Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Employer Report: CNN.com on Urban Interns & Part Two in Our Series on Virtual Internships

Read about Urban Interns in 
CNN.com World Business's article
about Virtual Interns.
Welcome to the Urban Interns Employer Report - a free resource to help you grow your business by creating and implementing win-win opportunities for part-time staff and interns.  Each week, we will answer questions, provide tips and inspire you to think creatively about using flexible resources such as part-time staff and interns to achieve your business goals.

Virtual Internships Part Two: Selecting a Virtual Intern

As reported by Urban Interns earlier this month, virtual internships are on the rise.  In our October Trend and Insight Report, we noted that the percentage of virtual positions posted on Urban Interns increased from 9% to 24% between the end of August and September. This growing trend is also gaining a lot of discussion in the media, as indicated by yesterday's article by CNN.com World Business which featured Urban Interns as well as our work with our very own intern, an incredibly talented Columbia student.   

The benefits of bring on a virtual intern are many: low overhead since you don't need to expand your office space, you can set the hours that best suit your business and your schedule, and you can tap into a talent pool that expands well beyond your geographic location. 
But, before we dive into tips on how to most effectively manage a virtual intern, which we'll do in next week's Employer Report, the first question is how to select a virtual intern.  Unlike a traditional job interview, this interview may be entirely over the phone or Skype -- meaning there's no opportunity to evaluate body language and rapport. So how do you navigate the online world to find the best fit for your organization?  Consider the Three P's of Professionalism, Performance, and Presence:
  • Professionalism:  Prior to your interview, you will likely have many initial interactions with a candidate through Urban Interns and over email. First impressions are still powerful, so even in these early interactions, you'll be able to get a lot of insight into a candidate.  If a candidate is writing you quick emails and forgetting to capitalize letters, think of it as the modern day version of walking into a room and forgetting to make eye contact or address you by the proper name.  Just because it's a virtual position does not mean your standards of excellence should be any lower.
  • Performance:  If you're adding to your staff in any way, it means you're busy and need help. You need someone who will ramp up quickly and deliver stellar work.   Ask for samples of work, professional references and perhaps consider asking the candidate to do a short exercise so you can evaluate work product.
  • Presence:  That's online presence.  With all the social networks and ways to get in touch, we're all so discoverable these days -- including candidates.  Go ahead and take a look at the information that's publicly available online. You are certain to learn a lot.
So while going the virtual road means you may need to forego some of the benefits that come with in-person interactions, there are still many ways to successfully evaluate a candidate and make the selection that makes the most sense for your business.

Stay tuned for Part Three in our Virtual Internships series in next week's Employer Report: Managing a Virtual Intern.

Ready to find your perfect virtual intern? Login here.

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