How to Get Incredible Summer Interns for your Startup

Interns can be a game-changer for startups. You’re cash-strapped and resource-constrained, and yet you have more things to do than you can imagine. There are hundreds of thousands of hungry, smart, young college students who are just looking for work experience and something to put on your resume.

It’s a win-win. They get real work experience and spend their summer doing something better than mowing lawns. You spend little-to-no capital and get extra hands to help you with product development, marketing, PR, etc. Also, interns are quite forgiving – our first time, we were working out of our house, and could only offer school credit as compensation. It’ll hurt your quality a bit, but you’ll still get some great help for the summer.

At Udemy, I’ve hired over 20 interns in our history and have learned a lot about the process. In this post, I’ll talk about how to find great applicants. The next post will be about how to vet them:

Sourcing. Cast a wide net. We prefer using a number of sources to find interns. This year, we had over 100 applicants in just one week.

  • University Job Boards. This is the best resource by far. We posted our job at the top 15 universities of our choice (mainly local ones – Stanford, UC Berkeley, USF, SCU – and top national campuses – UChicago, Northwestern, UPenn). In the past, we manually posted these at each university job board (it’s free). Nowadays, we pay $235 to post the listing via Nacelink, which saves you the time and hassle of posting to multiple job boards separately. We found 3 interns this way.
  • InternMatch. This is a 500 Startups company (and they are now friends of mine) which basically costs $100 to find a summer intern. You only pay if they find you one, so its well worth the money. We found 2 interns this way.
  • StartupRoots. I co-founded this organization last year with some friends. StartupRoots use InternMatch to find hundreds of students interested in startups and then aggregate their information. You can then e-mail any intern prospect in the pool and then interview them. We found 1 intern this way.
  • Craigslist. On Craigslist, be sure to time your post correctly (the day we posted, there were 30+ postings for marketing internships that day. That said, it can be very useful if you’re just looking for hard-working, passionate students. We found 0 interns this way, but last year this was the only method we used and it worked OK.
  • Your Website!. We received some extremely strong candidates through this link. Surprisingly, many of our best candidates were over-qualified for the position and so we didn’t hire any interns off of this. We did however add a full-time team member who knew how to apply because of our hiring section!

With those 5 options, you can easily get enough candidates to have a full supply. If you aren’t finding 20+ viable candidates to interview from there, then you’re doing it wrong.

Job Description / Pre-Selling. The job description should sound vibrant and exciting. Since you’re a startup, you’ll need to sell hard because most college students won’t have heard of you before. Spend some time on this as it drastically changes how many applications you get. Also, I will cut and paste our post at the bottom of this one. Feel free to copy it directly. Here are some tips for the description:

  • Headline. The headline is the most important, just like with cold e-mails. Be sure to include the word “startup” as its a buzz word these days (thank you, Aaron Sorkin).
  • Wow them. Remember that college students don’t know the startup ecosystem. They’ve never heard of TechCrunch or KillerStartups, and therefore don’t know the difference. If you get press on any organization, if the name is cool, then use it!
  • Talk about your culutre. You’d be surprised how many interns tell us they were attracted to the casual, laid-back style we convey in our posting. Whatever your style, make sure it shines through.
  • You’re a small, not a big company. You may forget this – but asking an intern to e-mail 100 business development opportunities in a day is actually far more responsibility than big corporations provide. Pump up your willingness to give them a ton of ownership and real work.

In the next post, I’ll discuss how we use a completely automated interview system to weed out the losers. We spend less than 10 min on each applicant in the first 2 rounds of the interview, so we’re only spending our time on interviewing the best. To get an e-mail alert when this next post goes up, write your e-mail here:
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P.S. Here is the internship job posting Udemy used to get our amazing interns:

Headline: “Marketing Summer Internship at Rock Star San Francisco Startup (SOMA / south beach)”

ABOUT UDEMY
Udemy’s goal is to completely disrupt and democratize the world of education by enabling anyone to teach and learn online.

Just as blogging democratized the publishing industry (enabling anyone to instantly become a journalist), Udemy seeks to dramatically change education by empowering millions of experts around the world to teach & share what they know online.

We’ve built an incredible platform that makes it easy for anyone to build an online course. Instructors can use video, PowerPoint, PDFs, audio, zip files and live classes to quickly build a course and teach anyone what they know.

Thousands of people teach and learn on Udemy everyday, and they’re not the only ones who are excited about our platform – our investors previously foresaw the Internet giants YouTube, LinkedIn, Zynga, Twitter and Yelp.

POSITION DESCRIPTION
We have a big vision and we’re looking for incredibly resourceful, intelligent, and hard-working individuals to help us achieve it. The role is for someone who is hungry to learn what it takes to build a big business on the Internet and is excited by the possibilities of building Udemy into an online education powerhouse.

You’ll be focused on marketing & business development opportunities involving our two sets of users: 1) instructors, and 2) students.

This will involve a range of activities, including: sourcing high-quality instructors, email marketing, facilitating course production, executing demand generation campaigns, creating and managing content, copy writing, conversion tracking & site optimization, running social media campaigns, and much more.

EXPECTATIONS
The ideal candidate exhibits the following qualities:

* Hard Worker – you’re not afraid of a 12-hour day and still manage to get twice as much done in it
* Resourceful – you can get more value with less and often know how to come up with creative solutions to increase efficiency and output without decreasing quality
* A Great Writer – you can write an article for our blog or copy for the website in your sleep; it takes you 1 hour to write what others spend days on
* Excellent Communicator – your job will entail connecting with Internet celebrities and helping them as they use Udemy; we must be able to trust that you will be a great representative for the company
* Web-savvy – you don’t use encyclopedias, you use Wikipedia; you don’t go to the library, you use Google; you ask your friends on Facebook, not via e-mail
* The number of years of professional experience you have isn’t important to us
* You should be ready to make this startup the primary focus of your life

WORK STRUCTURE & COMPENSATION
Work will be based largely out of our SOMA office in San Francisco. This is a full-time position with a minimum 10 week commitment and an immediate start date.

The role is unpaid, but you will be provided with the following:
– An opportunity to have a big impact at an exciting, fast-moving startup that is changing the shape of education as we know it.
– A chance to dramatically develop your marketing skill set as you launch your career as a future entrepreneur, social media guru, marketing exec, or startup team member.
– A speaker series about startups and technology with famous entrepreneurs and investors who have been involved with companies like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Yelp (see last year’s speakers: http://startuproots.org/speakers.html)
– An overall fun experience getting to know our fantastic team.
– A strong background from which to apply to paid roles at Udemy.
– A letter of recommendation upon successful completion of high-quality work (as requested).
– Assistance in an application for school credit (as requested).

HOW TO APPLY
If you’re interested, e-mail us with your resume and an explanation of why you’d be a good fit at the “reply to” address listed above.

UDEMY IN THE NEWS
Fast Company – Udemy: A Free Online University for All
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/151/fast-talk-gagan-biyani.html

New York Times -Online Teaching Platform Udemy Raises $1M, Still Too Cool for School http://www.nytimes.com/external/venturebeat/2010/08/31/31venturebeat-online-teaching-platform-udemy-raises-1m-sti-76566.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Mashable -Get a Real-Life Learning Experience in Udemy’s Virtual Classrooms
http://mashable.com/2010/05/13/udemy/

Techcrunch -Udemy Scores $1M In Seed Funding, Aims To Democratize Online Learning http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/31/udemy-funding/

Mixergy -How Udemy’s First-Time Founder Raised $1 Million For His Startup – with Gagan Biyani
http://mixergy.com/udemy-gagan-biyani-interview/

Hiring Organization: Udemy