There is an awful lot that dating and interviewing have in common.
While it’s been nearly six years since I dated (before Tinder, if you can believe it), I’ve consistently applied to and interviewed for jobs even while very happy in my current role. Why? I like to think it keeps my skills sharp, I like to see what’s out there on the job market, and I like to keep myself open to potential opportunities. You never know.
What? It’s not cheating on my current job.
The continual rounds of interviews put me in a very good position. They’ve taught me what I like, and what I don’t like, what I’m looking for and what’s a dangerous tell. When the time comes to find a new job in earnest, I know all the red flags and warning signs of a bad job. I know how to spot trouble.
My circle of friends is, for the most part, curiously in the opposite position. They’re mostly PhD students, so their job trajectories are neatly plotted out for them, but their love lives are adrift, leading them to spend a lot of time dating, swiping, drinking fancy cocktails while making small talk. I have heard more stories of bad dates than I can count.
One friend in particular is a connoisseur of bad date stories. Piper collects them, polishes them, brings them out like trophies at social events. She’s perfected the art of laughing at her own love life, and her narrative skills do the stories justice.
During the telling of one particularly horrendous story, I had a sense of deja vu. It occurred to me that I had heard this story before. No, not even that — I’d lived this story before. Not at a date, but at an interview.
All the same red flags Piper was describing in laughing detail, all the same tells that there was no point in further wasting her time, they all tallied with a recent job interview I’d had.
Our time wasn’t respected.
Piper’s date started bad — the guy in question didn’t show up until thirty minutes too late. No warning was given, no excuse was made. He said, “Sorry I’m late!” and that was it.
He didn’t care that she’d been waiting alone, he didn’t explain why he’d made her wait. He assumed she’d be fine with it.
In my case, the same prospective employer was five minutes late to both of my interviews with them. Of course, they were busy with other interviews, calls, and clients, but again there was no apology made or indication that I might have been waiting. They were late, and in their minds, that was something they were entitled to without fear that I’d take it amiss.
They don’t try to sell you on it.
The guy Piper dated was, in a word, passive.
She picked the place, recommended a drink to him, wore her nicest outfit. She presented her best self to him, told her best stories to him. She was selling herself hard, demonstrating what the benefits would be of dating her.
He showed up in cargo pants and a ratty t-shirt. He wasn’t engaging. HE wasn’t interesting. He didn’t try to impress her in any way. He was only interested in what she could do for him.
In my interview, (five minutes late) they started off by asking if there was any room to pay me less money. Then, the interview continued with them hammering me with questions. When there was one minute left in the interview, they finally asked me if I had any questions.
I did, of course. I wanted to know what the benefits would be of working there.
My two interviewers looked at each other, kind of mumbled that they didn’t know off the top of their heads. Then as I tried to ask another, they informed me they were out of time and would get in touch later.
I would have accepted any answer — something about the company culture, any kind of social gathering, beer pong on Fridays — but they were so intent on making sure I was good enough for them that they forgot I might need reassurances of the same.
They don’t listen to you.
Piper’s date spent time looking at his phone. He looked at the ceiling. He interrupted her when she was in the middle of a story. When he did interact with her, he asked questions that made it clear he hadn’t paid attention.
At one point, he launched into a pointless and unrelated anecdote while she was asking him about his hobbies.
In other words, he wasn’t interested at all in what she was saying. And to top it off, when they said goodbye at the end of the night, he called her the wrong name.
Similarly, my interviewer seemed to believe I was applying for a different role. At one point, when I asked about the potential challenges and ways to measure success in the role, he started talking about a completely different job opening they had. When I politely let him know that I was interested in account management, not support, he was visibly annoyed.
When he asked me about how my skills and experiences qualified me for the job, my answer detailed a lot of examples where I’d fit the bill. He interrupted me to ask me to answer a completely different question, which I’d actually already answered earlier. He didn’t seem to notice when I replied exactly as I’d replied the last time he asked.
I realized that interviews and dates are very, very similar. Both involve two parties meeting one another and determining whether they’re a good fit, whether the other person is someone you’d want to see again.
That’s why the warning signs are the same. If they don’t respect your time, if they’re more interested in seeing what you can do for them without selling you on their own benefits, if they like the sound of their own voice a little bit too much, you can tell they’re not worth pursuing.
At the end of the day, whether you’re interested in a new job or a new relationship, the other person has to tick the same basic boxes to show they’re good enough to have you.