Photo: Djrandco, YFS Magazine, Adobe Stock

Top 5 Qualities Of Good Interns and Entry-Level Employees

What are the top qualities of a good intern or entry-level employee? Hiring can be difficult. Here's what to look for.

From posting job openings to holding interviews, finding an intern or prospective employee can be a daunting task. Hiring the right individual with the appropriate credentials and characteristics can be difficult, especially since résumés and college degrees do not always translate to professional ability.

Here are some top qualities to look for in an intern or entry-level employee.


1. Initiative

Look for initiative, even during the application process. When scheduling the interview, consider how responsive potential candidates are and how they clarify and confirm the details. They will treat you like they treat the work they are asked to do.

Don’t be afraid to ask them to provide examples of when they have independently solved a problem and how they did it. Taking initiative in problem solving, especially in group settings, indicates leadership skills, which are important to consider when hiring employees at any level.


2. Positive attitude and eagerness to learn

Entry-level employees and interns will not be asked to do the most glamorous or fulfilling work, so having a positive attitude at that level is key. How they talk about previous work experiences and college coursework can show their attitude.

Photo: Djrandco, YFS Magazine, Adobe Stock
Photo: Djrandco, YFS Magazine

If they are positive and upbeat about previous experiences, they will likely carry that into your business as well. And a positive attitude creates an environment of learning and communication, which can help reduce stress in the workplace for everyone.


3. Adaptability

Is the prospective employee able to adapt to a variety of tasks and projects? Every business wishes its employees could be superheroes and perform every project or task with speed and ease. Unfortunately, superheroes are fictional.

You can’t ask that your prospective employees be perfect at everything, but you can screen for adaptability. Ask them for examples of being open to, and successful at, a variety of tasks.


4. Professional communication skills

Your intern or potential employee should have good written and verbal skills. It will be important for your team to communicate problems, tasks and projects effectively. Skills in this area will be crucial for connecting with other employees or clients.

Photo: Djrandco, YFS Magazine, Adobe Stock
Photo: Djrandco, YFS Magazine


5. Critical thinking

Training and onboarding a new employee or intern is part of every business, but holding a new employee’s hand every step of the way is not efficient or effective. It is important to screen for critical thinking skills to see whether the prospective employee can complete minor tasks without constant direction.

Encourage your potential intern or employee to provide you with a few solutions to a given problem. Ask behavioral or situational interview questions to assess critical thinking skills and then dig deeper into their responses.

Some follow-up interview questions may include:

  • What could you have done differently to achieve a similar result?
  • What could you have done better?
  • Why did you choose to proceed that way?

You can assess whether or not a candidate will be able to derive their own answers instead of just relying on you or someone else from your team to tell them what to do.


For more tips on hiring practices check out “Unique Hiring Practices Driving Business Culture Change.” These recommendations are brought to you by Staples. We support small business owners and entrepreneurs by providing you with the tools you need to succeed. For more tips for the small business owner or entrepreneur, visit the Staples Business Hub.


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