Interviewing Interns: Tips to Find Quality Individuals to Grow Program

Coyte Cooper, Ph.D.

ELSMarketing LogoFor most NCAA and high school sport programs, it is up to the coaching staff to develop a unique brand that will allow them to reach full potential in marketing.  And while coaches can (and should) play a critical role in this process, they have a limited amount of time on their hands and/or often lack marketing-related skill sets necessary to reach full potential in marketing efforts.  Coaches can certainly develop these skills sets, but even if they do, there will still be the issue of only having a set number of hours in a day to get everything done.  On top of this, compounding marketing efforts often take the synergy of a team that works in coordination to build interest in a program effectively.  This is exactly why coaches need to become highly efficient at attracting quality individuals to serve in internship roles.

The good news is that the initial steps to attract quality interns have already been outlined in a previous “Necessity of Networking” entry and in the Marketing Manual internship-graphic(chapter 3 – page 18).  If you are in the initial steps of developing an internship program/team, take a look at these and develop a plan for reaching out to recruit quality students.  Once you have done this effectively, you will arrive at the phase where you must choose the individuals who will join your program marketing team.  For these individuals, it is important that you develop a screening process that allows you find proactive people that will take your efforts to a new level.  Rather than pulling it out of thin air, there are three tips below that all coaches should consider during the interview screening phase.

Tips to Attract “Top Level” Intern Talent

1. Narrow by Niche Skill Sets: When you are starting a new internship program, it is possible that your pool may not be too deep.  If this is the case, then you simply look for the best individuals based on what you are trying to achieve (e.g., developing video series, enhancing social media presence).  However, if you have promoted your experience well, there is a chance that you will have some choices to make about who you will interview.  In this instance, start by exploring for individuals who have experience in the areas that are most important to your program.  This will provide initial data points to consider when determining who to interview in person.

2. Start with Some Simple Screening: If you have an extensive applicant pool, there may be no way getting around the fact that you will have to eliminate people before moving to this step.  However, if you have determined you would like to interview 3-5 people in person during the later stages of the process, you may want to consider the use of a simple screening process to help narrow your pool to this point.  For this, I would suggest putting together a series of questions (2-5 depending on depth) you would like them to answer via email.  These should be program specific and should be tailored to the position you are looking to fill (e.g., After looking through our program social media sites, what suggestions would you have for increasing interest in program the upcoming year?).  Give them a short deadline (24-48 hours) and encourage them to be creative as possible.

Note. In most instances, organizations will focus solely on the responses provided by candidates on the spot in an in-person interview setting. While this is useful, it is not absolutely critical that an individual can come up with a creative response on the spot.  In fact, most differentiated marketing strategies come from a planning process that takes time.  Given this, don’t be afraid to give candidates time to come up with creative responses.  This is more realistic to the position you will fill and will give you a better chance of succeeding with the candidate.

3. Be Innovative with Interview: Once you have narrowed your pool to the individuals you would like to interview in person, it is important that you are creative with your assessment. An innovative approach will allow you to assess them more effectively while also sending a message about your program’s approach.  Building on the previous step, take a unique approach that will allow you to see the candidates ability to come up with creative strategies when given some time to prepare.  In this step, rather than simply asking questions, you should take the opportunity to do much more with the candidate’s time and energy.  So, to build on the previous phase, give the candidates a set time period (5 days leading up to interview) and ask them to develop a condensed strategic plan in the area you are seeking (e.g., social media).  If you followed the earlier suggestion, you could ask them to develop a 10-15 minute briefing for the coaching staff on the steps they would suggest to enhance social media marketing efforts during the internship period.  The ability to carry this out will tell you a lot about the individuals you are interviewing.  It will also give you a real good feel about how serious they are about the experience.  If you do not have an extensive pool, you may want to stick to an informal Q&A here with the questions provided a head of time.

Follow-Up: Once you have moved through these steps, hopefully the process will allow individuals to differentiate themselves.  The fact that you have a more extensive process will leave less confusion on the backend because it will allow you to see unique skill sets more clearly.  If you get to the end and have 2-3 quality individuals, understand that this is not a bad problem to have.  In this case, do not be afraid to take on a team that can work together on initiatives.  My experience is that the right groups of individuals will make a team that will achieve some unique things if directed the right way.  Once you reach this point, congrats because you are ready to take the next step to grow your program!  This is an exciting time that you should celebrate!  You are now ready to work WITH these individuals to achieve great things!

“It is better to have one person working with you than three people working for you” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

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About ELSMarketing

ELSM is a company that specializes in the development and implementation of innovative marketing plans for sport organizations, businesses, and programs. By focusing on the client’s goals and expectations, we strive to develop strategies that will build the brand of the entity in a way that will ensure future success. The bottom line is that we are committed to working with entities who are looking to take themselves to the next level from a marketing standpoint. While there are a variety of strategies that we implement to achieve this, it starts with the values we have in place for our company. Here at ELSM, “Innovation is the Expectation!”
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