Saturday, July 19, 2014

How Job Hunting Is Like Dating

Job Interview
First Date or Coffee Chat?
Your palms are sweating. Your mouth is dry. Your heart is pounding a little more than you'd like. You check to make sure your hair is neat, your clothes tidy. You take a deep breath and tell yourself, "I'm wonderful. They'll love me," and walk through the door.


It's funny how much dating and job hunting have in common. Even at the career prep sessions at the Startup Institute, the instructors often admit that the similarities are uncanny. Here's what goes through your mind in either courtship:

"How do I look?"

primping for job interview
Does this mascara make me look employable?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder -- and of the hiring manager, apparently. Studies reveal a beauty bias towards attractive candidates when making a hiring decision (and when evaluating employees, awarding raises, etc). The unfortunate truth is that your looks matter, at least on a subconscious level. So go ahead and get gussied up for the occasion.

"Stay positive."

Nothing kills a date like a tirade about a psycho ex. That sort of thing tends to reflect badly on the person complaining. You want to paint yourself in the best possible light, so avoid negative topics and focus on the awesome things you've done. It's also a good idea to avoid polarizing comments about politics or religion that might spoil the mood. (Oh, and in a job interview, such topics of conversation can put the company at risk of lawsuit for job discrimination, so DEFINITELY do not bring these up, even in pre-interview small talk.)

"Must. Keep. Talking."

On a first date, the pressure is on. You want to say all the right things. You dread the moment when you falter and an awkward silence descends. The false assumption people make is that if you run out of interesting things to say, then you must not be that interesting.

These people need to chill out.

Silence is not evil. It's your friend. It gives you a chance to breathe, observe, THINK. It only feels awkward because you're nervous. It's far better to embrace a healthy pause, collect your thoughts, and make sure that what you're saying is truly worth sharing. This is especially true in a job interview, where long-winded answers might bore your interviewer, or worse, make them think you're incapable of brevity.

"Am I coming on too strong?"

There's a big difference between "I think you're really cool" and "what would you want to name our kids?" Likewise, it's possible to come off as too eager for a job. Overeagerness in an interview can read as desperation, which is a major turn off for hiring managers. Sometimes 'doing your homework' on the company (or your date's Facebook page) can veer into stalker territory if you're a little too fanatic. Bottom line: express your interest genuinely, but don't freak them out.

"Are they into me?"

It's easy to get preoccupied with this one. You want to make a good impression and be, well, impressive to the person across the table. So you notice their body language, eye contact, what they have to say. Are they listening? Are they interested? Do they like me?

Keep a gentle awareness of their engagement, but don't obsess. You can't control how they react, only how you behave, so focus on that and let the chips fall where they may.

"Am I into them?"

Job interviews and dates are a 2-way street. It's a chance for you to get to know them and see if they're really as cool as they seem. This is super important, because you don't want to get involved with them if they're not so great after all.

"Was there chemistry?"

company culture fit
Golly, your company culture sounds swell.
After the date/interview, check in with yourself. Was there a connection? If you need to rationalize pros and cons, they probably aren't the best fit. When you meet Mr. Right/Ms. Right/Right inc., you'll have a gut feeling. Something clicks. With that said, there's not just one match for you out there. You may be happy with a number of different partners or employers depending on the stage you're at in your life.

"I hope they call soon!"

Just ring, already!
When the meeting is over, the waiting game begins.You're anxious to hear back with the verdict: do they want to see me again? You fear rejection and hope for the best, but no matter what they decide, you want the answer ASAP.

The most important thing to keep in mind on a date or on a job interview: let your personality shine through. You want to show this person who YOU are, not some polished, white-washed version of you. Push through your nerves, be yourself, and you'll eventually find your match.


Up next: How Job Hunting Is Not Like Dating

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