How To Hire An Intern: Unrecruitment Offers A New Alternative…

In our Unrecruitment mission statement, we said that we wanted to give power back to those applying for jobs, providing training and insight for everyone that took the time to apply for a role. Only fair, right? Teaming up with Havas and The Spring Project, we wanted to create a new system of employment in the hiring of 13 talented young digital interns. How did it go? Read on…


As I’m sure you know, being spectacularly informed young things, Havas  is one of the largest integrated marketing communications agencies in the world. 316 offices across 75 countries, they are a digital behemoth, providing employment in the creative industries for thousands of people across the globe. Constantly pushing creative innovation and doing things differently, they seemed the perfect partners to kick off our Unrecruitment mission – the idea that we can change how young people enter the world of industry, and break down the barriers that so many face.

Havas were on the hunt for bright young things – 13 digital interns (with varying skill sets) that they would take on in their London offices (across 6 of their companies) for six months, providing invaluable experience, training and insight for the lucky few selected. They came to us for help, because they are very, very smart. This in itself seemed like a wonderful opportunity to provide to our eminently talented user-base. But we wanted to think bigger.

Teaming up with The Spring Project – an empowering skills training group whose ethos is ‘radical employability’, we constructed an application process that allowed all candidates to self-select their skill bases, explain their reasons for applying and gave them a chance to show their enthusiasm for the companies on offer. Every application was not only read carefully, but each one was given individual feedback – and if unsuccessful for the next stage (more on that in just a minute), they were given key areas to improve, and how they could go about it. The fight against generic rejection letters may seem a small one, but it’s one we really would like to win.


85 talented candidates were invited for the second stage in the process: a reflection day where everyone would be given a chance to learn more about the companies, the roles, and – by far the most important – start building skills that would serve them brilliantly in the future, regardless of whether they were offered the job or not. Run by the fantastic Darius Norell and Andrew Armes of The Spring Project, the day was designed to build confidence, develop skills and help every candidate learn more about the type of jobs they should be applying for. As Darius himself said:

“Two things are at the heart of Unrecruitment. One is the idea that it enables candidates’ brilliance to shine out and for them to be selected on that.  That no matter which university a graduate went to or what degree result they got, if the experiences they have had have enabled their brilliance to develop, that unRecruitment will give us the best chance of seeing it. The other is is learning – that in every moment as far as possible to provide an opportunity for each person to be learning about themselves, others and the world around them.”


The results (not to mention the sandwiches provided) were overwhelmingly positive, with candidates both surprised and pleased by how much they learnt. Some responses on the day itself:

“Today was all about learning by doing, reflecting in different stages and seeing whether you’re really suitable for the roles. It’s really good, it’s like an action CV. It’s a great way of seeing whether the person in question has the passion, the enthusiasm for the role, and the skills to work with other people as well as individually.”

“It was a great event. I really enjoyed it a lot, I really learnt a lot. In the past three or four years I’ve not been given the chance to really present myself, and this process gave me the opportunity to do that.”

“I learnt a lot about myself, about how I react to a variety of different situations, and I would happily do it again.”

At the end of the first day, everyone was told that there would be no ‘elimination’ process at this stage. They were to go away, think about their own suitability for the roles available, and to come back for a second session on Friday ONLY if they thought they should. We wanted to allow the candidates to be just as much a part of this selection process as we were – and let them to use what they knew about themselves to judge whether these companies were the right places for them. Sensible, eh?

Friday rolled around, and things started to heat up. The exercises, which on Wednesday were more personal and inward-facing, became far more intense, based around research, analysis, and presentation. The candidates were put into groups (again, based on their individual skill-sets, not at random), and were given a fully integrated challenge (so, from concept to marketing to tech to business development) to present to the heads of the Havas companies. Every candidate was stretched, pushed to show the skills they offered on their CVs. There was nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. It was demonstrate, or die. Well, not die. Demonstrate, or eat more free sandwiches.


Again, the feedback was great – candidates felt empowered, inspired, and felt that no matter what the result, they had genuine valuable experience to take away and add to their arsenal.

Some splendid responses:

 “I really enjoyed today’s session. Before I came here, I read the email thinking, ‘oh my God, group sessions, I’m going to be rubbish!’, but actually I finished here so much more confident than I was before. Now I feel like, ‘yes, I can do it, it’s not a big deal.’ Before I would have shied away from the spotlight, and worried about it, but after today I feel like I could easily do it again.”

“It’s been inspiring, amazing, exciting, challenging. The atmosphere was so supportive and inclusive, so much more so than a traditional interview, even one with ‘group’ elements, and I just felt like I could bring out the best parts of myself.”

“This has been a breath of fresh air – in that it’s difficult, but in the best possible way. You have to be able to adapt, you have to be versatile, in working with people you’ve never worked with before.”  

On Friday night, once the candidates had bubbled and fizzed all the way home, the task of selecting the perfect interns began. What else are Friday nights for? The Havas representatives felt far more informed about how their candidates handled working in a team, demonstrating their creativity, their ability to perform under pressure as well as who seemed to be the best fit for the teams they knew so well. 13 trail-blazing candidates were selected, and offered positions. Everyone else was offered a free place on a subsequent Spring Project training sessions – after all, why shouldn’t the learning stop here?

It might sound slightly silly, but it was truly inspiring being present for a recruitment process that actively encourages learning for everyone involved. Although only 13 people were to be offered positions, watching the jubilation of the teams after they’d completed their presentation challenge it couldn’t be denied that everyone there felt like they had really achieved something. And not only that, had achieved something together. Job hunting can so often feel like a solitary, thankless task – and the Havas Internship scheme proved that it doesn’t have to be this way. Darius summed it up better than we could:

“It was brilliant working with Enternships to deliver this ground breaking programme for Havas. Through it, we were able to recruit 13 graduates into 6 different business divisions  in just a few weeks.

 It was a great example of the power of unRecruitment to both serve candidates, giving them a potentially life-changing experience, whilst enabling us to identify and develop top talent for Havas and leaving us inspired at the end of it all.”

For more information about the process, read one candidate’s experiences of the days themselves here. Interested in trying out UnRecruitment at your company? Email us at [email protected]  and let’s change the way we grow our young talent.

Natasha Hodgson

Enternships Community Manager

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Natasha Hodgson is the Content and Community Manager over at Enternships. She loves writing about inspiring things, and Nicolas Cage. Luckily, those two things are not mutually exclusive.

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