business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

We're all familiar with companies that bring on interns and then use them for busy work - filing, getting coffee, and all the other grunt work that used to be given to low-level employees the company no longer can afford.

But at Amazon-owned Zappos, a company that has specialized in breaking with conventional approaches, interns are being treated with a higher level of respect and given higher levels of responsibility.

For its new 6pm bargain-driven site, Zappos "has tasked students with designing and launching new apps that make the shopping experience more enjoyable for customers," according to a story in Fast Company.

"To pull it off," the story says, "Zappos had to find the right set of students. Five interns are hired each summer in the mobile division to work on design, branding, and coding. The interview process involves several steps, including a video cover letter that helps leadership find good cultural fits. For coding interns, a tech challenge is also given." Applicants also had two hours to create a quick app. Once the interns were selected, the team was challenged to create the actual 6pm app. Leaders provided the requirements, gave guidance on workflow and business insights, helped set up the project from a project management perspective, and assisted with any roadblocks."

The article says that "the interns brought a fresh perspective to the project and were motivated to complete it during their eight-week internship," according to Vincent Calderaro, who leads Zappos’s mobile development team. "That brought in a lot of energy," he says. "They were very diligent in the development, and wanted to get it done and have something tangible to show at end of their internship."

And all five interns who designed the site have been hired post-graduation.

It's an Eye-Opener.
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