How to Get Stellar Applicants for Unpaid Internships

By Garth Brunner on April 16, 2024

So, your company is offering an unpaid internship. We know that you want the best applicants, but it can be difficult! Many people seeking internships would much prefer to find something that pays, especially in this economy. However, they forget just how much an unpaid internship can offer. How do you go about getting great applicants who genuinely want to work for you? That’s how we can help!

via Pexels


Write a Great Description

When you are posting or advertising your internship position, there are many things you need to include to ensure that these stellar applicants read your entire post and then go on to apply. You may even need multiple to attract different types of candidates. First, you need to be upfront about what you offer to the applicant if they are selected. Since you do not offer any payment, you need to offer something of equal or greater value. Usually, this is going to be the experience that the position will give them. They will be more than just a coffee runner or a silent scribe during meetings but insist on how much you will teach them about the industry you are in. Is there a chance of employment after the internship? If so, say that too!

Second, describe what they will actually be doing as an intern. You want to stand out from the posts that just detail information about the company and what they will learn. Detail how they will learn it by the hands-on tasks they will take.

Lastly, be honest about this internship being unpaid. Include it at the end of your description once you hook them in with everything else you offer them. However, if you leave that very important information out, candidates can feel slighted when they find out later that it is unpaid and may turn to find something else after the interview. If you are upfront about it, candidates who apply know that it is unpaid and they still apply.

Give a Good Title

Now that your description is written, you have one last thing before posting it. What is your intern’s position called? When people are looking for work, that is the title that catches their eye. Do not be bland and call the position “Unpaid Writing Intern” or even “Writing Intern.” Think about it—You are helping to build your candidate’s resume. They know that having “intern” on their most recent experience is not going to help them get the next job. This will always vary depending on the role, but go with something that is more the name of an entry-level position. Choose something like “Junior Writer” or “Writer’s Assistant” to pull the candidate in even more. That position title pulls in great applicants and you’ll find many more stellar resumes in your inbox.

Simplify the Application Process

Great! Your candidate is so intrigued by your post that they click on the apply button. What happens now? For internships, the best application process is to either submit or email their resume and, if you so choose, a cover letter or simple work samples. The longer or more tedious you make this step will make candidates leave and neglect their application. Remove any redundancy, unnecessary steps, and assignments. Assignments are a completely valid part of the recruitment process, but that should not happen yet. That should be after the first interview.

While you may want to make the process a little longer, you need to get into the candidate’s head. They want to apply, but then they are brought to a tedious site where even after uploading their resume, they have to input all of their work details. The candidate thinks to themself, “All this for an unpaid internship that I might not even get?” and then they leave. That could have been the perfect fit for your company, but the process was not streamlined enough! It’s not lazy on their part, but they know their worth and want to find someone who values their time.

Instead, they take a few minutes to apply and hope for the best. Not only did you gain more applicants, but you also stand out from the rest. This is a great way to make a good first impression.

Offer a Flexible Schedule

Yes, there are going to be times and meetings that your intern is required to attend. No problem! But do just watch for how much time you are making them work or how long. Keep in mind that, since this is unpaid, they may have another job or school to go to. Be understanding, and set up a system that works. Do you want them to work on certain days only? Work as long as they meet an hour count per week? These requirements can change whether you are offering an in-person or remote internship, but you should still be flexible.

Go Through Your Applications

If you follow these steps, you will have great candidates applying left and right despite your position being unpaid. It might even be difficult to narrow down! Don’t worry, we got you covered. Check out other tips on viewing resumes and offering the best candidate for the position.

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