“Hiring Talks” Podcast by Axterior is preparing written extracts of the podcasts to make your experience even more convenient. Here you can find insightful thoughts about managing interns from the podcast with Alyona Dovgosheya - Finance Team Lead of Waveup.
Hiring and managing interns. Waveup perspective
Tell us everything we need to know about Waveup and your position in the company.
Waveup is a global consulting company focusing on the venture capital market. We provide a wide range of services, from fundraising support (in simple words, preparing materials for investors such as financial models, pitch decks, and investment memorandums) to business strategy development (market entry and growth strategies, M&A opportunity scouting, etc.). On top of that, we have an in-house design team that is always ready to provide top-notch designs for our materials or the materials provided by our clients.
As of today, our portfolio includes:
- 600+ projects with renowned clients around the world (Google, Bolt, Ecco, Skechers, Oura Ring, Ofo, AirNewZealand, and many more); we work both with young startups and more mature companies
- Tier-1 funds in Silicon Valley, startups from TechCrunch and Y Combinator;
- $350M+ of investments raised by our clients in the last year across 60+ industries (from blockchain gaming to e-learning and music labels)
As for my experience in the company, I joined Waveup as a Financial Analyst Intern around 3.5 years ago - it has been an exciting journey. That was a funny story because I was initially searching for a marketing job. After several attempts, I accidentally came across a vacancy on Facebook - by the way, I was just scrolling my feed at 2 am. I decided to apply immediately because the description was quite interesting, and it was mentioned that it’s possible to apply without relevant experience (if you are ready to learn quickly). After sending 2 test assignments, I successfully managed to miss the first email with a job interview invitation in my inbox. Finally, I had that job interview - which was far from being perfect. When it was over, I came home and thought, “I hope I won’t meet these cool guys again after this embarrassment” :) But, eventually, I got an offer to have 2 test weeks and joined Waveup as an Intern.
Four months later, I became a Junior Analyst and, a few months after, a Senior Analyst. Then, for more than a year, I held the position of Associate. And now, from the beginning of this year, I’m a Finance Team Lead - balancing the project work and helping the team to optimize the pipeline, learn and develop, and raise new talents.
I started teaching our new interns in 2020 when the team began to grow. Initially, there were only 5 or 6 people on the team, and now we are a team of 26 people. We’ve had several internships over the last 3 years and tried to improve the overall process every time. I would be happy to share the insights we got from our experience, successful stories, and mistakes.
Can you tell us about your company's general approach to hiring and managing interns? Why did the company decide to start the internship program?
In our case, most often, it’s the need to grow a new team member - at some point of time, we understood that it’s a really good option for us. Why? As you just mentioned, the reason for hiring interns really depends on the company’s current goals. But we should also consider other factors - for example, the niche we work in, the services we provide, the geography for hiring, etc. The niche of venture capital is quite specific. To work in Waveup, you must be able to explain how to work with different types of investors, verticals, and regions. When looking for candidates, we see a lot of talented and skilled financial analysts or business consultants, but not all of them have the experience we need. The venture capital ecosystem is still developing, and few professionals have had the exposure to venture capital and startups we need. On top of that, some services that we provide require particular expertise. That’s why we understand that sometimes it’s easier and more efficient.
We tried different options - hiring an intern to help with some routine tasks, creating an educational program for talented graduates (a charity project launched a year ago) but eventually understood that to turn interns into team members, you need not only provide an educational part and perfect intern management but also let the interns be a part of the workflow. You need to make them a part of the whole process so that they can learn on real projects, have responsibilities, and feel like a part of the team. Otherwise, they will treat internships like the next educational course.
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When do you understand that you need interns? And what goals do you pursue?
Two key indicators are our pipeline and growth strategy. In 2019, there were 6 of us, but at some point of time the number of projects started to grow very quickly, and we realized that we didn't have enough hands for all the client requests. We understood that we needed and wanted to expand our team as quickly as possible and do this efficiently. Over the past two years, we filled several senior positions and conducted several internships, which have helped us find and grow some young talents.
However, you need to remember that hiring an intern doesn't mean getting a team member ready to work at full capacity and delivering the quality and quantity of work you need immediately. There should be some time for ramping up, fixing mistakes, and discussing the progress. It’s a long-term story. It doesn't work when you urgently need a senior member or someone with specific skills or expertise. But if you have the time and capacity to teach a person from scratch, you can get a team member with the needed skills. Of course, there are some risks involved because you can lead a person and he or she can go to another place in a few months. It’s a popular story among university graduates because these people are starting their career paths and trying to understand what they really want to do. But this is another story, the story about motivation and incentives the company offers.
Can you share some tips on creating an ideal vacancy description that will attract applicants? Do you collaborate with the marketing team when creating the vacancy description?
Our Marketing Manager and finance team tried different options to understand what description works. It seems like it's quite an easy task - just to describe the key requirements, skills, and experience needed for a particular position. However, it's not as easy as it looks sometimes. Because you need not only to explain what the person will do and motivate them to apply and get interested in your company. At the same time, the vacancy description shouldn't be boring and long because nobody will read it. Thus, you need to consider all these factors together.
Usually, we start our vacancy description with several sentences about the company and some milestones we are proud of. For example, it can be the number of clients we had or the names of famous companies we have worked with, the amount of investment we helped or the clients to raise, or mentioning that we are cooperating with some tier 1 funds. The information can be different and vary depending on the company and what it does, but the key point is that you need to motivate the person to read this vacancy description till the end and make a decision to apply for this job.
Another important part is a clear explanation of the key requirements and things the person will do in this position. It may sound obvious, but you should be as clear as possible because when you're searching for candidates for the internship, most likely be either university graduates or people that want to switch the niche they work in. Thus it needs to be understandable. You also need to be honest here. Obviously, If you expect some help with routine tasks, you need to mention it from the very beginning, don’t promise super creative work.
After this, we usually mention the key requirements and expectations. Of course, in the case of university graduates, you can’t expect much because some of these people probably haven’t worked yet. Thus, it’s important to outline the top priority skills. This bare minimum will allow a person to be an intern and also such organizational stuff as the ability to work full-time if you don't offer a part-time position.
The more exact and correct requirements you set from the beginning, the easier it will be to select the candidates. It's really important to set the right priorities and don't waste time reviewing the applications of people who don't fit this position from the very beginning - for example, if they are not ready to work full-time.
The final part of our vacancy description usually explains what we can provide as a company. It’s related not only to the salary and work mode. You can also add some things that can motivate a person, for example, mentioning that you review salaries every three or six months or that you provide an opportunity to work remotely and in the office. It should be something attractive and motivational.
And what about test assignments? Do you use them? If yes, how do you prepare test tasks?
In my opinion, it’s one of the most important tools to use when searching for internship candidates. Why? Because these people don’t have huge experience or a long list of hard skills. Most probably, the majority of CVs will include similar information: studied here, participated there, ready to learn quickly, hard-working, and stress resistant. Thus you will need a kind of filter to shortlist the best candidates.
I love our test assignments because they are closely related to our work. It can be small business cases similar to our projects, some important theoretical questions, or calculations. They allow us to see the knowledge of finance, the level of English, and most importantly, the way the person thinks. We understand that not all of the candidates had some practical experience or a super relevant education - we need to see the logic and how the answer was provided and presented. Sometimes you can find real diamonds this way, even if some people don’t have relevant experience or education.
How to communicate with people about test tasks without scaring them in the first stages of the hiring process?
The test assignment can really be a thing that scares some candidates, but at the same time, it can help filter people who are not ready to invest their time and their efforts, make an additional step, who are really motivated. Again, in the case of interns, it’s really hard to estimate their experience and skills.
We experimented with the test assignment a lot. From our experience, too long and complicated test assignments really scare or demotivate people. Sometimes it may even look like we are trying to solve our real tasks with this assignment, just for free :)
Otherwise, when you don’t have a test assignment, or it’s too easy, the quality of your selection of candidates is quite low. That’s why it’s important to find balance. Our piece of advice here is to leave the most important tasks or questions that can really help you check the skills you need. Other questions can be asked at the job interview if needed.
How do you source candidates for internship positions? Do you have some special tips & tricks for finding interns?
When searching for candidates or internship positions, first and foremost, you need to understand the target audience. In our case, we realized that it would include university graduates, students getting their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, or young people starting their career path. After defining your target audience, you need to analyze where these people can search for a job. In our case, we created a table and added here all potential resources that can be used. They included some Telegram channels for students, university social media and websites, some student clubs, etc. We also used Facebook advertising. I would say Telegram channels and student groups were the most efficient resources.
Do you use any ATS for tracking all the hiring processes? How did it help your team to organize hiring in the company?
As for software, we don't use any particular application tracking software for the hiring process. However, we created a helpful board using our project management tool. Here we can track the status of each candidate, attach a test assignment, and add some scores and comments based on the interview or test assignment.
When analyzing the test applications, we first need to define the top priority skills and qualities we want to see in our potential team members. For example, in our work, it’s essential to have a solid knowledge of the basics of finance, good written and verbal level English, accuracy and creativity, and analytical skills. When analyzing a test assignment, we prepare a scorecard where we add points or comments for each skill or quality. Then we can shortlist candidates using a threshold for the total score.
But it's a more technical part of the story because the candidate with the highest score is not always the best candidate for this position. You need to pay attention to details, the way the person delivers his or her message, the way they present their answers, and the logic they use - it can tell a lot. For example, if you see that it is challenging to Google a simple formula or the text has a lot of grammar mistakes, it’s definitely a no-go. It’s a real red flag that a person doesn’t care much about the quality of work.
Soft skills and motivation are also really important - you need to understand why the person has decided to apply for this job / what has attracted him or her and whether it’s a good team fit - but I think it’s more relevant for the job interview.
Maybe you have some key questions for job interviews with interns?
To be honest, I'm not a big fan of traditional questions we hear at job interviews, like what are your biggest accomplishments so far or are you stress-resistant. In my experience, these questions just puzzle people, and they don't show exactly whether this person is a good fit for the internship. Maybe they are more useful for more senior positions when people have some experience and something to share.
Especially in the case of internships, usually, these young people don't have any experience, and their key accomplishment so far can be graduation from the university. They don't even know whether they are ready to work under pressure or something like that.
So I usually start with discussing the test assignment because it's really important. Here we need to make sure the test assignment was really done by this person. Sometimes we have additional questions, for example, if we see a small mistake but overall the work is quite solid, or when we want to check whether speaking is as good as writing.
Apart from the test assignments, I usually want to hear what motivated the person to apply, and what he or she would like to do. It’s important to understand. For us, it’s crucial to have a team who loves what it does. Of course, every job gives you good days and bad days, but it’s amazing when you love what you do, even in hard times.
By the way, I also asked whether the candidate liked the test assignment, and what difficulties he or she had. It’s really important and insightful.
The final part of the interview is usually an organizational one. The most important thing here is to align expectations in terms of schedule because, very often, our candidates still study at their universities - we need to make sure they have enough time for work.
Do you have a specific policy regarding the intern’s requirements and responsibilities or schedule and work mode?
Yes, usually, we discuss them right away at the job interview to avoid misunderstanding in the future. If we hire people, they receive a personal page reminding all the requirements, rules, and expectations.
Based on our experience, we realized that part-time doesn’t work for intern training; but we understand that some people need to study, and it’s ok if they can manage to deliver their work on time.
How do you evaluate the success of your internship program?
The key indicator for the success of the internship is the number of new team members we got and the quality of their work at the end of the internship. We always say that we are happy to offer a full-time position if we have the capacity and if a person really brings value.
All interns receive the list of KPIs they need to show once the internship is over. We also have a performance assessment table with different criteria to assess the hard & soft skills, team, and culture fit, and behavioral competencies. On top of that, we show our interns a Career progression scheme demonstrating how they can move up the career ladder. As you see, we strive to align on everything in the beginning. It’s also vital to make sure that our long-term plans match - the company has the capacity to take on new people, and the people have time for work even if they study.
Could you share any funny stories about hiring an intern?
I believe the funniest one was when we added 15 questions to the test assignment - we even wondered why we had only 10 candidates;) and it was one of our key mistakes.
Another one - hiring interns and not preparing any program for them, we did it in the very beginning - it was tough to combine work and education then without a clear roadmap.
There are some cases when companies don’t want to invest in internship programs. Maybe you can give us some Dos and Don'ts of finding and hiring an intern?
When hiring interns, you need to make sure
- You have the capacity for new team members / you really need them/you are ready to invest the time.
- You have time for teaching and ramping up - nobody will provide you with perfect quality right away.
- You have people ready to teach interns/materials for education / a program - you need to give something to people.
- You know how to manage interns, motivate them / you are ready to provide some incentives.
- You have a clear system for evaluating progress.
What advice would you give to someone interested in applying for an internship with your company?
My pieces of advice will be very simple but also really helpful.
The first one is to get prepared. You can explore our website to see what we do (it’s strange to see people at job interviews who don’t know what we do), you can find past vacancies to see our expectations, you can reach out to us to ask what we need and what materials can be used for preparation. It will help you to find your weak sides to work on.
The second one is to believe in yourself and not give up. If the first attempt was not successful, prepare and try again. One of our candidates has applied 4 times, she was working hard on her mistakes, and now she is our Junior Analyst who does cool stuff and we are really proud of her and of all our juniors who work really hard and grow every day.
If you want to know more about how to hire and manage interns, listen to our full podcast here. And don’t forget to like this podcast and set the notification to be the first to listen to the next episodes!
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