Job interviews and dating: Is either scenario even fun anymore? Maybe during your early 20s, the thrill of the chase was exciting and new. But as you get older, they’re just a stressful and unnatural means to an end. Movies and TV shows tell us these things work out, eventually. You’ll go on one date that seems perfect. You’ll interview with one company that checks all your boxes. The stars will align, and your dreams will come true.
Ah yes, that would be nice.
But until then, we’re all stuck going through the motions, thinking about how we need to find a real grown-up job and settle down with someone who will make mom and dad happy during the holidays. For most 20- and 30-somethings, going on dates and searching for jobs are simultaneous events — the likes of which were never taught in college.
Well, here’s the thing. If you’re not treating your job interview like a first date, then you’re doing it wrong. Keep reading to see how to treat your interview like a date and land your dream job.
You define your make-or-breaks
In the beginning stages of dating and job interviews, you need to put out feelers to see what’s really available. You sift through job postings and weigh all your options. Some of them will be terrible. Similarly, you’ll scroll through your phone’s dating apps (because apparently no one meets in person anymore) and take note of all the single fish in the sea.
Here’s where you define your make-or-breaks. These are the qualities you definitely want in each scenario and the things you won’t settle for. For instance, a better benefits package, a shorter commute, and a higher salary might be on job wish list. In your next relationship, maybe you want a nonsmoker with a suitable height ratio and a real, meaningful job.
You make a move
Eventually, you’ll strike possible gold. You’ll find that company with an open position and a fair qualifications section, and it’s only 10 miles from your home. It wants a detail-oriented team player? That’s you! Now, you must make the first move. So you immediately update your resume, craft an intriguing cover letter, and submit the application.
Back in the dating world, match No. 1 slides into your notifications screen, and they’re pretty cute. No creepy introduction or cheesy pick-up lines here. They seem to have a few interesting hobbies and a decent job. In fact, they even mentioned their love of dogs. So you hit reply, and say, “Hey.” The waiting ensues.
You research the prospect
The waiting will be brutal, but you should find ways to stay occupied. Glassdoor recommends serious job applicants do a little research on their prospect before hopefully landing an interview. After all, the hiring manager is definitely internet stalking you, too. Make sure to update your LinkedIn profile, and cleanse your Facebook page of those debilitating college photos.
In turn, you should peruse the company’s website and get to know its employees through the “About Us” page. Maybe you’ll find they have a company mission you can get behind. Now you’re all set to answer the inevitable interview question, “Why do you want to work for us?”
It’s not smart to go into a date blindly, either. A little high-level googling is all that’s needed to make sure this person hasn’t wound up on the wrong side of the law or is wanted in three states. After a bit of digging, hopefully you see your prospect has a solid group of friends, likes to ski, and has no questionable Twitter retweets.
You solidify a first impression
There’s a reason the “First Impression Rose” exists on The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise. It’s because first impressions matter – – in both scenarios. Whether it’s accurate in the moment, you need to portray a calm, professional demeanor. No one will judge you if you spent hours the night before deciding on the perfect outfit that says, “I’m normal and put-together, so hire me.” By the way, it’s been said you should wear blue to an interview if you want to be regarded as a team player. And if the ungodly amount of pressure is causing you to sweat uncontrollably, just keep it to yourself.
But it doesn’t matter how nicely you’re dressed if you don’t show up on time. Hiring managers have no time to waste, and your date might have a nervous breakdown if they think you won’t show. Play it safe, and arrive 10 minutes early — because, yes, you’re punctual and serious about this opportunity.
You just do it
This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s do or die now. Just like in dating, you might be seriously considering bailing on the whole thing out of sheer nervousness. But keep walking toward the door. Because we’re treating this interview like a first date, try to have an engaging conversation rather than a one-way interrogation.
In both dating and job interviews, you have to talk about yourself, and that can be an unsettling experience. You’ll have to decide what cards to show — what to say about yourself and what to keep under wraps. This is where your prior research comes in handy. Play up your strengths that will be most interesting and beneficial to your audience. Most men like a woman who can cook, just like recruiters like a well-rounded candidate.
Remember to listen. Prove you’re comprehending what’s being said by asking insightful questions. “Tell me about a typical day here.” “You said you liked skiing. Where do you usually go?” Then, make a mental note to pat yourself on the back for having a successful two-way conversation.
You look for clues
Throughout the event, you’re silently checking off boxes in your head. Just like they’re interviewing you, you’re interviewing them. Pay close attention to the hiring team’s answers to your questions. Make note of what they do and don’t say. If you get the vibe they’re overworked and happy in their positions, they probably are.
Every little detail is judged, from how you hold a conversation to how they treat the wait staff at dinner. As your date is checking their phone and calling you by the wrong name, consider those some serious red flags and start looking for other options.
You follow up in a timely manner
Whether you left the interview room feeling confident or regretful, you must follow up with your suitors. Monster.com suggests we should do this even when we think it’s a done deal. Send a quick email (or handwritten note) thanking them for their time and to reiterate your interest in the position.
At the end of the date, send a quick text to thank the other person and say you had a great time. Even if the date was comparable to a dentist appointment, you still appreciate the effort.
Then, there’s the waiting. Did they hire someone else? Did I say something offensive? Here’s a not-so-subtle reminder: You are not desperate. Don’t let your supreme loneliness or excitement about this job opportunity outweigh your own needs and judgement.
You weigh the options
Remember that you’re both in it for something. The employer is trying to solve a need for more resources at the best price, while interviewers are trying to land a job they want and improve their compensation. You may be looking for a serious relationship, while your date is only after someone to accompany them through the impending wedding season.
It’s best to put out the feelers during this initial encounter to see if you’re on the same page. You already defined your make or breaks — will they be met? Think back on your entire process and hone in on your overarching opinion of what went down. Maybe the increase in pay doesn’t outweigh the longer commute. Or the witty banter doesn’t overshadow his love of ferrets (to which you’re allergic). Either way, you should have a feel for what you want out of the situation before the other person reaches out to you for the “next steps.”
You decide to move forward or move on
Will you accept the job offer? Is a second date in the cards? Like most of us, you probably became so invested in this whole process that you’re not sure what you really want out of it anymore. It’s best to let this marinate while you re-evaluate.
What if this job is a dead end? What if my new prospect turns out to be mean? Even though this decision seems like life or death, you must keep at it. Past experience will be your biggest influence, but you must follow your gut. Think back to the clues, signals, and feelings throughout the process, and let that be your guide. Then, hope for the best.
Could your days on the market (both markets) be over and done? Only time will tell.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.