5 tips for engaging virtual interns

Jul 27, 2020 | Work experience/internships

Virtual internships require different terms of engagement than those in person, yet when done well they offer distinct advantages to employers. Taofiqah Akorede from ProjectSet shares five top tips.

#1 Clarify your objectives

Set your objectives clearly. Are you looking for new talent or in need of extra assistance or a helping hand? Or is it to support diversity? Any of these are legitimate but it is important to have one, clear dominant objective. This will help you to define a clear scope, structure and deliverables for your internship.

#2 Think projects

Offer your intern a stand-alone piece of work with clear outputs and timeline. It allows the greater independence needed for remote working. Keep the project scope simple and clear; don’t overwhelm your interns with a task that they don’t have the expertise to perform. The most effective projects focus on the native skills of Gen Z (e.g. social media, etc.) and analysis of non-sensitive information (e.g. retailer survey). A clear project definition drives positive candidate experience and better outputs.

#3 Choose students with the right profile

You will likely have a wide choice of candidates; choose well. Review samples of their work (e.g. blogs, web designs, etc.), even if these are outputs from academic projects. These reveal a lot more than a standard CV. If you want your interns to work in a team, check if they play team sports. Confirm their availability to avoid a rushed assignment and disappointment. Remember, you cannot physically monitor an online intern.

#4 Build a disciplined working structure and protocol

Build a workplan. If you have more than one intern, assign each task to one intern only. Schedule biweekly or weekly meetings to review progress. Give interns clear feedback to help them course-correct early. Remember they are students learning to be – but not yet – professionals. Nominate a colleague or a mentor if you do not have the time. A recent study by University College London (UCL) illustrates that interns adapt their workload and time management in online internships. Make interns feel involved – to the extent that is feasible – to give them a better view of your organisation. Remember to invite them to internal meetings, etc. even if these are not directly relevant to their project.

#5 Celebrate successes

Give clear and timely feedback to your interns. Point out what they can improve as well as how. Remind them of what they’ve done well; acknowledge their contribution. Interns value clear feedback and this drives overall candidate experience. It can also strengthen your employer brand. The UCL study also shows THAT sharing experiences and testimonials steers students towards right-fit opportunities.



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