why a job interview is like a date

I see too many job applicants who approach the interview as if their only goal is to win a job offer, losing sight of the fact that this can land them in the wrong job — a job they won’t enjoy, a job they’ll struggle in, or even a job they might get fired from.

Yes, it’s nerve-wracking to feel scrutinized by an interviewer, and a natural response is to want to measure up. But the wiser goal is to focus on learning whether you’re a mutual match—emphasis on mutual. Think of it like dating: If you approached every date determined to make your date fall for you, you’d miss important cues about whether or not you were right for each other.

This means being honest about your strengths and weaknesses and giving the hiring manager a glimpse of the real you, so she can make an informed decision about how well you’d do in the job. It also means interviewing the interviewer, asking questions to figure out things like: Is the work well aligned with your strengths—your real ones, not the ones you puffed up in your cover letter? Is the environment one you’ll thrive in or one that will drive you over the edge? Is the manager someone you’d want to work with? Or is she flaky and disorganized? An unreasonable tyrant? A wimp who can’t get things done?

If you get offered and accept the job, you’re going to be doing this work with these people, all day, every day. Your goal is to find out if you can do it well and happily—not to get the job at all costs.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report — the first post in my regular column there.

{ 13 comments… read them below }

  1. Evil HR Lady*

    Congrats on the US News gig! And now I don’t feel special for being one of the few who know your real identity.

    I hated dating and job interviews. Let’s just say I’m glad I’m married and employed.

  2. Rachel - Employment File*

    Congrats! What a great opportunity.

    I’m always saying that the recruitment process is like dating. My interviews would be so much nicer if people realized this.

  3. Ask a Manager*

    EHRL, Lisa, and Rachel – Thank you! I’m really excited. (But Rachel, you are supposed to be on vacation. Get offline immediately!)

    E.S. – I know and it’s unnerving! I liked my anonymous cloak!

  4. Dataceptionist*

    WOW knock me over with a feather, I have always thought you were a man. Isn’t that horribly stereotypically minded of me! I suddenly hate my upbringing.

    Conrgats on the new gig, looking forward to reading your stuff there. Will you continue to post here?

  5. Anonymous*

    Congrats, I have been a supporter and reader, first time commenter, since finding you via ALLTOP. These new opportunities show us all that journalism, er, communicating with readers, is an entirely new playing field.
    best, GL HOFFMAN

  6. Anonymous*

    Holy smokes! How sexist of me (as a male) – I also “assumed” the writer of this blog was a male. Wasn’t a conscious decision, just never crossed my mind to think about it. Wow, and I always thought I was so egalitarian!

    Anyway, congratulations on the deal with US News – looking forward to being able to read more of your candid viewponts as well as more feedback from the potentially wider audience as a result.

    Any idea of an easy way to get notified of new posts on their site _just_ from you? (Newsletter link seemed to include everything new – saw the link for RSS Feed but have never tried those and don’t have time at the moment to play with them…)

  7. Ask a Manager*

    Thanks, GL!

    Dataceptionist and Anonymous: I know, isn’t that interesting? A few other people have said the same thing.

    Anonymous, I don’t think there’s a way to get emailed about just my posts at U.S. News, but you can sign up for emails from THIS site, and get emails about all my posts here (which will include links to the U.S. News ones). Just enter your email address in the box toward the top of the right-hand column, and then watch for the verification email you’ll get. And thanks for wanting to!!

  8. HR Wench*

    Congrats! I’m so excited for you!

    You will have to let us know how the whole dropping the anonymity thing goes as well – I think I might be tired of it myself. But I am also trying to find a job right now and I’m kind of mean and full of swear words. This can turn employers off, I hear.

  9. Luciana*

    Great news!
    I enjoy your posts here very much and will make sure to follow your posts in U.S. News too.

    This first one will be really useful as I’m going through the final stages of a recruiting process. Thanks!

  10. Jackie Cameron*

    I don’t know how I feel about knowing what you look like! You dispense such good straight-talking advice but you look so – well – approachable!
    Best wishes for your new branch – TV deal next!

Comments are closed.