10 ways job-searching is like dating

Dating and job hunting have more in common than you might think – from making sure you’re compatible to dealing with rejection!  Here are 10 ways that job-hunting might give you dating déjà-vu.

1. Don’t take the first thing that comes along. When you take a job, you’re signing up to spend every day in this position, with this manager and these coworkers, in this particular culture. This means that you need to think carefully about whether this is the right match for you, asking questions to figure out things like: Is the work well aligned with your strengths? Is the workplace culture one you’ll thrive in or one that will drive you crazy? Is the manager someone you’d want to work with, or is she flaky and disorganized, or an unreasonable tyrant, or a wimp who can’t get things done?

2. Desperation isn’t attractive. Just like in dating, employers want to feel that they’re hiring someone with options, not someone who’s desperate and will take anything offered. And remember, when you’re seeking a job, you’re not asking an employer to do a favor for you; you’re offering something of value yourself (your time and skills).

3. Your interest should be personal, not generic. Your interviewer wants to feel you want this job, not just job, so ask questions and express a genuine interest. If you appear to just be seeking a paycheck, the employer is likely to move on.

4. Remember to ask if you like them, not just if they like you. Sometimes people get so hung up on getting the job offer (or the next date) that they forget to assess whether it’s even compatible with what they want. It’s natural to want to measure up when an interviewer is scrutinizing you. But the wiser goal is to focus on learning whether you’re a mutual match – emphasis on mutual. Again, it’s 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.

5. Don’t badmouth your exes. As temping as it might be to explain that you left your last job because your boss was crazy or that your previous company was mismanaged, sharing these feelings will reflect badly on you. Rightly or wrongly, the convention is that you don’t badmouth a previous employer in an interview, and hiring managers are looking for evidence that you know what is and isn’t appropriate to say in business situations.

6. Be honest about who you are. In a job hunting context, this means being honest about your strengths and weaknesses and giving the hiring manager an understanding of the real you, so that she can make an informed decision about how well you’d do in the job. Otherwise, you risk ending up in a job where you’ll struggle or be unhappy.

7. Keep your ego in check. While it’s important to be able to discuss your strengths, it’s also important to show self-awareness and humility. An oversized ego is a turn-off in any context.

8. First impressions really count. People generally care most about making a good impression at the beginning of a relationship. So if a job candidate or an employer is rude or flaky during the hiring process, it’s probably not going to get any better over time.

9. Don’t be a stalker. One of the hardest lessons for job-seekers to learn is that employers increasingly don’t respond to applicants, even after interviews. While this is rude and inconsiderate, job-seekers need to realize that silence signals lack of interest and move on. Calling repeatedly when your calls aren’t being returned or showing up in person to demand a meeting are as inappropriate in job-hunting as they are in dating.

10. Don’t force a connection that isn’t there. If an employer doesn’t seem interested, accept that the match isn’t right. After all, your goal isn’t just to win a job offer; it’s to land in a job that’s right for you – one where the employer values you.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 22 comments… read them below }

  1. Andy Lester*

    One more: Your job is basically a spouse. You spend more time at the office than you do awake with your real-life spouse, so it makes sense to spend a lot of time considering what your future together will be like.

    1. Jamie*

      This is so true. Ending a temp contract may be like breaking up with someone you’re dating, but leaving a job is similar to a divorce. It can be amicable, or there can be feelings of hurt and betrayal on both sides…and you can’t just stop returning calls until you get the financial settlements straightened out.

      Compatibility is everything.

    1. Anonymous*

      Sorry, phone hit Send early! Make sure your goals are aligned in terms of what both you and the employer want from the “relationship”. Just as if one person wants marriage/kids and the other doesn’t; if you want a job with potential of growth and the position doesn’t fit this, you will end up frustrated.

  2. Diane*

    Do some soul-searching to be really clear about your must-haves and deal-breakers–and know that your list may look quite different from your friend’s.

    I’m curious about AAM readers’ top criteria.

    My top three deal-breakers are bad workspace (cubeland or windowless closets), a culture of incompetence or lax work ethic, bosses who are inconsistent jerks (including no feedback for months, then a verbal execution).

    My top three must-haves are meaningful work where I feel like I’m changing the world for the better, a culture of achievement, and decent people.

    1. sparky629*

      My top 3 deal breakers:
      1. Micromanaging, belittling subordinates, or acceptable general rudeness from bosses and co-workers.
      2. Unprofessionalism. I am OK with a casual environment but I still want everyone to treat this as a JOB not an extension of your home/personal life.
      3. Sorry this may seem harsh but I can not do any work that involves pets (so allergic), children (I have my own and I can’t imagine working with kids all day and then going home to my own), or around food (I served/bartended during college and detested going home everyday smelling like food. It was in my hair, clothes, and car, ugh!!)

      My top 3 must-haves:
      1. Independence and autonomy to work towards the company/department goal.
      2. Opportunities for growth and learning new skills.
      3. No weekend or holiday work. Good work/life balance and health benefits.

      1. Anonymous*

        Absolutely agree with life/work balance! While I can’t stand a lack of work ethic, I also can’t stand an expectation that you work is your reason for life and nothing else exists. If you treat employees well, they will generally work better.

    2. Yup*

      A boss I can’t work with. Bullies, lunatics, etc.
      Lack of admin infrastructure. If I’m getting a vibe that payroll is usually late and the computer network is an old Atari held together with bubblegum, I’ll pass.
      Bad commute. If getting to the interview is like doing an obstacle course, that’s going to be a problem five days a week.

      Must Haves:
      Work I belive in. If I can’t get on board with the big picture, I’ll just be going through the motions.
      A training program or learning options of some kind, both job-specific and general professional.
      Ethics and standards. Doesn’t need to be a credo or anything, just a vibe that people don’t cut corners or work on the edges.

    3. Joey*

      I’ll indulge. It’s been a while since I’ve actually written them down.

      Must haves (my deal breakers are the opposite):
      1. The resources to be able to succeed.
      2. Knowing that I can contribute and will be valued.
      3. A leader that has the balls to do the right thing even when it’s inconvenient.

  3. Joey*

    Aren’t there more?

    Dont be a player.

    If its not working out for you be an adult about it.

    You deserve something good.

  4. Jamie*

    There are significant differences between dating and working, though, which shouldn’t be overlooked:

    1. When choosing between job offers, unlike potential partners, it’s perfectly polite to admit you have other offers on the table and you’re weighing your options. People tend to me touchy about being evaluated so blatantly.

    2. There is nothing wrong with getting paid to work – in fact, it’s kind of the point. Getting paid to “date” is legally murkier – at least in most of the US.

    1. Joey*

      No such thing as cheating on your current job. At least most jobs.

      And it’s okay to get a job with a sister company.

      And frequently your ex will take you back even after you’ve sowed your oats. Your job I mean.

      1. Jamie*


        Also, if you need to go on vacation (take a break) you can get someone else to cover for you on your job, doing all the things you would do if you were there. With a relationship that rarely ends well.

        1. Catherine*

          Lol, I can just see that conversation – “Hey honey, my sister is going to cover for me while I go to this work conference. I’m sure you’ll have fun…”

        2. Joey*


          Can you imagine giving a 2 week notice?

          So is laid off the equivalent of “it wasn’t you it was me?”

      2. Charles*

        “No such thing as cheating on your current job.”

        Yep, go ahead and take a second job; just not a second spouse – that would give a whole new meaning to the term “moonlighting.”

  5. Charles*

    Yep, job searching is like dating; and that is one reason why employers don’t want to hire the unemployed – no one, but, no one wants to be the “rebound” employer!

  6. Anonymous*

    There’s one work comparison I use with online dating all the time in regards to writing profiles. For people who have never hired, do you have any idea how boring it is to look at 200 resumes for the same job? It can be brutal. After a while, it’s like they reused the same resume and just changed the name. With that in mind, can you imagine what a relief it is when a resume is different (in a good way, of course)? Or maybe a cover letter is written in a more casual style that clearly shows their excitement for the job? You automatically stand out, even if you’re a weaker candidate. That’s not saying a weak candidate will get an interview but the first goal is to generate interest. Many of those strong candidates with generic resumes won’t get an interview either because they don’t stand out from the pack.

  7. Vicki*

    My sister brought up this comparison several years ago. Two more difference to keep in mind – most people don’t get married after one or two dates! Yet somehow we expect to be offered and accept a job after one (or two) sets of interviews, then stick with that job for at least a year.

    And yes, people ask crazy questions of each other when they’re dating, but I don;t think anyone’s date has ever asked “What are your weaknesses?”, “How do you manage conflict?” or “How many barners are there in the state of Illinois?”

  8. Job Seeker*

    I do not think job searching is like dating at all. I have been married to the most wonderful man in the world for almost 30 years. When we were dating we had fun together, attraction, similar interest, goals, feeling grateful for each other. We wanted to build a home and family together, had deep religious beliefs. I respect him and want to be with him more than any other person. He brings me happiness just being together. Looking for a job is nothing like that. To look for a job, I just want something that I will hopefully enjoy and be able to stay with. Job looking is wanting something that I can earn money and interact with the public. This is not dating to me.

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