Here’s What We Do With Interns

We had an interesting interview session a few weeks ago for some potential interns from Universiti Malaysia Perlis.

Here's how we interview interns - we get them to play board games.

In the last 6 years that we’ve accepted interns, we’ve always done our per-selection in typical ways. We look at their resumes, Skype or talk to them on the phone and finally called them in for a face to face interview.

In the past we played too safe and did the usual interviewing. That was our mistake so sometimes we got saddled with students who were not good for us. We had to endure them for at least 3 months.

This year, Nic and I got sick and tired of the usual spiel. Like really, really sick.

For one, most applicants copied off each others cover letters and resumes anyway. And in our years of interviewing potential hires and interns, we know that grades really don’t tell much.

You could see the excitement on their faces

A bunch of A’s don’t mean a thing these days especially in Malaysia when top scorers are a dime a dozen.

You can’t smell enthusiasm or see the sparkle in a person’s eyes until you meet him or her. I hate the word passion because it’s so bloody overused in today’s world but yes, I call it fire in the belly thing.

And is that fire a roaring one or it is almost dying out in embers? To see that we have to meet these young people.

But you know, we can’t meet everyone so we decided to let them “disqualify” themselves.

The first task – we challenged them to film a video of themselves and telling us why they should intern in Redbox Studio.

This was a daunting task but you get a lot of interesting videos too. They either shone in the video or they floundered and flopped.

Then came the second challenge. We told them we paid the barest minimum. Again, the candidates disqualified themselves. If you want an experience at Redbox Studio, your allowance isn’t going to matter much. This was a true test.

Finally if you can accept the nominal allowance, we invite you for a face to face interview. (But there is a twist to the nominal allowance. In fact the interns we select will have a chance to make some real money using their entrepreneurial skills.)

Finally we shortlisted 5 students who managed to meet these “challenges”.

So we called for a face-to-face meeting. They thought they were arriving for an interview.

Quarto was one of the games the students played

But we brought out Quarto and Gobblet, two very clever yet simple board games made by French board game developer, Gigamic.

Games are a fantastic way to gauge a person’s true colours and none more than when you’re engaged in a competitive battle to win.

Two groups of students pitting their skills in a board game

For these students, it was their first time ever playing board games. Sure they’ve played Candy Crush Saga and FarmVille and countless other online games but a new and intriguing strategy board game was alien to them.

We split them up into two teams and made them challenge each other. Who won was secondary to their game ‘personality’. You could see who took risks, who took the lead and who made better decisions.

Using this method, we had a much better idea of who would be a good fit for us in Redbox Studio.

See the glee on their faces!

Plus if you asked any of our previous interns, working with us is always a fun and challenging experience. We don’t treat interns as minions, helping us xerox documents or do filing work.

What you do get is an eye-opening and mind-expanding experience you will never forget. Of course we have also fired interns who didn’t quite fit but generally we are easygoing, happy folks.

What we want is to provide interns an environment where they learn the real stuff. It has to be a symbiotic relationship, not host-parasite. Both sides must benefit mutually.

If you’re a business owner, take our method and modify as you see fit to vet, sift and sort new hires or potential interns. Running a business is hard enough without having a massive headache with interns who are always green and unsure of themselves.

Do you have a method or system to vet new hires or interns? What methods do you use? Please share! Or if you use this method of ours, let us know how it works for you.

4 thoughts on “Here’s What We Do With Interns”

  1. Hi,

    Maybe you can include a puzzle that they need to solve. Like those metal puzzle things/ wooden puzzle things. This can really test they patience and the ability to overcome this challenge in solving the puzzle will gauge their ability to handle difficult situations and their determination on solving a problem.

    Just a suggestion .


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