How to Know If an Internship Is Legit

Intern 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. You may be seeking an internship in finance, art, marketing, economics, government, law, or any other topic that’s of interest; but the questions is, how do you know if an internship is legit? Internet scams run rampant and it's important to be skeptical.

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 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.

I find students to be either skeptical or totally trusting when it comes to finding an internship that will help them meet their goals. 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, will help you clarify the picture. On the other hand, there may be things about the internship that causes concern and then it’s equally important to do more research to see if the internship will be a real learning experience.

One thing to be aware of are internships that appear to be totally sales positions that are paid strictly by commission. 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. 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 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. You can also ask the company to provide you with a list of references. 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 programs abroad; in these cases, I recommend due diligence in conducting research to know up front exactly what the program includes.

Never apply for an internship if money is required up front. Of course, there are internship programs where paying money may be legit. When money is involved it is even more crucial that research is conducted before getting too far in the process. Don’t be afraid to ask the company for references or contact information for interns who have previously worked for the company. Doing the research up front can save a whole lot of stress in the end.