Protecting Yourself From An Illegal Internship: During the Interview

As we’ve discussed previously, not all internships are created equal. In fact, not all internships are created legally. Some interns for the movie Black Swan are actually suing the studio as a result alleging that their internship was illegal. The trouble there is that as nice as it may seem to get your vengeance for a summer you seemingly wasted, it isn’t exactly the best route to travel if you’re interested in scoring a job at a similar company in the future (no matter how justified your case may be most bosses won’t be willing to hire the kid that sued their friend- the entertainment industry is a very small place). So the key is to protect yourself along the way so that you avoid a terrible experience in the first place. So far, we’ve reviewed what actually makes an internship illegal and some steps you can take to spot a sketchy listing before you apply. Today is about what you can do during your interview to help prevent any problems down the road.

Observe the Environment
This is one of the simplest and most important things you can do while you are being lead through the office. Take a look at how people dress, sit, decorate their desks, eat their lunch, move around the office, interact, etc. Do people seem happy? Are they friendly? Is it the kind of work environment you could see yourself thriving in? Do you see any current interns and what are they doing?

Ask if You Can Speak With an Intern
This is a great way to get a good idea of what the environment will be like and what will be expected of you. Ask them about learning opportunities, networking, mentors, and anything else that is on your mind. Ask if they would recommend working there. And, if possible, try to do all of this outside of the office where they will feel more comfortable being honest without the pressure of their boss lurking over their shoulder. A lot of companies hire former interns so you may even be able to talk to an employee that used to be an intern. This is probably a good sign because it likely means both that he or she didn’t hate the internship and that there’s the possibility it could lead to a job.

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