5 Traits that Make a Great IT Intern

by Tori Johnson on August 19, 2010

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The current economic recession and the high unemployment rate have forced thousands of college graduates to pursue paid or unpaid company intern positions as a means to obtain permanent employment. In March of this year unemployment rates for American workers aged 16-24 was nearly double that of the overall workforce. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers only 24 percent of 2010 college graduates “…who applied for a job” actually had a job after graduation.

The shortage in jobs means that companies receive twice as many applications for internships while hiring fewer interns. Internship positions provide students work experience and contacts, things that can make them more desirable to prospective employers.

The general definition of an intern is someone who is in a “pre profession learning experience that allows students to use skills and knowledge in a professional setting.” In this economy many view an internship as a necessary position to obtain in order to get a permanent job.

… Among employers responding to the survey, 83.4 percent said the primary focus of their internship program is to help them recruit entry-level college hires, 31.1 percent said they offer such a program to provide students with experience, and fewer than 20 percent said their program’s primary aim was to help them build relationships with schools.

This means that when a HR representative interviews someone for an intern position, he or she is really interviewing a prospective long term employee. So, with so many students applying, from a company perspective, what makes a good intern?

The 5 Traits that make a Great Intern

  1. An intern should be able to demonstrate at least a basic knowledge of the business technology that they will be working with.
  2. An intern should be a self-starter. This means that once given an assignment the intern is not afraid to ask the questions to get the information necessary to complete it successfully.
  3. An intern should have the ability to understand the chain of command. They should understand that they are not being hired to replace an employee. While there may be many people in the company who position themselves as mentors, an intern should have the ability to understand who they really work for.
  4. Every intern should have the ability to communicate with managers, team members and other employees. It’s not about being outgoing and gregarious. It’s the ability to communicate clearly and professionally that is important, not the style.
  5. An intern should be able to take direction and corrective suggestions from management and team leaders.


Daniel Cardenas, Career Editor with military.com sums up what makes a good intern very nicely:

… When I look for an intern I am actually looking for an associate, contractor or employee. I want someone who is happy, glad to be at work, and ready to rock and roll. A lot of it has to do with temperament. Interns need to be able to do whatever it takes to get the job done. If you are doing something you love, it’s your vocation and avocation. The love and commitment you bring to the table is something that cannot be taught or bought. That is a big advantage for you and the organization.

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