There’s a great scene in Sex and the City where Charlotte proclaims she’s exhausted with dating. Constantly trying to find “the one” is tiring. And while there’s no real limit on the time we can take to find the right spouse or partner, if you’re a recruiter, you don’t have the luxury of taking your time. The proverbial clock is always ticking. It’s a constant game of matchmaking and starting over again.
Sometimes a good metaphor can be the best training. So when founders, new CEOs or leaders in growing companies toil over hiring, I encourage them to think about it like dating. It makes it easier to understand the struggle, the exhaustion and the hilarity of it all.
Here are five ways recruiting is like dating and the accompanying lessons you can learn.
1. Good looks only get you so far
When you’re across a room or a bar, you need a reason to approach. And attraction is often it. But once the target opens his/her mouth, it could be all over. Or, maybe the good looks carry for a few months before you realize you can’t stand to be in the same company as him/her. Sometimes it takes a little time to figure it out. But when you do, you know it, and you wonder why it took you so long.
Lesson: A great resume doesn’t mean anything without a conversation. Credentials may get your attention but they won’t (and shouldn’t) keep it.
2. A little feedback goes a long way
Ah, the relationship that ends for no reason. Or at least you have no idea what the reason was. A few great dates, flirty conversations and then bam. Suddenly, you get a thanks but no thanks text, email or post-it note with no other explanation. Hours upon of hours of Sunday brunches and girls’ nights are spent discussing the “why” factor. Most of us aren’t interested in begging for a relationship life jacket, we just want to know why.
Lesson: You don’t need to write candidates a long rejection letter, but at least share a snippet of clarity around why they weren’t selected. No one ever wants to swim in an unknown ocean of self-doubt. A quick plunge is easier to recover from and then you can adjust your search strategy next time.
3. You can’t ever have it all…
I’m a well known neat freak. I obsess over the Container Store and am known to often exclaim “everything has its place!” when referring to my home. My husband on the other hand…not so much. But six months into the relationship I decided that didn’t matter. All of the amazing things about him outweighed his inability to have his help his clothes find their way into dresser drawers. It’s not that we don’t find ways to um, manage this drawback, but there are so many other awesome things about him. (And yes, I know. He can hate my neatness too).
Lesson: a long laundry list of must haves in a job description means it might take a long time to find the one. Consider what you’re willing to give up to fill the role sooner rather than later.
4. …but, being specific is always better
Sure you can’t have everything, but having some clarity about what you must have is key, right? If you’re asked “what’s your type?” and your answer is vague, those blind dates are going to have a low success rate. Sure, your roommate can find you a 5’6″ blonde who likes sports. But how does she react in public at the game when the ref makes a bad call? You’ll yell “that’s my girl” or slunk down so no one sees you.
Lesson: Fit is everything. Be clear on the criteria that are non-negotiable and actually influence performance. Do you need someone in your newsroom who can handle pressure. Absolutely. Is it crucial they also have a ten years of experience in the industry? Maybe not.
5. The honeymoon period eventually ends
Ah, the blissful six months when your new infatuation can’t do anything wrong. And then she has a meltdown or you find out about the ex-girlfriend he might still have feelings for or he looks at other guys in a way you had never noticed before. Perfection fades and reality sets in. And how you handle reality is the real test of long-lasting bliss.
Lesson: Everyone is on their best behavior in the beginning–from interview to week one on the job. So ask about a candidate’s worst qualities, how he handled failure or what he thinks of the worst parts of the job he’s applying for. Get the reality on the table up front.
Whether you’re on the market or blissfully settled down, it’s all about information, communication and being clear. You don’t need a self-help book, just a real, honest assessment of what you want and need. And then say it.
We’re the ones that have to save ourselves.
Susan LaMotte is a member of the recruitDC Board of Directors, and the founder of exaqueo. exaqueo is a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.