Hiring the Summer Intern

March 23, 2012
by Melinda Parmer

I’ve done in-person interviews. I’ve done phone interviews. I even did 2 Skype interviews, although I don’t have a camera so they couldn’t see me. More than a dozen eager, enthusiastic and bright young people went through the process to be able to make slightly more than minimum wage to work with us here at DG for 8 weeks this summer.

The process is arduous– I prepare a job description and attend early meetings with Volunteer Houston and the ExxonMobil CSJP folks. I engage the Programming and PR team to promote, but mostly use online college career centers to attract candidates. I post an online application to gather what I hope will be appropriate and valuable employment info. And then I wait.

Over 40 students sent in resumes this year, most of them via their local career center; of the 40, at least 4 were ineligible because they already have an undergraduate degree. (No matter how clearly I stated that in the postings, someone always thinks I don’t mean it.) I scheduled interviews with the first several who went as far as the application process. I lost about half a dozen between resume and application, though – whether they never got around to it, or they changed their minds or just forgot, I don’t know.

My first interview was Skype. After finally getting the sound figured out (hello, mute much??), we had a nice chat. The candidate was great – lots of great answers, great resume, great! Eileen watched the screen over my shoulder. “Too preppy?” I asked. “No, just dressed appropriately for an interview,” she replied. She couldn’t hear the candidate but was impressed anyway.

Eileen and I did several of the interviews together. As one candidate walks confidently away, she and I look at each other. We shake our heads in perfect agreement. Nope. Another candidate grabs my attention, and I practically offer the job on the spot. “I love this candidate!” I said afterward, very enthusiastic. “This is the one!” “Too young,” she replied.

I took notes during the interview; I wrote notes after the candidates left; I created an online form to compare them on a scale of 1 to 5 in some key areas: showed initiative, was available, thought outside the box, had website building experience. I have 4 really terrific candidates, and they all score within 1 point of each other. My gut tells me to go with one; my gut changes its mind. I need Eileen’s response.

I’ve prepared the rejection letter. I want to say something nice to each candidate in her/his rejection – something encouraging. “Your resume is really great; I know you’ll get a terrific opportunity.” “I was very impressed with your confidence; I predict you’ll go far when you graduate.” Mostly, though, I want to make the right choice from my last 4 candidates and have that one be another Barron, another Vanessa – our first two ExxonMobil interns who were incredible, who were priceless and who were adopted quickly into the DG family and missed sorely when they left.