I have an art degree, so the fact that I’ve spent more of my non-college adult life job hunting than actually working should surprise no one. In fact, the jobs I’ve had were all earned almost entirely with self-taught skills. The point is…I’m no stranger to unemployment, which means I’m no stranger to rejection in the professional world. I’m an American male, which means I’m also no stranger to rejection in the dating world. In Raymond voice this Valentine’s Day article outlines the similarities between job hunting and dating from the male perspective, though most, if not, all of these also apply to women who are actively dating and/or job hunting.
1. Getting there first is one of the most important factors of success.
I went on ten or so dates last year and nearly all revealed at one point or another that they were seeing someone else. As the guy who always arrived no earlier than second in the pipeline, I never got a second date since things often “get serious” with the first guy before the second has a chance to escalate the relationship. In fact, one dating app connection canceled a date with me because she began seeing someone else and they became exclusive before I ever had a shot.
Recently a major tech company phone screened me for an open graphic designer position. The recruiter said “everything looks great” and that he would like to set up a call later in the week with the design director. In between the first call and the scheduled second, the recruiter sends me an email saying the position had been filled.
Years ago a recruiter from a research and development company for a major car brand reached out to me on LinkedIn to fill an open paid internship position. The recruiter told me that both another candidate and I would create design pitches that we would show at each of our respective interviews with the design team. At that time I was still seeking my first full-time career position in the design field so I eagerly spent the entire weekend mocking up a well thought out design pitch. The company interviewed the other candidate first. The recruiter informed me that the first candidate blew them away, so they decided not to interview me.
2. Indirect rejections.
You may have heard “I’m busy that day” in response to asking someone out. You’ve also likely read “even though your background is certainly impressive, we have decided to pursue candidates who more closely fit the position” in response to a job application you completed.
In both dating and job hunting, the rejector usually lets you down kindly and rarely gives you honest feedback. This is not to protect you. This is to protect them from the burden of guilt that comes with rejecting you. Honest feedback is a great gift that would make you a better candidate in the long run.
3. Meeting minimum qualifications only gets you about 1% closer.
You may have heard someone claim to want a partner like you, but just not you. Similarly, you meet or exceed every qualification listed in the job ad but you never hear from the company, or you wait two weeks only to receive one of those “we have decided to pursue other candidates who are more closely aligned to the role” emails.
There are endless possibilities of why you were rejected that have had nothing to do with your skill level. In the social media age recruiters can find out plenty about candidates long before they consider reaching out. This includes how you look, what you write, and how you choose to portray yourself to the world. We often hear about “culture” fit, which basically gives companies infinite subjective reasons to reject candidates since anything can fit under the culture umbrella. You could seamlessly match your ideal partner or employer’s laundry list of qualifications and they can say no because there is just something about you.
4. Scarcity principle.
Have you ever noticed that people seem to like you more when they believe others like you, or they show more outward signs of attraction when they believe others are attracted to you? While I worked full-time at an agency I regularly received LinkedIn messages from recruiters. Now that I’m unemployed recruiters rarely come around. Jobless discrimination exists. In the eyes of recruiters, the most employable people are people who are employed, which is frustrating for unemployed job seekers.
Another example of the scarcity principle is that winning either your dream partner or dream job can seem like an impossible task due to the countless others who express interest in that dream partner or dream job. That dream partner remains perpetually attached. One of the dozens of prospective partners not named you quickly swoops in to fill the void left by the breakup of your dream partner and her/his ex. Similarly, the rare moment the dream position at your dream company opens one of the other hundreds of candidates will swoop in to fill it. If you are unemployed, knowing that that dream job will more than likely be filled by someone currently employed in another position adds insult to injury.
5. Your past is held against you.
This makes too much sense. A person considering dating you will want to know about your past relationships, including what went well and what went wrong. A company considering hiring you will want to know about your past jobs, including what went well and what went wrong. In both cases they want to know if you are more of a solution than a problem since they will invest resources in you, whether emotional or financial.
Whether it is you and your employer, or you and your partner, the farther you two are apart the less likely the relationship will work long term, but for different reasons. Without bothering to research I assume long distance romantic relationships fail much sooner on average than short distance relationships. I also assume that a reverse correlation exists between commute distance and an employee’s tenure at a company.
7. Succeeding is largely luck.
Yes, often you need the basic qualifications just to get into the door, but from a broader perspective luck influenced your circumstances more than anything else. If you don’t believe me then consider the illusion of control. It is a theory named by Ellen Langer, Professor of Psychology, that states that people overestimate their ability to control events. Yes, you developed a game plan and mustered up the courage to ask out your dream partner, but after you complete your task the fate of a possible connection depends solely on your dream partner’s response. Similarly, after applying to a job you have no control over the outcome, which suddenly depends on a recruiter or hiring manager deciding not to throw your résumé into the trash, assuming it makes it through the company’s applicant tracking system software.
The importance of knowing the right people cannot be overstated. I once fell for a woman with a circle of friends who basically only dated men referred by friends within the circle. I had no chance because one of her friends introduced someone else to her. The two dated and eventually married.
I recently read a story about two candidates for a position that required a substantial amount of experience; only one candidate had the experience but the other got the job because she “had the right husband.” Remember that thing about meeting minimum qualifications only getting you about 1% closer to the position? Knowing the right people eliminates a layer of trust you need to build with those you want to win over.
9. It’s a numbers game.
The more people you ask out, the more chances you create to receive a “yes.” The more jobs you apply for, the more chances you create to receive a “yes.” Each of us dreams of the opportunity to put our heart and soul into wooing our ideal romantic partner or employer, but that success is closer to fiction than reality. Truthfully, matches will likely come from simply asking as many different people as possible and desperately hoping one accepts a date or brings you in for an interview.
10. It hurts to continue seeing ads after rejection.
Have you ever been rejected by someone who you later overheard continue to complain about being single? It’s as if that person is indirectly telling you, “I hate being single, but I more so hate the idea of being with you.” This is comparable to receiving the rejection email for a position a company continues to advertise for months thereafter. It’s as if that company is indirectly telling you, “we hate that this position isn’t filled, but we more so hate the idea of giving it to you.”
Sometimes recruiters on LinkedIn will message you claiming you would be the perfect fit for one of their open positions only to ignore your responses to their messages. Similarly, people may flirt with you but ignore you the moment you reciprocate interest, which pretty much sums up my college dating life.
12. The first date is like a job interview.
Each party uses the first face-to-face to decide if the other has problems that can’t be ignored. I probably don’t need to explain this further.
Thanks for getting through this. This list originally had fifteen sections before I eliminated some and combined others. Let me know of other similarities between dating and job hunting. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Edits: I originally titled this, “11 Ways Job Hunting is Like Dating” before uploading the article on February 14, 2017. I added #12 on February 22, 2017.
Originally posted on Medium on February 14, 2017.