According to the United States Department of Education, one and a half million students will graduate this year with a bachelors degree, most of them in search of a full-time job in a, for lack of a better word, “crappy” economy. Realizing that an astounding number of positions were offered to former interns and that internships were becoming as important as entry-level positions, Andrew Maguire seized an opportunity and created Intern Match, a free online platform connecting students with employers. In addition to matching undergraduates with a diverse pool of nearly a thousand companies, the young Maryland native believes in equal opportunity and provides essential tools to students such as resume and cover letter reviews, as well as ensuring that all interns know about their rights. (Believe it or not, they have some!)
What is your elevator pitch for Intern Match?
Very basically, Intern Match connects college students with internships. We found that college students focus on only a few really big companies, whereas there are a million other opportunities but no middle man that connects them to those smaller ventures. On the student side, Intern Match is all about discovering employers, and on the employers’ side Intern Match is about connecting with students without going through a usually unorganized career fair process.
That’s a pretty bold statement about career fairs! But you’re right, it doesn’t feel like anything truly happens there.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that bad! But it usually ends up being students running around, dropping their resumes, getting a very brief word with their employers, and feeling frustrated. On the employer side, on-campus recruiting costs one thousand dollars just in terms of physical space, so only a small number of companies can participate. Plus, companies can only go to so many campuses, so they’ll often choose elite schools.
Did you have any internships while in high school, college, or after? If so, where and how did that contribute to your career?
I started working on Intern Match my junior year of college, which is the time most people are doing internships. [laughs] I had two nontraditional internships, one in Chile for a summer and another at a start-up company in Tennessee. Seeing all of my friends with diverse interests and experiences, though, doing the exact same thing at the same companies was a big spark for the project.
The same companies, really?
I went to Columbia University for undergraduate, so a lot of my friends were talking about Wall Street or Teach for America, thinking that there was no brand equity in start-ups. Now that I’m based in California, I see the same thing: all of the engineering kids or those wanting to do web development look primarily at Microsoft and Facebook.
Tell me about the founding steps of Intern Match. Is it your first venture?
Yes. I spent the summer after my junior year in a sort of sweaty Brooklyn apartment [laughs] doing market research, and writing down a business plan. At that time, I knew I was into something because I saw how important internships were becoming, almost replacing entry-level recruiting. I mean, you really mitigate a tremendous amount of risks associated with full-time hiring if you’ve worked with the people before.
Toward the end of my senior year, I was a finalist at a Columbia Business Plan Competition, where I was able to go on stage and pitch my idea. Unlike most candidates, I did not have fancy screenshots or bootlegs, and just told my story. I was eventually able to raise one hundred grand from friends, family, and a couple of angel investors. Finally, I convinced a buddy of mine, who had just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, to come out to Seattle to help out.
A recent article in the NY Times talked about the exploitation of interns. I know that Intern Match also informs students about their rights, correct?
You’re opening a can of worms here! An internship is by definition a learning experience, a way for students to learn a lot about an industry and its professional environment. Legally, you must be paid unless the intern is providing no concrete value to the company. Even if you’re getting academic credit, as far as I’m concerned, the law is still applicable – it is no substitution for compensation. But here’s the issue: in any company in today’s world, you will have to get involved if you want to learn. The Labor Department is increasingly saying that the exploitation of interns is a real issue, so what we’ve seen is a wave of high-profile companies bringing in students and teaching them nothing.
What about companies who can’t afford to pay their interns?
I don’t really believe in that. Sure, big companies like Microsoft, Google, or Facebook pay their interns a ton of money – and they’re smart to do so, because they are investing in future employees by building relationships with them. But take the example of Intern Match: we had first raised $100,000 of capital and we still were paying our interns, so I don’t buy that companies can’t afford to do so.
To make this more practical, why don’t you walk me through the process. I am a sophomore in college looking for an internship in Marketing. What would my process be?
If you’re looking for something on the West Coast (Intern Match will be expanding nation-wide in six months), go to to our website and conduct a keyword or category search. You’d see the internship you’re interested in and apply. That simple. We feel strongly about not having a mandatory registration process and no charges to apply. This is value and business driven decision, as every student should have the same access to opportunities. Also, students who aren’t quite ready to apply and need help with resumes, cover letters, or others can get advice from us.
What is the question or issue that is the most prevalent?
[laughs] A lot of students have trouble with resumes, and not just students who aren’t doing well. You’ll have kids with 4.0 GPAs who will send a resume with all-caps. We also definitely help with how to represent yourself professionally — stuff like what to wear to an interview, helping them think about writing thank-you notes, or creating an online presence.
Do you have examples of success stories? If students don’t need to register, how do you track success?
When a student submits an application, all they need is a password to register; and I’m happy to say that we convert about 90% of users, which allows us to track success. Three months ago, we also implemented a match guarantee from employers saying that if they don’t end up hiring an intern, we’ll give them all of their money back. To this day, we haven’t had one single refund request.
How many employers post on Intern Match?
Close to a thousand.
How can our readers contribute to your success?
We’re looking for employers and students looking for internships on the West Coast. If anyone reading this is a rock star website developer, we’d also love to hear from them. As a final word, if you’re a student, keep in mind that 70% of internships eventually turn into a full-time job.