A New Design For InternMatch Humanizes Internship Search

There are a number of websites out there that allow you to search for and discover internships. Internships.com, which Charlie Sheen recently used to hire a social media intern, is probably the biggest and most well known of the bunch. But, as anyone who’s used these sites knows, the experience is far from perfect. And the same can be said of job search sites like Indeed.

InternMatch is entering the internship search and discovery market by focusing on small-to-medium-sized businesses and by building a tool that’s easy to use with an eye-catching design. And I think it’s fair to say that a big part of making user experience enjoyable (and simple) is derived not only from the smooth application of the technology that underlies a particular service, but perhaps more importantly, from how its designed.

500 Startups Founder Dave McClure has spoken on many occasions about the importance of good design and yesterday the audacious VC put his money where his mouth is and announced the d.fund, a seed fund dedicated to helping designers start their own businesses. What’s more, just ask Jack Dorsey what he thinks about design.

Yesterday at 500 Startups second demo day, InternMatch launched a site redesign that looks fantastic, and Founder and CEO Andrew Maguire told me that the motivation behind the relaunch has largely been to prioritize ease of use. I’ve had my share of internships and have spent plenty of time on internship sites, and from my experience, search tools and results are generally clunky and ugly, and algorithms are imprecise. Some even take on the feeling of servant farms.

But, in surfing InternMatch’s new website, I found the UI to be smooth and natural, and it also seems as if the startup is ideologically committed to helping both sides of the equation — interns and their prospective employers. Which will be good for business.

InternMatch is attempting to remove some of the barriers to an enjoyable user experience by providing resume and cover letter preparation and templates for free, and by allowing students to search and apply without having to register or sign up.

At this point, InternMatch has limited its offerings to the West Coast, because it wants to jump on the “local” bandwagon. They have seeded college and university campuses up and down the coast with evangelists, who are working to build relationships with departments, professors, student clubs, and the students themselves. These evangelists are InternMatch interns, and the startup provides its interns with marketing training, and helps them build comfort with public speaking, and to plan and launch events.

For employers, InternMatch launched a Community Page yesterday, which aims to go beyond the traditional listing model by allowing SMBs to tell the story of what it’s like to work at their company. When choosing an internship, students want to see videos and photos of the people behind companies — they want to engage and ask questions.

The startup is attempting to do everything it can to humanize the internship search process for students and to allow employers to recruit students who really fit in with their business culture. And, as incentive to employers, if a company does decide to post a listing, InternMatch guarantees that the business will find an intern within 60 days, or it will receive a full refund.

Back in February, InternMatch raised $400K in funding from a bunch of angel investors, including Dave McClure, Mitch Kapor, Kenny Van Zant, and Raj Agarwal. The startup is currently using the funding to expand the team and increase West Coast traction. As to how InternMatch monetize beyond its angel funding? The business model may actually present one drawback and barrier to entry for its target employer base. The startup charges West Coast employers $99 to post a listing on the site. (And its Community Page is an enterprise level subscription offering, with pricing dependent on the size of the company.)

The $99 price tag is high compared to similar services. Internship.com offers free listings, and another cool internship site we wrote about last August, Urban Interns, charges $40, for example.

However, everything remains free to students on InternMatch, and Maguire told me that the startup is working to create exposure and resources for programs like Work Study, which can help reimburse employers who recruit interns with financial aid packages.

He also said, in relation to the great paid/unpaid internship debate over the last five years, that the startup will work with all prospective employers to advocate paid internships, especially those that are likely to turn into full-time jobs. Music to an intern’s ears, to be sure. After all, interns who believe that there is potential for upward mobility within their company are much more inclined to work harder and contribute more.

InternMatch has the design. Now it just needs the good internships.