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Top Skills to Look for When Hiring Remote Interns

Written by Andrew Yohanan on January 12, 2021
3 min read

As more companies transition teams to remote arrangements, interns and managers have learned that working from home requires particular skills. Currently, talent leaders are looking for interns who can work efficiently on their own and are adept with digital tools, or quick to learn them. The remote interviewing process is a key indicator to hiring managers as to how a candidate will function in a remote work setting. As such, here are the top four skills to look for when hiring remote interns.

1. Independence and Self-motivation

Interns new to the remote work environment can find it difficult to maintain enthusiasm about the work they’re doing remotely. Without face-to-face contact and a traditional office environment, interns may find a multitude of distractions unique to working from home. Employers that hire interns typically expect them to understand their role and responsibilities, and meet expectations without significant hand-holding. While virtual workspaces allow for communication with others, responses from coworkers and managers are often slower than simply asking the intern in the next cubicle or walking to the boss’ office to discuss the situation. As a result, remote interns must be able to work independently, use problem-solving skills, and be resourceful when challenges arise. When evaluating candidates for an internship, it is important to consider their ability to work without heavy guidance.

2. Comfort in Learning and Using Digital Tools

While the Gen Zers who make up the vast majority of interns are very tech-savvy, adapting to new technologies takes time. Traditionally a barrier in an in-office setting, being technologically deficient can be detrimental to productivity in a remote setting. Every company has its own tools and methods for completing work and keeping employees engaged, so look for interns who feel at ease learning new digital platforms. When evaluating candidates, it is not necessarily important to find an ideal match for the specific software your company uses, but it is important to identify candidates who have a growth mindset when learning new technology. Find interns who are comfortable with project management programs, video conferencing, and company-specific digital platforms; yet have the flexibility to learn new programs as needed.

3. Communication and Collaboration

It is almost cliché to suggest that your interns need excellent communication skills as the requirement is nearly ubiquitous on intern applications. Yet stellar written communication skills are even more important in a remote setting. Miscommunication and a lack of message clarity can create frustration among all employees and waste time. Look for interns who are prompt and reply to any contact from you. Ensure your interns keep their messages clear, concise, and correct. For an overview on how to establish clear communication expectations, check out Symba’s Remote Internship Handbook. Ensuring your interns have exceptional communication skills will improve your organization's efficiency. 

4. Organization and time-consciousness

When you host remote interns, it is important for communication to be organized efficiently. An additional factor is that you and your interns may be working in different time zones; as a manager, you must be sensitive that interns are not available 24/7. Search for interns who can stay organized in a virtual setting. An interesting way to go about uncovering a potential intern's organization skills is to ask them to walk you through how they organize their computer file folders. Additionally, prioritize intern candidates who display a strong appetite for learning and do so in an efficient manner. Those interns who reach out with a thoughtful list of questions are likely more organized and conscious of your time than interns who parse out every question throughout the day.

Remote interns can be extremely beneficial to your organization and hiring the right fit remains important. While it can be tedious for HR leaders and managers to agree on what competencies they need their interns to have, the aforementioned skills are a great overview of traits correlated with successful remote interns. These skills are only a starting point. It is important that before you interview candidates, you have a clear understanding of what other competencies are important to the position beyond the initial job posting. If you are looking for specific interview questions to ask when hiring remote interns, check out Symba’s 10 Questions to Ask Potential Interns.

For more information on best practices for remote internships and Symba’s remote internship management software, sign up for a demo.

By Andrew Yohanan

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Andrew Yohanan

Andrew is the Marketing Intern at Symba and a MS candidate in Northwestern University’s Integrated Marketing Communications program. Prior to Symba, Andrew worked in the consumer-packaged goods industry and helped bring a number of products to market. He also graduated from Bradley University with degrees focused in Marketing, Management, and Business Law.

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