How to Know If an Internship Is Legit

Intern sitting in a waiting area waiting for an internship interview
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The Internet is an amazing resource especially when it comes to finding internships and jobs. There are so many opportunities available that all you have to do is identify programs or look for internships in a particular field or industry. With so many results—and the anonymity of the internet—sometimes it may be hard to determine if an advertised internship is actually real or a scam looking to steal your information.

The Value of Internships

Internships can be of great value when it comes to gaining experience and getting hired. Since most companies seek candidates with previous relevant experience in the field, internships are crucial for college seniors who are seeking their first real-time job after graduation.

It doesn’t matter if the internship is ​paid or if you are receiving a credit to complete the internship experience, the only thing an employer focuses on is what type of knowledge and skills you gained when interning for the company.

Students can be either skeptical or totally trusting when it comes to finding an internship. However, if an internship sounds too good to be true, you will want to do a little more digging. Speaking to people within the organizations or students who have previously done an internship with the company will help you clarify the picture.

You want your internship experience to be one that will give you real, hands-on experience.

Internships in Sales

One thing to be aware of are internships that appear to be totally sales positions and that are paid strictly by the commission from the sale. The problem is that you don’t know enough about the company or the product to understand if a commission is really feasible.

If an employer lists very open qualifications and does not inquire about your interests or experience, it’s highly likely that you will find yourself in a cold-calling position or one that provides exposure to only general administrative duties.

Avoid Questionable Internships

Internships that are questionable are usually ones you will want to avoid. Bad neighborhoods or internships in a person’s home are never a good idea. If an employer doesn’t ask you to complete an application or ask for a resume, it’s also not a good idea.

If you get a bad vibe when it comes to the internship listing, the requirements, or the people it is usually a good idea to forfeit the opportunity and begin looking for another.

Do Your Research

There are scams all over the Internet. Due diligence is required whenever making major decisions based on what it says on the Internet. Researching a company is one thing you can do to make sure a company is legitimate. Talk to the counsels and instructors in the program you are completing. They may have a list of tried and true companies that the school already has an internship relationship with.

Doing research on Google is another way to learn more about a company. Entering the name of a company plus scam is a way to see if there have been any reports about this company being illegitimate. Checking out the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and sites like "Glassdoor.com" will also help to identify companies where there have been legitimate complaints.​

Don't Pay

If an employer asks for you to pay money to learn more about the program or to do an actual internship for them, be sure to run as fast as you can. Legitimate companies put their information out there and don’t require money to learn more about the program before you even know what the program is about. Never apply for an internship if money is required upfront.

You can also ask the company to provide you with a list of references or contact information for interns who have previously worked for the company. References from people they’ve done business with will provide a basic foundation for identifying if an employer is legit.

Of course, there are some programs that do require money which includes most of the internship programs abroad. In these cases, do your due diligence in conducting research. Know up front exactly what the program includes and what will be paid by the student intern.