How to Write the Best Intern Job Descriptions


In order to hire great interns, organization needs great applicants. To get great applicants, nonprofits need great intern job descriptions!
The best intern job descriptions do two things: They give potential interns the information they need to decide if they could be a good fit for the role, and they convince those potential applicants that this is a role they want.
The following tips and best practices will give your nonprofit everything you need to write effective job descriptions that solicit the best possible intern candidates.

Tips for Writing the Best Intern Job Descriptions

1. Leverage your Cause

Way too many organizations forget that the best intern job descriptions are also sales pitches! During an interview, it’s (mostly) on the applicant to explain why they’re the right pick. But, during the job hunt, it’s on organizations to prove to potential candidates that they’re worth applying to.
Nonprofits have a built-in value proposition: Their cause, coupled with the impact of the organization itself, are an effective way to attract the best applicants. Organizations should include their vision and mission statements, and proof of impact, in their intern job descriptions.
Cause buy-in is essential for proving the value of the role to interns, especially for organizations that can’t pay their interns. For organizations that can’t intrigue people to apply with perks and prestige, the value of the organization’s work and the worthiness of the cause can be an effective way to attract the best applicants. Emphasize throughout the job description how the intern’s role and day-to-day tasks will be contributing to the organization’s mission.


2. Be Transparent

The key to writing the best job descriptions and attracting the right candidates is being honest and clear. Let people know what they’re applying for and what your organization needs from them. While your writing up your description, keep the following in mind:

  • Avoid jargon. Interns are looking to learn, and can be discouraged from applying if they already feel intimidated or unqualified based on the language of the job description. Keep it simple.
  • Be honest about payment. Be explicit about whether or not the role is paid or not and how payment is handled. This will save everyone a lot of time.
  • Focus on their takeaways. Remember, internships should be mutually beneficial! Emphasize the opportunities interns will have, the skills they’ll learn, and the people they’ll be exposed to.
  • Be honest about grunt work. Interns want to do high-value work, but most expect that the role will include at least some administrative work. Be clear about what kinds of ‘grunt’ tasks interns will be tasked with and assure that it will only take up <25% of an intern’s time.
  • Brag! Whatever perks you can offer, show them off. Monthly team lunches, summer Fridays, kickball, coffee with the CEO, anything. Ask employees and former interns what their favorite parts of their job are and advertise those in the job descriptions.
  • Don’t be too picky. Unless you really need an intern with tons of photoshop or javascript experience, keep your requirements as open as possible to avoid disqualifying a potentially great candidate from the get-go.

3. Include Specific Application Instructions

Screening applicants is always difficult, but screening intern applicants presents a unique challenge as most candidates have little to no relevant work experience. This can make it even harder for the hiring manager to differentiate between applicants and decide who should advance to the interview phase.
Including a specific prompt in intern job descriptions to be answered in applicant’s cover letters gives hiring managers something to work with from the outset. First, including a prompt or question will make it easy to weed out all candidates who don’t follow instructions. From there, it will also give hiring managers a better idea of each applicant’s personality and make it easier to identify bright spots amid the resume pile. An arts organization might ask interns to write a bit about their favorite painting or how they got interested in classical music. Likewise, an education-focused nonprofit might ask applicants about a teacher that had an impact on them. A question that works for many nonprofits would be to ask for new volunteer recruitment ideas.  

Writing the best intern job descriptions is the first step in finding the best interns. But if your nonprofit is still wondering what comes next, don’t sweat it — our ebook will tell you everything you need to know about finding, hiring, and managing interns in the social impact sphere.