Recruiting fresh interns without putting them on the payroll is always a challenge. Read about how to incentivize unpaid interns.

Published on 21 November, 2017

Recruiting fresh interns without putting them on the payroll is always a challenge. Students want the experience, but without offering a monetary compensation, it’s hard to keep them invested.

A lack of connection with your company can put a dent in their performance, and the quality of the interns will also suffer.

When first seeking out a new, unsalaried intern for your workplace, be sure to incentivize their role with your company.

Bringing Incentive to Unsalaried Interns

The single most effective way to lure interns to apply for your internship program is to offer an incentive. You might struggle with this if it is an unpaid offer, but there’s more to internships than just the pay.

The key is to make your new intern realize that there’s something to gain from sticking through the internship. What can your company offer them in return for their work?

One major incentive is experience and learning in their desired career field. Many college interns will accept an unpaid internship for the sole purpose of gaining hands-on training outside of traditional classroom settings like they are used to. Make it clear that you will teach the intern a lot of valuable skills and provide great exposure to their prospective career.

Another incentive to unpaid interns to work at your company is networking opportunities. At the end of the day, every connection you make in your prospective industry could be a building block to your next job or success. Interns are able to work closely with your other salary paid professional employees.

Another incentive is giving interns the opportunity to build their resumes. If they desire a full time job post graduation, it can be tough to land the job of their dreams. Any type of internship, whether paid or unpaid, provides great experience to add to their resumes and portfolios.

Not only will this help them gain interviews, but they will also be able to tell interviewers, “Having experience with X, doing Y and Z, I believe I am the perfect person for this position”.

offer incentives to unpaid internsCompensate Unpaid Interns With Other Options

There are always other ways in compensating someone for their work besides a predetermined salary. For example, if you are in a commission-based business, set up performance or sales bonuses to hand out at levels where your net profits go above the norm as a result of your intern’s hard work.

Another way to compensate your unpaid intern is to pay for their travel and/or food expenses while they work. This may come as a very cheap price to your company, but can mean a lot to a college student, especially one that is dedicating their time and money to travel to and from your office every day for no salary.

A widely used compensation alternative for unpaid college interns is usually college credit. College students are often able to gain college credits for the completion of an internship, which could be highly valuable to a student on track to graduate at a certain time with a predefined number of credits. This type of compensation also comes at no cost to your company.

Another great incentive option is to offer a salaried job upon successful completion of their internship program. If the intern’s work goes above and beyond your expectations, and there is availability for a new position in the company, this may be the best way to incentivize an unpaid intern.


Your company can truly benefit from hiring interns, but what is in it for them?

Chances are if you aren’t a Fortune 500 company, you will need to create incentives for interns to work for you for free.

Think both short- and long-term to keep their goals in place; Valuable skills and gained experience as long term, and other types of compensation as short term.

Mimeo Marketing Team

Mimeo is a global online print provider with a mission to give customers back their time. By combining front and back-end technology with a lean production model, Mimeo is the only company in the industry to guarantee your late-night print order will be produced, shipped, and delivered by 8 am the next morning. For more information, visit and see how Mimeo’s solutions can help you save time today.

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