February 25, 2020

Career Advice

Talent Market’s Recent Hiring Experience Confirms That Interviewing Really is Just Like Dating!

By: Claire Kittle Dixon

As you may have heard, Talent Market was recently…well…in the market for talent.

And if there is one thing the experience reconfirmed for us, it is this: interviewing really is like dating.

Here are our top 6 analogies.

1. Think of your job description as an online dating profile. Before I got hitched, I dabbled in online dating. I wrote a profile that was about as straightforward as you can get. Why? I wanted to attract a certain kind of guy and, well, scare off the others. (I once heard from a progressive who was totally offended by my profile and said he would never date me. So, it worked like a charm.)

We used this same approach with our “Talent Engagement Manager” description. It was designed to attract someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously but who is serious about helping the free-market universe find talent. Based on the candidate pool we got, I think it did the trick! The majority of the candidates we received were fun-loving, driven, passionate people who were generally excited about Talent Market’s work. Nearly all of them commented about the description and several said it was what drove them to apply.

2. Compatibility is key. If there is one thing I learned from the silver fox on those old e-Harmony commercials, it’s that compatibility matters. We figured this was true for hiring as well; so, we aimed to find someone whose natural strengths were compatible with the role. In fact, we were much more concerned about strengths than skills. For instance, knowing how to use Salesforce is a skill we could teach. But the ability to build deep, lasting relationships is a strength that can’t be taught.  Our thinking was that this compatibility will put the person in a position to succeed over the long-term.

3. There are no unicorns. Have you ever had a friend on the dating scene say, “I met the perfect guy”? That’s when you know she has a burgeoning serial killer on her hands. Or worse yet, a closet Michigan fan. And so it goes with hiring. If you believe you have identified a perfect candidate, you just haven’t gotten to know them well enough.

We tried to avoid this fate. In fact, we spent a fair amount of time purposefully identifying and evaluating our top candidates’ weaknesses because we wanted to determine how/whether we could make things work with our team.  In fact, we spent just as much time talking about weaknesses as we did strengths. And to be clear, we did NOT look at weaknesses as deal-breakers; rather, we looked at them as something we wanted to know about up front so we were prepared. And this gave us a great opportunity to discuss our current staff’s weaknesses and how we could build a stronger team.

4. Foreshadowing is your friend. One of the best bits of dating advice my parents gave me was this: if you don’t like something about him now, imagine how you’ll feel in 20 years. Hiring, just like dating, constantly provides you hints about what’s to come. It’s your choice as a hiring manager to either pay attention or pretend you don’t see them.  We opted to pay very, very close attention!

-Did the candidate follow directions carefully? If not, can you imagine how fun it will be to manage that person?

-Did the person listen as well as he/she talked? If not, try to envision giving direction to a person who isn’t keen on listening but really likes the sound of his own voice.

-Did he/she ask good questions? If not, what does that say about how intellectually curious the person is and how thoughtful he will be on the job?

-Was it clear he/she had done homework about the organization and the role? If not, what does this tell you about how excited the person is to work with you? And what does it say about the level of preparedness you will see after you hire the person?

-Did he/she follow-up promptly at every step along the way? If not, think about how responsive she will be on the job.

5. Unilateral decisions are risky. Back in my single days, there was a guy I dated whom my family and friends really disliked. They diplomatically shared their feelings with me, and I finally heeded their advice. Looking back, it was really helpful for me to understand how others viewed him, especially because they were seeing things in him that I hadn’t clearly seen yet.

The same can be said for hiring, which is why it’s important to involve multiple staff members in the process. We did that with our search and it proved valuable. In fact, we were so keen on hearing everyone’s opinion that each of us wrote down our thoughts before sharing so that we weren’t influenced by others. We then had multiple honest conversations about the candidates. All the while, we strove to keep an open mind. It was remarkable to see how our thinking evolved as each of us shared our opinions and talked through them. I’d like to think we came to a better decision because of this process.

6. You gotta have passion. Because this is a family-friendly newsletter, I won’t delve into the specifics on the dating front, but suffice to say that passion is critical. We felt the same way when it came to adding a team member. We wanted someone who was downright stoked about joining Talent Market — not someone who just wanted any ol’ job. Indicators of passion included the cover letter, the interview, and of course, the myriad exchanges in between. Likewise, we wanted to be equally excited about the person we were hiring. And we are!

Finally, y’all know I’m a sucker for follow-up. In what is probably best analogized to bringing your date flowers, we had only one candidate sent us a hand-written thank you note. Are you surprised to know it was the person we hired?

This post originally appeared on TalentMarket.org.