Ask That Job Candidate if He or She Ran a Lemonade Stand

Around this time each year, career-minded college students are busy sewing-up internships for the summer months. A new study by Millennial Branding illustrates that entrepreneurial experience is in demand by nearly 1 out of three employers.

The study, conducted with Experience Inc., compiled information from 225 companies about their hiring practices.

You might assume that experience would rank at the top of employer wish lists.  But for entry-level positions that students and recent grads apply for, employers say they place a high degree of importance on so-called ‘soft skills.’  Effective communication, a positive attitude and teamwork skills ranked as important or very important to employers.

Even more interesting: 29% said entrepreneurship experience is either important or very important in the hiring process.

Dan Schawbel, Managing Director of Millennial Branding LLC, says he’s not surprised at all that employers are looking at entrepreneurship experience when hiring for entry-level positions:

“Companies need innovators in order to stay relevant. Employers, especially the ones I’ve spoken to, value entrepreneurship experience over internship experience because you learn a lot more about business. A lot of internships are unpaid and you do clerical work … whereas entrepreneurs get their hands in sales, marketing, product development, etc. Student entrepreneurs are seen as leaders, innovators and have a good sense of personal accountability.”

Consider what it means to be a young entrepreneur.  Whether it’s a lemonade stand, paper route, lawn care services, house painting, bake sales — all teach hard business skills like marketing, sales, pricing, managing a P&L, accounting, production and customer service.

hiring skills in demand

But perhaps the most important things entrepreneurs learn are the skills that employers value so highly according to the study (see excerpt of accompanying infographic above):

  • Communication skills –  Communication is a must if you want to sell your products or services.  Successful entrepreneurs quickly figure out what words and body language help close sales, and what doesn’t work.
  • Positive attitude – You have to have a positive, can-do attitude in order to get a new venture off the ground.  People who constantly look at all the downsides and can never see the upside, will talk themselves out of starting a business.
  • Adaptable to change – Running a business requires frequent adjustment.  You start your lemonade stand and it rains all week.  So you grab your pitcher and go door to door, because you know people won’t be walking along the sidewalk. Entrepreneurs simply adjust.
  • Teamwork – Being an entrepreneur requires working with others to get things done.
  • Goals oriented – Entrepreneurship is all about setting goals. “I’m going to get my lemonade stand started this week. I’m going to make X in sales this month.” Entrepreneurs intuitively work toward a series of goals.

So what’s the conclusion?  If you’re in hiring mode, you might just ask the next job candidate whether he or she “ran a lemonade stand.”  It could signify that the candidate has the kind of skills you value in the workplace.


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

4 Reactions
  1. I would add that if you’re going to hire someone who did run a lemonade stand you’ll also need to give them a level of trust/freedom that allows them to control their destiny. Don’t spend all the effort finding an entrepreneurial person and then suffocate them.

  2. Anita, this is another superb post. Thanks for sharing this.