Why Can’t Working Be More Like Dating?

I’ve been thinking about the wonderful world of work again, and the more I think about the way we “get” our jobs, the more bizarre it seems. We go to a meeting where someone asks us about our skills and about what other jobs we’ve had, and then, based on that, and more than likely also on how we look, dress, smell and shake hands, they hire us. Or they don’t. It’s akin to getting married after the first date.

I’m worried that making that sort of commitment after such a one-sided and inadequate evaluation is hurting both parties. Although the good interviewers encourage you to ask questions about the company during your interview, most of us aren’t as well-prepared as we might be. How do you ask questions about a place you’ve just seen for the first time? Also, most people aren’t that comfortable asking about things like what operating system do they have to use, or whether they can ever work from home, or take a “sick” day when they’re not sick. Many people are even too afraid to ask about salary and benefits, desperately hoping that the interviewer will volunteer that information. The good ones do, but that doesn’t mean they can anticipate the other questions you might have. Like the ones that won’t pop into your head until you’ve been working there for six months.

Why can’t working be more like dating? Why can’t there be a process of gradually getting to know each other to decide whether you like each other, and only then to commit?

I’ve been a big fan of something called “informational interviewing” for many years now. Basically, it’s just a fancy name for contacting someone at a company you’re interested in and taking them out for lunch, coffee or a beer. One of my big discoveries is that there are all kinds of jobs in all kinds of interesting companies out there, but you’d never read about them in the want ads. Some of these jobs have strange titles, or none at all. Some of the jobs don’t even exist yet.

Something great happens when two people meet on an equal footing in a non-threatening space. Even better if some intoxicants are involved (but not too many!). These are NOT job interviews; they’re more like job dates. You’re not even required to meet with the person actually capable of hiring. Just someone who can be honest about where they work, about what they and their company do, and about what it feels like to be there for eight (or more) hours a day.

7 thoughts on “Why Can’t Working Be More Like Dating?

  1. I've been in a unique position recently as a grad school student – and you get a similar, even more dating-like experience with internships. That is, as long as you know what to look for, what questions to ask, etc. But it's harder to forget the important points via an internship than it is in an informational interview or a regular interview. It's a pity there aren't more contract-to-hire type situations out there.

  2. so true! but just like dating, i find in both interviewing for jobs and interviewing people for our team that i also look for that unquantifiable chemistry. i recently went on an interview where i was in work-love/lust with the people i interviewed with — and then there's times where i don't have the chemistry.
    but you're right, in the interview process i'm in now, i've been a little hesitant to make a commitment, not certain of exactly what i want – again, like dating!

  3. Nice point, urban_mermaid. But I also find that you can be “infatuated” based on one interview and only months later do you realize you've been had.

  4. Thanks for your comment, Jessa. I wish there were a much better developed internship (or apprenticeship) program for most types of work. I think it would benefit both employers and employees.

  5. So, I'm a millions years late replying to this, but seeing you left a link to it… : )

    I love your response to urban_mermaid. Such a big initial excitement rarely lasts and shouldn't be taken as a sign you should (or really want) to work somewhere.

    Along with information interviews, I think getting to know employees on all levels of a company you're interested in working at helps. If you run into these people often and seem to get along well, chances are you'll fit in their space well and probably enjoy it!

  6. Reading the essay “The New Boy Network” by Malcolm Gladwell in his latest collection, What The Dog Saw and just had to quote this bit:

    “For most of us, hiring someone is essentially a romantic process, in which the job interview functions as a desexualized version of a date. We are looking for someone with whom we have a certain chemistry, even if the coupling that results ends in tears and the pursuer and the pursued turn out to have nothing in common. We want the unlimited promise of a love affair.”

    He’s contrasting current HR practices with something called structured interviewing which he describes more like an arranged marriage, based on logic and practicality.

    Funny how companies persist with the same practices that lead to mismatches. Perhaps every job should begin as a 6-month (or however long it might take to qualify for unemployment benefits, just to protect the employee) contract, with the option for either party to walk away after that with no hard feelings.

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