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May 18, 2020

Three Ways To Find A Legitimate Virtual Internship

Three Ways To Find A Legitimate Virtual Internship
The Business Career Center coaches help business students in their search for internships and full-time employment.

In a time of limited or no options for traditional in-person internships, students seek remote or virtual internships. Many opportunities still provide good experiences remotely, noted Dr. Chris Timm, associate director of employer experience and outreach in the Business Career Center at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business.

But how can you tell the validity of certain positions? To verify the legitimacy of an internship or employment opportunity, Timm suggests considering various factors among three types of opportunities: internships converted to remote work, new internships and internship placement organizations.

Internships Converted To Remote Work
Many employers who normally offer in-person internships chose to convert to a remote version of the internship during the COVID-19 pandemic. This internship experience often includes fewer hours but still gives you valuable experience. To research these opportunities:

  • Review the internship posting and ask questions in an interview about how the remote experience differs from their typical internship.
  • Check reviews of the organization in Handshake, Glassdoor or other employment websites to see if this employer is known for offering quality internships.

New Internships
Many legitimate organizations discovered they needed more employees during this time and created new internship opportunities. Unfortunately, some prey upon students seeking to gain experience, Timm warned. To avoid running into this situation, research both the employer and opportunity to make sure they are valid, she suggests. To research the employer:

  • Run a search for the organization’s website and physical address. Check whether contacts use an organization email or a personal email. Although legitimate organizations may not have a website or physical presence, be cautious if you can’t easily find information about them.
  • Consider: Did the employer contact you or did you contact them? If an employer reaches out to you without referencing specific information from your résumé or LinkedIn profile that demonstrates you have skills they need, be extra careful. You should be able to call, email or video chat with the specific recruiter to talk about the opportunity and organization.
  • The employer should not ask for personal information such as a photo, Social Security number, driver’s license or any financial information until hiring you.
  • Complete a web search of the organization followed by the word “scam” (i.e. Acme Company Scam) to see if anyone reported them in Better Business Bureau reports.

While researching the internship opportunity, keep in mind: 

  • A good internship provides opportunities for you to learn as well as supports the organization.
  • Be wary if you see spelling and grammatical errors in the job posting or no employer name listed.
  • Also be cautious if an opportunity lists compensation higher than the average amount paid for that type of position, often for very little work. For example, recent emails reported people wanted to hire dog walkers for $300 a week.

Some fraudulent opportunities ask for your credit card information, bank account numbers or other personal financial documentation. They may require an initial investment, such as payment by wire service or courier, offer a large payment if you allow them to use your bank account or offer to send you a check before you complete any work.

Internship Placement Organizations
Some organizations match students with internships for a fee. Reputable ones have been around for many years and maintain strong relationships with employers, Timm said. Others recently began providing this service, which makes it more difficult to determine legitimacy. Consider these factors to tell the difference:

Research the provider as you would with employers. Find and research organizations that offer international internships through the UNL Education Abroad MyWorld site.

  • Check the program and application fees (which range from $500 to $15,000) and determine whether the virtual experience is worth the cost. Ask whether application and program fees are refundable if they cannot find an appropriate virtual position for you.
  • Organizations in other countries host some providers of internships. In this case, convert fees to U.S. dollars to understand the whole cost.
  • If the organization promises the internship provides academic credit, check with an academic advisor to ensure the University of Nebraska–Lincoln accepts that credit.

To help students and employers navigate hiring during this time, Timm encouraged employers to update their Handshake job and internship listings to reflect any status or job description changes due to recent shutdowns or remote work.

Also, any Nebraska Business student uncertain about the reputation or validity of a remote or virtual internship should schedule an online appointment with a career coach in the Business Career Center on MyPlan or call 402-472-7272.

Learn more about the Business Career Center at https://business.unl.edu/careers.