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Things get a little personal in this post.  You aren’t going to learn about the latest marketing tips.  Instead, you’ll learn about the process we used to find our first team member – a digital marketing intern who succeeded every step of the way.  We have some interesting insights here, whether you’re a hopeful intern, an entrepreneur involved in hiring, or otherwise interested in an effective hiring process.

In late August, I began my search for a digital marketing intern to help me on various projects here at Primal.

I’ve worked with interns a few times in the past, so I knew that there was a give and take to it.  Not only do interns tend to be less experienced and more reliant on direction, they are temporary.

That means you need to pack in a lot of information into a short time.  You can’t even think about working with an intern unless you plan to make a serious investment.

Nonetheless, I put my job posting and an application out there.  After a few days, I had a handful of responses.


A few things to note about this job:

  • It is unpaid.  Students will receive college credit – but I don’t believe credits and a liberally tossed around notion of experience is enough “compensation”.  Because of that, I wanted to make sure I had someone eager to learn and that I could teach.
  • It is remote.  That makes management tough, but it makes taking direction tough as well.  I needed someone tech savvy and able to take initiative on their own.  I also wanted someone who could meet in-person – we just wouldn’t every week.
  • It is a start-up, not a corporation.   I try to make this clear to eager candidates.  If your plan in the future is to climb the corporate ladder or have a traditional, “stable” job, or both, this might not be right for you.


Based on my hiring method, it was easy to weed out a few candidates.  Here’s how:

  • You didn’t visit the web page to complete the application.  Only applying through your school job board means you didn’t read the application requirements – so you were immediately removed as a candidate.
  • You didn’t have answers.  Not having a favorite book, podcast, experience, blog, or other learning method means you’re gone.
  • You were intimated.  I admit, the “sell me a pen” question isn’t easy.  But I need someone okay with challenges.
  • You had no hobbies.  I ask for AT LEAST one… If you were limited to television and hanging out with friends, you’re just not the kind of person I’m looking for, so you’re gone as well.

I know that sounds harsh.  I use “you’re gone” purposely.  It’s kind of like Donald Trump’s harsh, “YOU’RE FIRED“.  The point of that phrase is, you’re not what we need to get the job done.  No pleasantries, no thanks for trying, just an honest opinion.

Where possible, I do try to extend a hand and help candidates that do complete the application, but we fail to find a mutual fit.  Whether it’s referring another opportunity or giving a quick tip, I try to help.


The Winning Candidate

I had one candidate stand out.  Actually, he was the first to complete the application, but he stood out for other reasons.

Here’s a summary of what made my top candidate, the top candidate:

  • Entrepreneurial.  He started an online business with a friend, showing the technical, creative, and visionary abilities that are important for entrepreneurs.
  • Spoke from the heart.  He was honest about what it was like to start and run this business.
  • Concise. While most people answered “Sell me a pen” with multiple sentences in this chunky paragraph, he answered in a concise, effective 11 words.
  • Eager to Learn. He will start his own company one day (I’m confident of that), but wants experience.  He didn’t just say that though, which would be a red flag.  He wants experience in start-up growth – how do we use marketing and sales when starting out.  Something I also knew I could help him learn.
  • Connection. He’s a boxing fan and has trained for years.  That’s just a huge personal bonus, given my background.

That was enough to convince me I should talk with him.  When I contrasted his answers with the other respondents, I knew I had an opportunity that if we worked together, he could help me and I could help him.


You can already tell the interview/meeting went well, so let’s talk about the training.

We met weekly for about an hour and a half.  This was our simple, effective agenda:

  • What did we accomplish in the last week?
  • What challenges are we facing?
  • What do we have coming up?
  • A training module on Primal and entrepreneurship

Believe me, it was tough.  I really wanted to make sure I delivered on my promise to train him as best as I could, in a way that made the experience rich and enjoyable.

It wasn’t just chatting about Primal.  It was about taking all I’ve studied and learned over the years and packing it into effective, bite-sized segments.

And sure, things didn’t go perfectly.  There were some weeks where I got incredibly busy between clients, growing the business, and personal life, so some lessons were delayed.  All in all, I’d say we covered a lot during his internship here at Primal.  I do believe we gave him a great opportunity to learn how to operate a start-up, so he’s better prepared when he has his own.


I guess you want to know who he is by now, right?

Malane ThouHis name is Malane Thou.  He’s a student at my alma mater, Rhode Island College, triple majoring in Computer Science, Advertising, and Sociology.

As I said, he’s big into boxing, but also fishing, videography, and learning.

Nowadays, I call him our “Developer, Videographer, and Creative Genius”.

Because, I decided to hire Malane.  He’s done amazing work, and if he was interested, I wanted to keep working with him.

Fortunately, he was interested, so he’s now a member of our team here at Primal.  It’s an exciting time for us as we continue to build relationships, work with partners, take on new interns, and find new opportunities.


I wanted to share this for three reasons.

  1. I think it may be helpful for students who want internships, but don’t approach them the right way
  2. I think it may be helpful for employers that are stuck in the traditional “send me a resume” model of “screening”
  3. I wanted to share how awesome it was to have Malane helping us out here at Primal, and my gratitude that we were able to figure out a way to continue our work together


By the way, if you want to know some things Malane has worked on here at Primal:

  • Developing an introductory video to our agency (filming shortly)
  • Redesigning and optimization of our graphics
  • Development of multiple client websites
  • Researched and developed a social media calendar that uses an algorithm to suggest days/times to posts by social network
  • Created the foundation of two seminars: Lead Generation in Social Media and Retargeting / Remarketing
  • Wrote this article on YouTube Marketing, which was our highest viewed yet!

I have to say, I was impressed and continue to be impressed by Malane.  Not many people are coachable, or driven, or eager to grow.  Since he is, he’s a great fit here at Primal – so he’ll be with us for a while!


David J. Bradley is the Best Selling author of Getting Digital Marketing Right and Managing Director of Primal Digital Marketing. He is an entrepreneur dedicated to the growth of his clients, his team, and himself. To learn more about David, click here.