Job-Hunting’s Parallels With Dating: Finding Your Next Successful Employer Relationship
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Who can forget the excitement and hope of finding a new relationship? Those early encounters filled with so much anticipation and nervous energy? The fun of meeting new people and the hope of finding the one? The thrill of the hunt—with the goal of finding that one special… employer?
Yes, dating and job-hunting do in fact share many similarities. Think it's a stretch? In both dating and job-hunting, you have strangers thrown together seeking to find a spark—trying to find common ground and a rapport that makes both parties want to meet again and eventually be together for a long-term commitment. If you have great people skills and have had much success in dating and relationships, then certain elements of job-hunting (such as networking and interviewing) should come naturally to you. If, on the other hand, you have struggled with relationships, this article will give you some good pointers to succeeding in the job market.
Three major steps guide both dating and job-hunting. The first step is researching prospects and finding the perfect match. The second step is succeeding in building interest and a connection with the other person(s). The third step is agreeing to be together and making the long-term commitment.
Finding a Perfect Match... with a Prospective Employer
This first step is the most important one for job-seekers. Your job-search goal should focus on uncovering the best job opportunities with organizations that have values that match yours. Do not haphazardly apply to job openings or apply to random job leads. Instead, take proactive steps in uncovering job leads that fit you. Start by asking your network of contacts to help you find job leads—within their own organizations as well as with the organizations of their network contacts. These leads will be your best bet for finding promising opportunities. Don't be afraid to ask your network for help. If your network is small, take steps to add more people to it.
Another technique for uncovering that perfect job match involves using the resources available to you from your professional or trade organization. Meetings, trade shows, and networking events—as well as industry job boards—are all good sources of job leads. Contacting former professors and the alumni or career-services office of your college or trade school is another good source for uncovering job leads and making new contacts. Finally, career fairs are also a good opportunity to both network and uncover critical job openings.
Succeeding in the Employer Dating Game Part 1: Perfecting Your Opening Line
Once you've successfully found a few prospective partners—job leads—your next step is researching their values, wants and needs, and developing a plan to woo them. Just as with dating, the more you know about your prospective employer, the better you can position yourself as the ideal job-seeker for the job. Uncover as much information about the job opening as possible -- including obtaining a copy of the job description. Use multiple techniques (including your network and the organization's Website) to research the employer to uncover valuable information, including its products/services, corporate culture, history, revenues/profits, locations, etc.
Using your newly found knowledge of the organization, craft a cover letter and resume strategically tailored to the job opening and employer. Both your cover letter and resume should immediately grab the hiring manager's attention, showcasing you as the perfect candidate for the open position. Using the employers own words to describe yourself and your fit with the position and the organization are essential ingredients to your success.
Succeeding in the Employer Dating Game Part 2: Strategic Interviewing
Once you've received the phone call or email inviting you for the interview, the real work begins. The job interview is like that first date, in which both job-seeker and hiring manager try to determine if there is a strong fit between the two. Numerous factors are at work here that can lead to your success, including interview preparation, initial impressions, rapport and interview responses, and closing the deal.
Interview preparation is essential. Understanding the questions you may be asked—and how to best respond to those questions -- is key to your success. If possible, ask what type of interview to expect. Sit down and compose short stories or anecdotes to illustrate your responses to typical interview questions. Don't memorize your responses, but do rehearse them so that they come easily to you.
On the day of the interview, remember that your meeting with the hiring manager is like a first date—and he/she will be making an immediate judgment about your fit in the first few seconds of meeting you. You must manage these impressions by dressing appropriately, making strong eye contact, offering a firm (and dry) handshake, and smiling warmly. (Remember, too, to act appropriately with every person you meet before and after the interview.)
Once the interview begins, seek common ground while responding strongly to interview questions. Building rapport and showing fit are keys to success in the interview itself.
As the interview concludes, and once you have had a chance to ask your questions about the job and employer, remember another parallel with dating... inquire about a second date. In job-hunting terms, ask about the next steps in the process and if the hiring manager needs anything else from you to make a decision. You want to show interest (assuming you have that interest) without being overly aggressive.
Finally, remember that politeness counts in both dating and job-hunting -- so after each interview, take the time to write individual thank-you notes (or emails) to each person who you met with.
Making the Commitment: Receiving, Negotiating, and Accepting a Job Offer
When all the interviews are over and the employer is ready to make a commitment to the relationship by making a job offer, you must be prepared to make a decision about what you want. Assuming you have made the decision that this match (with the employer) is a good one, your next choice is one regarding the offer itself.
Before you make any decisions, make sure you have the job offer in writing. Once you've fully reviewed the offer, you can either accept its terms or choose to negotiate one or more elements of it. If you choose to negotiate the offer, be forewarned that if you do not tread carefully some employers will actually rescind the entire offer.
Once you are happy with the final offer, it's best to accept the offer both verbally and in writing. Congratulations! The employment dating game is over for the time being; remember to inform your network that you found a new job -- and thank them for their efforts in helping you succeed.
Once you have accepted the offer and the deal is sealed, the final step you should take is gently (and professionally) breaking up with your current employer. You never want to burn bridges, so even if you have not been too happy with your job or employer, write a pleasant and professional resignation letter.