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How to Spot the Intern You Should Hire Full-time

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Intern working hard at her computer

At ECG Productions our full-time staffers often begin working with us as interns. It’s an effective way to test the working relationship (in both directions) and let trust and additional responsibilities develop organically.

From a management perspective, we’re a video production company that affords our employees a large degree of freedom in everything from the hours they work to how they dress. We are fully results driven in that sense: if the quality of the work is great and deadlines are met or exceeded, we essentially don’t care about the minutiae of how the work got done.

With interns this makes it easy to spot the ones who will make great hires (and the ones who won’t) pretty quickly. When you afford people a great deal of freedom, they tend to sink or swim pretty quickly. We’re looking for candidates who can thrive in our relaxed creative environment without micromanagement and constant oversight.

We’ve found that when you give creatives the freedom to work the way they work best, the efficiency improves in ways that would not be possible in a regimented, highly-corporate environment.

With that in mind, here’s my list of five characteristics I look for when deciding if an intern would fit long-term at ECG Productions:

a common message for interns - do more

  1. They Have A Great Attitude

    This is easily the most important characteristic, as it’s something that can’t be learned. The majority of a person’s motivation is intrinsic: they either have it or they don’t. When I see an intern who can throw themselves into a mundane task with just as much enthusiasm as an exciting one, I immediately take note. The world of video production isn’t all sexy location shoots and big budgets. Some of the things we do aren’t fun at all (that’s why we get paid to do them) but knowing how to take the bad with the good is part of any career. The reason this particular career kicks so much ass is that there’s much more good than bad. Keep your eye on any intern who accepts responsibility with a smile and asks for more.

  2. They Ask Great Questions

    Nobody knows how to do everything. When you take on a new task or try to learn a new skill, there will inevitably be questions. The best interns ask plenty of questions upfront, then go off and work hard, only coming back with follow-up questions after trying to find solutions themselves. Their concern isn’t looking smart (no questions) or being annoying (sheepish and/or not enough questions), their concern is getting it right.

  3. They Are Self-Motivated 

    Show me an intern who fills their unstructured time on their own and I’ll show you a future hire who’s going to increase their value exponentially. Interns who have a natural love of learning about their craft are winners. If I walk down the hall and see you taking an online tutorial or reading a manual, I know you’re dedicated to increasing your skill set and growing with the company. If I see you watching YouTube videos or playing with your phone regularly, I know you don’t give a shit.

  4. They Know When to Have Fun (and When Not to)

    ECG is a fun place to work. We joke around, we pull pranks, we yell a fair bit – but we also get shit done. Interns that are going to be a good fit in our work environment innately know when it’s time to goof off and when it’s not. It can be misleading to see a casual work environment with lots of freedom and think it’s a great place to slack off at will. Make no mistake: we’re very serious about going above and beyond for our clients and delivering an incredible product, every single time. To work and deliver at that level all the time, you’ve got to be able to blow off steam – otherwise you’ll go nuts.

  5. They Have Excellent Communication Skills

    A telltale sign that someone is going to be great to work with is if they answer emails, phone calls and texts quickly, and not just during work hours. Staying on top of communication facilitates every other part of the job. If I can’t reach you or don’t know where you are with a project at any given time, it creates major issues. Even if you don’t have a definitive answer to a question, letting me know that you received my email and you’re working on a solution keeps the flow of communication open and lets me get back to the client immediately. Natural communicators make great hires. This skill can be learned, however if it’s an instinct right out of the gate, you’ve definitely got a leg up on the competition.

Our intern program has grown and evolved over the years to become the main source of new talent and permanent hires for the company. The interns who are really willing to put themselves out there, make themselves available and roll with the punches are frequently in the right place at the right time when we need to make a new hire. Just ask our younger staff members, as that’s how most of them ended up here!

Did I miss a trait that you think is a key indicator of future success? Do you have an experience about a video production internship, good or bad, that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below.

As always, thanks for reading!

  1. January 19, 2017

    Niki

    Great list…and having served as an intern at ECG, I think I should point out that this list works both ways. This type of leadership allows interns to see their own potential and to figure out who they are and where their passions lie. ECG was an excellent place to intern, and the leadership fosters growth, passion, and creativity. If all intern mentors followed the steps listed here, they would not only find the person they want to hire, but also encourage interns to find their own strengths, weaknesses, passions and abilities.

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