The 5 Top Qualities Employers Look For When Selecting Interns


I recently had the privilege of interviewing an IT Manager from one of our host companies. When asked to rate the top qualities employers look for when hiring an intern, it was surprising to see how technical skills did not even make it to the top 3!

Though it is really important to showcase technical skills in an interview, I was made to understand by the interviewee that demonstrating excellent transferable skills are far more valuable.

“So what are the top 5 qualities that every employer looks for when selecting an intern”, I asked. Here was his response:

1. Positive Attitude

“Starting off as an intern, your tasks will not be the most glamorous or even fulfilling at times, hence having that positive attitude and eagerness to learn is key at that level. Showing your host company your excitement in your part time job and being upbeat about your university projects show an optimistic attitude. They will likely carry that attitude into the business which makes the work place a positive one and creates learning and development much easier.”

2. Communication

“Communication has a variety of perception, however what interests employers is the intern’s ability to speak about what they have on their resume professionally. Interns have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of what they have studied in university through good communication. Thoughtful answers to common interview questions and relating it to previous experiences gained from part time jobs or university studies would be a bonus. It shows the capability of the intern to effectively think, communicate and convey ideas which are required when on board weather it’s with a coworker, supervisor or clients.”

3. Initiative / Proactive

“Graduates often mistake internships as a platform to gain knowledge of an industry without putting in any initiative. It is really important that they demonstrate pro-activeness and willingness to go the extra mile. Any employer would be delighted to have an employee that doesn’t wait for instructions and instead takes that initiative to learn and demonstrate an ability to work without needing directions for every tasks.”

4. Technical Skills

“If graduates consider an internship a place where they learn technical skills, they are already starting it wrong. Interns are not expected to be technical experts in whatever industry they are in, but they must be able to demonstrate what they have learnt in University. An internship is the best possible way to put your knowledge into practice, but you will have to refresh your skills and come prepared.”

5. Adaptability / Team Work

“Most fast paced organisations, be it large or start-up, require employees to constantly think on their feet and embrace changes. Being an intern, you may find yourself doing different tasks apart from your original duties. It forces you to learn and adapt to the different parts of an organisation and it will surely benefit you as it exposes you within the company. It also shows the employer that you are willing to adapt to changes and work as part of the team when in a time of need - which is an asset.”

With all the above in mind, I believe interns should not underestimate a host company's expectations. Remember to be human and portrey your characteristics that will help you integrate into the workplace.

“Success Occurs When Opportunity Meets Preparation” – Zig Ziglar

Are you looking for a graduate with these top qualities to join your business? Every day at Readygrad we meet eager young professionals at the beginning of their career journey, looking for their first 'big break'. With over 4,250 companies across Australia hosting these interns. Find out how hosting an intern could be as equally rewarding for your company!

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