Jennifer Fremont-Smith, CEO of Smarterer, on Hiring Interns

Creating a startup from scratch is not small feat. You sure can’t go it alone, but limited initial funding can cause huge headaches when looking to hire cream-of-the-crop talent. So where to turn when looking to hire a stellar team? The answer? INTERNS!

Interns, often looked at as the coffee-runners and copy-makers of offices, can serve as the foundation for a star-studded team, helping a new startup excel. More colleges and universities are incorporating internships into their requirements for graduation nowadays than ever before, producing a huge pool of qualified students, jumping at the chance to get their hands on one a coveted experiential learning opportunities. It’s truly a win-win for all.

So, where to start, and how to leverage interns to help your startup to succeed? Jennifer Fremont-Smith, cofounder of Smarterer, has the answers in her class, How to Hire an Army of Interns To Build Your Business. We spoke earlier this week to talk about her experience working with teams of interns, and what students can expect from her class. Check out our conversation below:

I.LY: You’re a repeat founder and serial entrepreneur. What challenges are you tackling now at Smarterer?

JFS: The big challenges we’re tackling every day at Smarterer tend to be around our product and our go-to-market. What’s cool is that interns get to work on all of these things. Here are the initiatives that are top of mind for everyone at Smarterer right now:

• How to build a great product that attracts and engages users, and delivers real value to customers.

• How to ensure we have great, high quality content in our system at all times, and how to leverage users to accomplish this.

• How to create massive scale

I.LY: Managing a team of interns for success can be easier said than done. How are interns helping you Smarterer progress?

JFS: I’m a huge believer in the importance of experiential learning for students. A lot of what is wrong with our higher educational system could be solved if more students gained practical experience through internships and apprenticeships. We practice what we preach by giving interns at Smarterer real world problems to solve, like how to crowd-source more great content on Smarterer, how to get the word out about our product to recruiters, and how to turn our blog into the world’s premier destination for people who care about learning practical skills and furthering their career. By working on these things they help create huge forward motion every day!

Also, and perhaps most important – having energetic, bright, and eager interns around makes everyone happy – and helping them gain practical, marketable skills reminds us all of the important work we’re doing at Smarterer by giving people a way to validate their skills and level the playing field.

I.LY: What are typical qualities you look for in interns?

JFS: When hiring interns look for three things: intelligence, great attitude, and digital skills. We don’t expect our interns to know everything – they’re still students – but we do expect them to have the intelligence to figure lots of stuff out. They don’t need tons of experience – again, being interns they are here to learn. But we absolutely require that they’re comfortable with a baseline of software tools that they’ll need to do their job, and the ability to quickly pick up new skills.  And last of all, they have to be bright, positive people ready to learn. Our very best interns are always the ones who ask the most questions – who start with the attitude of “I have no idea how to do this but I am going to ask questions and figure it out!”

I.LY: How have you successfully utilized interns in your other companies?

JFS: Other startups I’ve been involved in have used a similar approach to Smarterer in working with interns – recruit bright, passionate people, give them some gnarly challenges they can sink their teeth into, and they can do amazing things for the company – and learn a lot at the same time.

I.LY: What can students hope to learn during your class next week?

JFS: Every student who comes to the class with leave with an actionable roadmap for designing a high-impact internship program. We’ll cover our secrets for how to recruit a pipeline of candidates, an amazing process for identifying the very best candidates, how to on-board them, what kind of work to give them –  in short, everything you need to know to create an astoundingly successful internship program!

Don’t miss out! Make sure to register by clicking here! We’ll see you in class!