What I Learned About Interviewing From Dating

Interviewing Like DatingI’ve coached over a thousand people before interviews. While I don’t have quite that many dates under my belt, it’s always struck me how the two are so similar. From the outset, whether it’s a first date or an interview, there’s a mix of euphoria, anxiety and a thousand “what ifs.” And keeping all those things in check can be the difference between success and failure.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for getting through the interview jitters:


The First Date

Without fail, when I prepare a client for an interview, they always start talking about what they’re missing or rehashing why they were fired/downsized/let go. Just like talking about your ex on a first date, this is a really bad place to start. Even if it’s just in your head, you run the risk of self-sabotage by steering the conversation in that direction. (Kind of like driving towards lights on the highway.)

Instead, focus on what you have in common with the other person and establish a reason for a second date. Just like you wouldn’t expect to rush to the altar after your first date, the initial interview is about getting to know one another. You want to give the interviewer reasons to want to bring you back to learn more about you, not flag the waiter down for the check and sprint for the door.

Remember, you want to define yourself as an expert with the ability to solve problems, not as simply a job seeker. Job seeking is a condition of your employment, not the value you bring as a new addition to a company. Moreover, it’s not why you’re going to get hired or a reason for the company to max out the compensation scale in your favor—just like being single isn’t the reason you score a second date.


Get Engaged, Get Interested

Ever had dinner with someone who couldn’t stop talking about themselves? It kind of reminds me of telemarketers. Remember those guys? You’d pick up the phone in the evening and someone on the other end would verbally vomit on you. It didn’t matter what you needed. They had a product to sell and a script to push through. It wasn’t a conversation. Honestly, it wasn’t really even a sales pitch. It was more like force-feeding. Until, of course, you simply hung up on them—which is something you don’t want to have happen to you in an interview.

So, don’t have an untargeted presentation of who you are and what you do. Ask a few questions so you can determine if they need what you have to offer. This way, you will add value and have a more meaningful conversation—which translates to better compensation. It will also let you both know whether or not the position truly is a good fit for you. Sometimes getting to “no” is more important than getting to “yes.”


“I Won’t Be Ignored, Dan!”

Bar none, my favorite quote from Fatal Attraction. No matter what character Glenn Close plays, I always envision Alex in the corner flipping that light switch on and off. Don’t let this be the image you leave people with when the process either doesn’t move at fast as you’d like or the company moves in another direction. When it comes to calling or emailing someone, there’s a fine line between pleasant persistence and outright stalking.

I’ve written about turning rejection into opportunity and the importance of handling such situations well. I’ve experienced something similar with women I have dated when things didn’t work out (sometimes their choice, sometimes mine). No matter the reason, I’ve subsequently been set up by many exes with their friends because they considered me a “good guy.” That’s exactly how I met my wife, Jill.

In interviewing, just like in dating, you spend a good amount of time and effort in building up a connection—possibly a relationship—with another person. To throw all that away because you aren’t chosen for a job is a really bad choice. Just like we rely on our friends’ suggestions and opinions when making decision, so works the hiring process. And, in this highly competitive market, having former interviewers out there spreading the good word about you is only going to make finding the right job that much easier.

Comments, thoughts or great dating/interview analogies? Please share them below!

Image: Brandon Warren

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What I Learned About Interviewing From Dating

37 Responses

  1. Thank you for the post. I wholeheartedly believe in the analogy. When I started recruiting, I tried to decide how to classify myself. It felt a little bit like sales, a little bit like telemarketing, and a little bit like being a job coach, but what I decided was closest was really a matchmaker — just one matching job seekers and employers rather than men and women.

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  2. Kevin, I so enjoyed your analogy. I’m sitting here laughing while I’m reading it because I so whole-heartedly agree with it!

    My dating/interviewing tips based on experience:

    1. If you show up with the only desire to be liked and approved of then your focus on is on them/him, being and doing for them/him, and not once do you think of what’s right for you. You do this because somewhere, somehow, you got the notion that the answer is to be a chameleon, thinking you’ll fit in anywhere and with anyone. You figure you’d bag more interviews/dates that way, but, the truth is, you end up flat on your face alone and feeling unwanted. And that starts the whole cycle again. Like a rerun of a bad date movie. Then one day, you wake up and realize that they ‘rejected’ you because they were unable to get any sense of you. You were too busy trying to dodge yourself.
    2. If you show up knowing who you are – talents, skills, warts and all – your essence comes across. Your genuine essence. They don’t mind the warts – when you’re genuine. THAT, they can sink their teeth into. And that’s when the manager wants you to meet his cohorts and when your blind date asks when you’re free to get together again. At the outset, it crosses your mind that finding a right match is a far shot because you’re presenting yourself as unique, unlike the masses. And then, you’re surprised by the interest he has in you. And, why would you be? Being centered and in the moment makes others feel the chemistry if it exists – but at the very least, makes others feel accepted and open. At that point, the interviewer offers a tour of the place and tells you where the best cafe is for lunch breaks and where the secret covered garage is when the winter storms arrive. And at the same time, as dinner comes to a close, he asks if you want another glass of wine. They both make the encounter linger on….

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  3. I agree; there is a lot of synergy. One thing that I have learned, in dating and interviewing, is that being an early loser is a good thing. If there is no chemistry or no fit between the parties, it is better to cut your losses and move on. When you lose early, you don’t lose much.

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  4. This is an excellent piece, Kevin. The analogy is so sensible and easy to relate to in preparing for an interview. I also agree with the previous comments and have learned to cut my losses. When a CEO stood me up twice for a meeting (very busy, busy, busy!), I wondered what he would be like if we “married” and decided we needed to divorce before we walked down the aisle! Again, a down-to-earth great article. Thank you!

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  5. Excellent analogy… the philosophy that I have been hearing a lot lately is to approach an interview not so much that you are selling yourself, but that you are educating the interviewer about what you have to offer. This takes the focus off of re-hashing your resume and puts the focus on applying your abilities to their needs.

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  6. Kevin, I like very much your analogies. How true! I am also a Career Coach and when I work with my clients helping them with the “art of salary negotiation” I ask them to recall the time when they were in their teens and they “fell in love” with a boy or girl in their class. At that point the person they fell in love with could do no wrong. Right?
    I tell them that until the moment the company falls in love with the candidate, the candidate has no negotiation power. However, once they reached that stage in their relationship the company would not want to go back to square one (remember the Monopoly game) so at that point they are ready to trade.

  7. Nice comparison of interviewing to dating. Sometimes an interview feels more like an inquisition or an execution. On some dates the execution does not feel like it will come soon enough; at least that is what my dates told me.
    It would be helpful if the fine line between “eager” and “stalking” were observed. Today too many people are on the stalking side of the line.
    The first interview determines if there is the potential fit. If yes, then we advance to the second step.
    If no, don’t take it personally. Be professional, polite, learn from the experience, and move on.
    Save the ski mask and duck tape for later.

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  8. This is so true! Whether on a date or on a job interview, it’s a process that’s establishing an early relationship, so it’s very important to go in with your eyes open. I think with the length of recent unemployment, interviewees are going in more desperate than they normally would. Ever sit across the table from someone who was desperate? Don’t be that person. Go in understanding it’s as much about them as it is about you.

    In the interviews I’ve had in the last year, the ice really cracked on the second interview and it became obvious to me that they were organizations I had no interest in working for. When the call came that I didn’t get the job for whatever reason, I was relieved; on one of them I was fully prepared to turn down the offer if it came my way. People really tell you a lot if you just listen and pay attention. I’m now in a place that suits me even better than my last job!

    In both career and life, my motto has always been: NEVER SETTLE.

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  9. Kevin: The following statement helps me a lot. “Job seeking is a condition of your employment, not the value you bring and a new addition to a company.” Right. Unemployment is transitory; I am of value.

    Alyse: I appreciate your comments as well. 1) Trying to be a chameleon to fit in and be accepted sounds like something I’ve done a lot. And it hasn’t worked well. 2) By expressing The Essential Me, another person (interviewer, blind date, partner of 7 years, etc) feels seen and heard. Irresistible! It’s something I want in any relationship, and I’m sure everyone else does too.

    OK. So being myself is all I need to do, right? Scary and great.

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  10. This is one of the aspects of sharing these blogs that I love – your feedback. So many great ideas, comments and suggestions being shared openly and freely.

    Bottom line – you guys are great and I am thankful to have you as readers!



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  11. I agree with the dating comparison. I actually wrote a blog last month titled…Career Bliss: Happily Ever Now What?…I start the blog by saying “Trying to find the ideal job is like trying to find the ideal mate” The bottom line it is not one sided. Like your first date, companies are looking for people who are running towards them, not running from something.

  12. networking in itself, can be fun. so if nothing else, enjoy the pleasant experience of the interview process. the job offers will come and go. chances to meet interesting people, seem too few & far between.


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  13. Kevin,

    You translated it right!If the chemistry is missing between two,better to handshake & move-on;In such cases,early losers gain a better advantage..as you haven’t lose much of your effort & energy.

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  14. Nice in theory–but what happens if you can no longer afford to be selective. You really need the job and you may have to ‘settle’ for a not so great match. What about the thought process that goes on there? How can you pull this off especially if you get to an offer and you’re tempted to push for a bit more? How about some tips for those who are constantly being told they are ‘overqualified’ (a great excuse for ‘old’), running out of UI and savings and need to close a deal fast or else? Some of us need to ‘get over’ to pay our bills, you know.

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  15. Kevin, thanks for this blog – GREAT job! I appreciate the newsletters over these many months and this article I palled along to my Career Networking news groups via Tweeter, LI and Yahoo!
    Best Wishes, Jayne

  16. Kevin — great post! I like the analogy. The simplicity of it makes great sense. I hear a bit of what Donald is saying, but I can say from my most recent experience that – yes, there was desperation – a rush “to the altar” will inevitably backfire. So, to circumvent this is to keep dating and not stop the pursuit for a better match.

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  17. I agree with most of all the comments and well thought out responses. There is a lot of empathy amongst the respondents. My summation is 4 words:
    Mutually Realistic Expectations
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  18. I agree. I hired an Assistant Controller away from our sister hospital. I had three finalists and recommended one of them to our sister hospital. He ended up getting hired for their vacant position. A suggestion for some above. I am pursuing several teaching opportunities in my time off. I have one from the school that I received my masters from which starts soon. I am also in the training process with the University of Phoenix. Who knows, maybe once I get some experience, it could be something that I pursue full-time. Something like Phoenix requires a 5 week committment and if you do online teaching, it can be done anywhere. So, you would be free to continue pursuing interviews.

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  19. Great post, but I feel you left out one important point, full disclosure. You don’t wait until after you are engaged or married to tell your partner about your $40,000 credit card debt or about the kid you somehow failed to mention during the courtship. Same thing with your job search. You don’t wait until there is an offer to disclose the felony conviction from last year or bankruptcy. You don’t wait until you have started the new job to tell your boss about the three week cruise to the Mediterranean. In both instances, you have to be a good judge of when to share the appropriate information, but if you wait until commitment time, it is too late.

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    • @Ken – Great point! This cuts both ways for the new employee as well as the employer.

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  20. I so pleased to see this blog post, Kevin. I forever tell my clients at the one-stop career center that job seeking is like attending a party where you might meet new friends (all the while thinking of it like dating). I try to stay neutral in my verbiage because some clients take offense to such “personal” comments as referencing dating. I’d like to just add one more thought to your excellent comments. Appearance matters. I tell clients that just as at a party/on a date, they wouldn’t show up having not showered wearing soiled clothes, so too, must they keep that in mind when interviewing. Dress to impress. Furthermore, I say, since the resume is the first introduction, they must think of it as their “person on paper” and similarly not show up unwashed (improperly formatted) with soiled clothes (spelling, grammar, punctuation errors, etc.). Cheers!

    • @Daphne – Great points! One comment I’d make is that while the resume can be the first introduction it’s not the most effective. Following the “dating analogy,” being referred in by a current or former colleague is much like being set up by a friend. They can answer the “why him/her?” question much more effectively than a document that self-promotes. Consumers make purchasing decisions 80%+ of the time based on personal referrals and recommendations. This level of influence holds true when it comes to catalysts for interviews too.

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  21. When attempting to compare dating with a project; although it is unique, remember there are a lot of Scope Creeps out there.

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  22. You can certainly see your skills within the paintings you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.

  23. This is very attention-grabbing, You’re an overly professional blogger. I have joined your rss feed and stay up for seeking extra of your fantastic post. Additionally, I have shared your web site in my social networks

  24. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am inspired! Very helpful information specially the ultimate phase 🙂 I take care of such info much. I used to be looking for this particular info for a very lengthy time. Thank you and good luck.

  25. I never thought of dating & job interviewing the same. Kevin you put it into perspective for me. Thanks.

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  26. I’ve been browsing on-line greater than three hours these days, yet I by no means found any fascinating article like yours. It’s lovely worth sufficient for me. In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made just right content material as you did, the web shall be much more useful than ever before.

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  27. Very Nice Post! It is really very inspiring. Thanks for the share. Your blog post really provide helpful and useful tips to everyone. Keep it up! 😉

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  28. This is my favorite analogy my dad (also in HR) taught me during my initial job search! What better way to get through to a hopeless romantic girl in her 20s?! It even led to starting my blog: Recruiting a Good Man: http://recruitingagoodman.blogspot.com/
    Admittedly, I’m new to both dating and recruiting, but I love learning about both!

    Lauren at #
  29. Who knew interviews were like dating? http://t.co/8OnSFtIqrr

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