an assignment. For example, if you’re hiring a web developer then you could ask her to write a piece of code or if you’re hiring a blogger then ask her to write a piece on a chosen topic.

Who to hire?

It’s never an easy task to make this decision. Technically proficient, smart, good communication skills – the criteria are endless. But in my opinion the below two points are the most important –

A good cultural fit – No matter how genius your coder is, but if she’s not an easy person to get along with the team then she’s a bad hire for your company. During the interview, you need to comprehend if the candidate will adhere to your company’s core values. If not, there’s no point giving her a shot. You can always guide her to perform better but you cannot change her intrinsic aspects that decide the cultural fit.

Good at getting things done – Because that’s what matters to your business. Your guidance is wasted if the zeal to get over the finishing line in the stipulated time is absent in the candidate. Look for instances in the candidate’s life wherein she has pursued a goal relentlessly, be it academic or be it any extra-curricular.

How to interview?

Interview is the short-term process that has a long-term impact on your company. As it is, it’s difficult to judge all the aspects of a candidate in an hour-long conversation.

a. There are two main points the interview should be focussed on – candidate’s cultural fit and technically proficiency. The former criteria can be adjudged aptly by the founder, but s/he may not be proficient in the technical aspects of that particular position. In such a case, ensure that your candidate is interviewed by someone who is well-versed in the technical aspects.

For example, if you’re hiring a PHP developer and you have little idea about it, then you could split the interview into two segments – one in which you take care of the cultural fit part and second wherein someone proficient in PHP from your tech-team could test his technical prowess.

b. Use interview to bring forth the expectations of both the sides. It’s important that the candidate and you are on the same page before the internship starts. Walk her through a day in the internship outlining her responsibilities. Ask her what she expects from this stint (here’s a quick guide), what other commitments she might have during the internship period, how will she commute, or are there any other pain-points she wants addressed from your side.

c. Remember that the interview is meant for you to learn about the candidate, it’s not for you to show that you’re better than her. Steer the interview such that she’s the one who does the maximum talking – ask her about particular instances in her life where she displayed any certian quality, or may be her opinions, her achievements, her failures and her future goals.

You could check the interview questions you need to ask your prospective interns here.

After interview –

Once you have zeroed in on candidates, send them the offer letter as soon as possible. They may be applying to other firms and its better you finish off any competition for yourself. Ask the candidate to send you the scanned signed copy of the offer letter back to you as a sign of acceptance of offer. Include these in your offer letter –

The basic job information – The starting and ending date, position offered, mode of work (in-office or remote), timing, etc.

The compensation – Be fair. Most of the interns being college students hardly have any experience to hone their ‘negotiation’ skills. So it’s upto you to ensure that you provide a stipend enough to compensate her efforts.

The ‘Terms and Conditions’ section – Outline all the clauses, privacy policies that the intern is going to be subjected to during her period of internship.

Also, this is your chance to welcome your intern in a professional startup and make him feel inspired. See what Apple writes in its offer letter to employees –

There’s work and there’s you life’s work.
The kind of work that has your fingertips all over it. The kind of work that you’d never compromise on. That you’d sacrifice a weekend for. You can do that kind of work at Apple. People don’t come here to play safe. They come here to swim in the deep end.
They want their work to add upto something. Something big, something that couldn’t happen anywhere else.
Welcome to Apple.

Who wouldn’t be inspired to work there after reading this?

You can check a sample offer letter here.

After hiring –

Now that you have hired the super-interns for your company, you need to make sure that they are at their productive-best. These interns are your prospective employees and it depends on you whether you retain your assets (read interns) after the internship period or lose them. Employer engagement is a hotly debated topic and something which, I feel, applies to not only permanent hires but interns too. There are many points I wish to cover in this regard but that’s for the next article. Hope this one has helped you.

I would love to hear your suggestions and opinions on this piece, do comment below.

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Are you an employer looking for interns? Hire interns through Internshala; it’s free and hassle-free.

Image credits : www.conferencegenie.co.uk/

8 thoughts on “A complete guide to hiring interns for your startup

  • February 4, 2016 at 7:36 PM

    hi Team,

    As a startup company we are looking for recruiting process, i hope you will help us
    can you help out

    Thanks & Regards,


  • May 20, 2016 at 2:06 PM

    We are looking to develop a model where a core operations task will be done by interns. However for that we need interns all year round. Is it possible to get interns all year round and typically for what duration? Would actually be good to have a blog post on the internship scenario from an employer (typically startup) perspective to understand. Essentially a 101 on internships from an employer perspective

    – when interns are available in the year (summer/winter etc.)
    – what period (2m/3m)
    – what education offers internships (engineering, bachelors)
    – what are they looking for / what excites them in terms of role/recognition
    – typical stipends for different roles/education levels

    I think the MBA summer internships are well-known but looking for other places from interns are available.

    • May 21, 2016 at 2:49 PM

      Hi Dhaval,

      Thanks for writing in. We’ll come up with an article on the mentioned points soon.
      You can also contact us at employer@internshala.com regarding any queries related to intern hiring.

      Team Internshala

  • December 1, 2019 at 10:36 PM

    We are looking to hire interns for our support and operations.

    Can you provide the step by step guide on how to contact the colleges for hiring interns.
    For eg: Application letter to College etc

  • May 11, 2020 at 1:09 PM

    We are looking to hirn interns for our support and operations as a starts up in direct selling business we are recruiting process, i hope u vl help us
    Cn u help me out
    Thank u and regrads
    Dynamic beneficial accord private limited

  • February 18, 2021 at 6:44 PM

    That’s a great tip of sites for searching for a developer. I loved it, Thanks for sharing such a beautiful writeup with us


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