6 questions you should ask before signing an internship agreement with Candida D’Elia, External Relations Manager at ALMA

by | CAREER GUIDANCE, Career Paths, Hosco Recommends, Internships, INTERVIEWS, Job Hunting, Top 4

To anyone preparing for a career in hospitality, securing the right internship is a rite of passage. Finding one can be an intense journey, from the initial applications to the many rounds of interviews, which makes the signing of the internship agreement all the more special. This is the formal agreement laying down the terms under which you’ll be interning at the organization in question. You can think of it as the equivalent of an employment contract. 

Different companies have different expectations of their interns, so be sure to read the agreement carefully before you sign it. In particular, pay attention to matters like working hours and compensation. If you are being classified as a volunteer, you will likely not be paid any monetary reward. If that’s a dealbreaker for you, you’ll need to apply for internships where you will be classified as a worker.

But compensation is just the tip of the iceberg. How does one make an informed choice about which company to intern at? Candida D’Elia, External Relations Manager at ALMA, regards the first interview as a way for interns to vet the company they’re meeting with. The company will be looking for qualities like flexibility, passion, and willingness to learn — but this is also a chance for interns to gauge whether the company can offer them the experience and workplace environment that they’re looking for. Here are the 6 key questions she recommends asking before you sign an internship agreement

1. What are the hard and soft skills you’re looking for in an ideal candidate?

Hard skills refer to the core skills that will help you perform the job you are applying for, while soft skills refer to the skills that will help you build relationships and fit into your workplace. Asking this question helps you understand if the company’s ideal profile matches with you. It also gives you an idea of what you can offer the company in terms of personal and professional characteristics. 

It’s important to remember that no one possesses all of the “ideal” hard and soft skills the company might list. What the company is really looking for is someone who will sincerely endeavor to meet that ideal. My advice is to understand what the company’s needs are and evaluate honestly whether you can meet them with your skills and willpower. Your availability and approach will be what counts most, so always try to present yourself as open to learning new things.

2. Will accommodation be arranged? How will I be able to reach the restaurant from the accommodation?

These are core questions that will significantly influence your experience of the internship. Certain businesses may have accommodation available within walking distance, while others may have accommodation at a distance that requires travel by vehicle. If the latter, ask questions about how the company handles logistics. You may be reimbursed for public transportation passes, or you may choose to carpool with the rest of the brigade. Having the right housing and travel will be key to your comfort and wellbeing during the internship, so make sure you’re clear about this.

3. What does a typical day/week look like?

Asking this question gives you a glimpse of what life will be like at the company. You’ll get an idea of what the company’s internal organization looks like as well as how full they expect an intern’s schedule will be. You’ll also get to know what to expect in terms of breaks and days off so that you can plan your schedule better. Plus, by learning about your daily duties, you will get a clearer picture of what characteristics they’re searching for in an ideal candidate — and whether that candidate is you.

4. Can you tell me more about the team/brigade I will be working in?

This question will help you understand the company structure, the organization of the team, and who you'll report to. It’s important to ask about the team dynamic and work methods so that you know what approach to take, what will be expected of you, and how much flexibility you will have. Every company has its own definition of teamwork and division of labor, so this is an important question for understanding their work culture.

5. What are the company’s most important values?

This question gives you a clearer picture of what the company stands for as a whole and whether you'll fit in. For instance, if the recruiter mentions things like openness to dialogue and creative involvement, you’ll know that this is a company that prioritizes being open-minded and welcoming opinions from everywhere. Other points to watch out for include how the organization invests in employee wellbeing through benefits, work-life balance and other initiatives. You can even ask specific questions related to your industry, such as who develops menu items at a restaurant or how customer experience is prioritized at a hotel. If you’re looking for a role that lets you take a lot of initiative, these are important questions to ask.

6. What opportunities are there for training and progression?

This question demonstrates to the interviewer that you're serious about your career and committed to a future with the organization. The other questions will already have given you a good idea of what life will be like at the company, but a direct question like this will clearly show you what kind of growth path to expect. From the recruiter’s response, try to gain an understanding of what tasks are core to the internship experience itself and which ones might become opportunities for continuity and career advancement. I always suggest setting clear growth goals for yourself before the interview, while also being open to consider new avenues that you may not have considered before. 

About ALMA

ALMA is the world’s leading educational center for Italian cooking. Founded in 2002, the center has as its headquarters the Palazzo Ducale di Colorno, equipped with state-of-the-art teaching and cooking facilities. It is strategically located just outside Parma in the heart of the Food Valley, which has the highest concentration of Italian food producers, making it the perfect environment for food enthusiasts to study in. ALMA offers a variety of courses in Italian cooking, cooking techniques, pastry and bread making, and F&B management. It recently opened The Food School in Bangkok in collaboration with Japan’s Tsuji Culinary Institute, with the goal of offering students a uniquely international culinary training. 




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