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The Interesting Parallels of Hiring and Dating

I really enjoy my side-hustle. I write online dating profiles…and I’m REALLY good at it. 7 years ago I developed a…

Posted by Jeff Gibbard on Monday, March 22, 2021

About two weeks ago, I posted on Facebook about my side hustle of writing online dating profiles. It is a business I started several years ago after noticing how similar online dating is to online marketing. Since then, I’ve created an online course, written a number of profiles, and witnessed multiple happy couples get married and in some cases have children.

It’s very rewarding.

Several days after this post, I was having a conversation with someone who was in the process of hiring someone for their team, and she was asking for some advice on the process.

It occurred to me that hiring and dating have a lot in common. So, today, I thought I’d give you a free lesson in online dating that can also help you hire your next team member.

Important Clarifications and Housekeeping

Despite this post using dating as a model for hiring, I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea here. I am writing this post to examine the similarities both structurally and conceptually. Please do not think that these two activities are closely linked enough that I’m endorsing any attempts to start trying to date the people you seek to hire, or hiring the people you seek to date.

That is not the point of this post so please don’t mistake the purpose of this comparison.

With that out of the way, let’s continue.

Applied Similarities

A great online dating profile has only five sections—typically in this order:

  1. What do you look like?
  2. What are you looking for?
  3. What do you bring to the table?
  4. Who are you looking to meet?
  5. Who are you not interesting in meeting?

When hiring, your process is going to look very similar. You need to answer all of those questions honestly, with the hopes of attracting the exact right candidate, who is looking for exactly what you offer.

Now, even though this is the best order for your profile and a job posting, the process of gathering this information happens in a different order.

Here’s where to start…

Step 1: Define The Ideal Candidate

man and woman taking selfie during daytime

The first thing I try to understand about someone when writing or rewriting their online dating profile is who their ideal match is. I want to get a full description of their dream partner. I do this part first because I find it useful context for when we get to the later parts of the process.

This same approach should be applied to hiring.

Defining this candidate should follow a two-part process.

1a. What are your deal breakers?

Whether we’re talking about dating or hiring, there is no such thing as a perfect candidate. There is no such thing as “the one.” Getting clear on this fact is one of the keys to setting the conditions where you can find a great match.

Too many job postings—and dating profiles—will have an enormous laundry list of qualifications required. When what you seek is a needle in a haystack, do not be surprised when you cannot find it.

I was introduced to the concept of “Dealbreakers” from a video featuring Dan Savage called The Price of Admission.

In this video, he dispels the myth of “the one” and more importantly makes a recommendation that you limit your dealbreakers to five criteria. By doing this, it forces you to get clear on the five things that are most important to you.

man in white and blue crew neck t-shirt

These are the five things you will not budge on. You only get five, make them count.

  • In dating it’s usually things like: marriage, kids, religion, politics, etc.
  • In hiring it’s usually things like: skills, culture add/fit, salary, location, etc.

Identify the five things that are the most important in hiring this new candidate.

Write it down and set it aside.

1b. What are all of your nice-to-haves?

Once you’ve listed out the five most important, it’s time to create your long list of things that would sweeten the deal. Each candidate that passes the deal breaker phase, is then scored according to the number of nice-to-haves they can check off your list.

You can put this list in priority order or not. It’s up to you.

Write it all down and set it aside.

Step 2: Define the role

There are plenty of online dating sites and some are geared more toward something serious and some that are clearly more well suited for casual arrangements.

  • In dating, you’ll want to be sure to explain whether you’re looking for something serious, something casual, or something else.
  • In hiring, you’ll want to explain whether this is a full time role, a part time role, something entry level with room to grow, something in middle management that is somewhat more fixed, or something else.

People have differing levels of ambition and companies have differing needs for talent. It is simply not the case that every person envisions themselves in the c-suite, and it’s likewise not true to say that every company only ever wants ambitious leaders instead of role players. Sometimes you don’t need five years of experience and in some cases the best candidate wouldn’t have it anyway.

three women sitting beside table

The more honest we are with each other in dating and in hiring, the more satisfied everyone can be.

Be clear about the position you’re looking to fill. This shows that you respect people enough to give them sufficient information to self-select for the role. This is preferable to having them find out the truth later on.

Step 3: What do you look like?

On dating websites, the first thing you typically see are photos. Seeing what someone looks like is often the first step in determining attraction.

In hiring, it’s similar. Candidates will look at your website. They will visit your Linkedin company page. They will read Glassdoor reviews.

So, what is the first thing someone sees when they look at your website? Is it the product? Is it a diverse team? Is it a slider full of stock photos? And what about the copy? Ask yourself, what would people gather from our website in the first 5-7 seconds?

man teaching woman while pointing on gray laptop

What about when they look at your Linkedin company page? Is there anything there to influence them? Are you showcasing the culture?

Have you visited Glassdoor recently? That might tell a drastically different story than you are trying to tell. If there’s a problem there, get your house in order.

All of these are part of your first impression along with a job posting. Are you making a good impression?

Step 4: What do you bring to the table?

On dating sites, people too often say what they like, or what they do for a living but really, none of that matters much when it comes to a successful relationship. What matters are the things that make you a great partner.

  • Do you cook?
  • Can you make him laugh?
  • Will you reach things on the top shelf for her?

You know, stuff that makes you valuable. The same is true in hiring.

Don’t just tell candidates what YOU are looking for. Tell them why they should be looking for YOU. This is your chance to sell yourself.

  • Do you have great benefits or a flexible work from home policy?
  • Is this an amazing place to learn?
  • What about maternity leave? Do you do the standard American “we’ll see you back here 6 weeks after giving birth” or are you a decent group of human beings that would never do such a thing and instead do the right thing by giving at least 4 months paid time off?

This is why employer branding is so essential. If you are in a war for talent, recognize that there are plenty of fish in the sea, and you need to stand out. Metaphorically speaking, don’t just be another shirtless bro talking about what he finds hot.

Step 5: Write your posting

In dating, this would be the point where you bring it all together into a profile. In hiring, this is your job posting. Remember the ideal dating profile? Let’s alter it for hiring.

  1. Who are you and what do you do?
  2. What is the position you are looking to fill?
  3. Why should someone work for you?
  4. Describe the ideal candidate—remembering to specifically call out the deal breakers, while lightly touching on important nice-to-haves
  5. What sort of candidates would you prefer to filter out?

As a note, I hope I don’t need to specifically call out that point five is not about discrimination but rather elements that would fall under deal breakers—which should also not discriminate.

Step 6: Dating

two men talking

Much like online dating, the first step is the job posting and some initial qualifying conversations. It’s not until the first date that things get real. Use those first few encounters (interviews) to ask about the deal breakers. Get to know the candidate by looking for your nice-to-haves. Make sure the person is a good addition to your existing culture.

Also, don’t forget that just like no good date feels like an interview, you need to make sure to talk about yourself, too. Don’t make candidates drag information out of you.

Reduce turnover for a happy marriage

In dating you may need to meet a lot of people before finding true love. The same is true for hiring. Take your time, find the right fit. If you’re in a pinch for time and you need to hire someone quickly, just make sure to set the right expectations. This less time you spend in a bad fit, the more time you can spend looking for and keeping the right fit.

All of this seems so obvious, yet our standard job postings are often no better than bad online dating profiles. Too much dishonesty, and too much posturing. Too many unnecessary requirements, and not enough information about why anyone should care about you.

Let’s all do better, starting with a little honesty.

Go forth, and may you find the love of your life.



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  • by JoAnn
    Posted June 10, 2021 10:27 pm 0Likes

    Hey Jeff, JoAnn from Interview Valet here! I was reading this great article you posted about dating and hiring similarities from April. Just wanted you to know, the video you preview just comes up as lines of code. HTH!

    • by Jeff Gibbard
      Posted June 10, 2021 11:33 pm 0Likes

      Great catch. I went in and added a link instead. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

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