Have you ever noticed how closely the job search parallels the dating scene?
Two things recently triggered this comparison in my mind – one, hearing a song from the Wedding Singer musical on the radio and two, a student whose recruitment experience reminded me of what is feels like to be “dumped”. As an aside, “Love Stinks” is The Wedding Singer movie, not the musical. I know this because when two college friends came to visit me (while I was still living in the New York Metro area) this was the show they suggested we see – out of all of the wonderful Broadway classics. Not Phantom, not A Chorus Line, not even Grease (the show I detest the most), but this one. I probably should not even admit this, but the musical was actually really good and some of the tracks are very funny, especially those which conjure up images of New Jersey.
To get us back on topic, I composed a list of the Top 10 Reasons Why the Job Search is Like Dating. I hope they give you a laugh and a good walk down memory lane.
10. You get nervous (and usually sweaty) during the first live meeting
Do you find that your palms sweat when you’re nervous? This is a typical physiological reaction – both in dating and especially in an interview. Within the job context, make sure you have a handkerchief or tissue on hand to combat this. Honestly, few things gross a recruiter out more than a candidate with sweaty palms – yuck! And…you can bet your dating partner won’t be too keen on it either!
9. You’d rather communicate electronically than over the phone
I am pretty sure that it is nearly impossible to contract a communicable disease through the use of telephone, so why are men (sorry, it’s your gender that is usually to blame here) and candidates so terrified of Alexander Graham Bell’s miraculous communication tool. It is easier to pick up the phone and have a conversation (and arrive at an immediate outcome for that matter) rather than to go back and forth over email.
8. What you wear can make a BIG difference
I wish I could teleport those two smooth talkers on What Not to Wear every time I see a student make a professional wardrobe blunder. Dressing for one’s body type is critical, whether it’s for a date or an interview. When I was growing up, my mom would not let us go to the mall until we perused the selection at TJ Maxx and Marshalls. I used to complain incessantly that those stores would not have the embroidered sweatshirts and jeans I wanted from the Limited Too. Now, I can give her credit for teaching me a.) that you can still get fabulous clothes for a great price if you take the time to search and b.) that “designer” (shocking to see what goes for tween designer fashion these days) clothes are not made for every body type. Fortunately, I have a great local friend who also introduced Steinmart into the mix. My mom would be so proud that I found a local bargain-hunting sidekick!
7. When they like you, you know it
I stole this from He’s Just not That Into You. As in most cases, the book was far better than the movie, which was unrealistic and contradictory. Therefore, since that awful movie stole two hours of my life, I have no qualms whatsoever about stealing a key concept from the book. Whether it’s a dating partner or a prospective employer, the level of attention you receive and the time frame in which you receive it are usually indicative of the level of interest in you. If they are not calling (or emailing/texting, whatever) the guy/gal/company IS NOT THAT INTO YOU.
6. The way someone presents him/herself on paper may differ dramatically from the in person presentation
Someone who reports that he or she “likes long romantic walks on the beach” may actually prefer long adrenaline-pumping football games in front of the television with a beer. This could be a real deal breaker. Similarly, a candidate who cannot clearly articulate the accomplishments from his or her resume is unlikely to make it past the career fair booth or an initial round interview.
5. Establishing a connection beyond a social context is critical
We all know someone who met their spouse/significant other in a bar. One of my friends actually met her spouse on spring break while doing a keg stand in Panama City Beach. You can also meet your ideal employer in such a situation, but the key part is establishing a meaningful connection when beer, techno, and bar attire are absent from the scene.
4. Timing is everything
How many stories have you heard that start this way, ‘well if only Beth hadn’t dragged me out to dinner that night I wouldn’t have met Bobby…” It works the same way with the job search. You have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. I continually remind my job-seeking sister-in-law that if she doesn’t apply for an opportunity as soon as it is posted, the job may go to a more eager beaver candidate. Further, if you don’t take advantage of professional networking events you hear about, you may miss the boat on making a great connection. If you stay at home watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns in your sweatpants you have zero chance of meeting Mr. Right (or Ms. Right Job).
3. The on-line search is not enough
In life and in love, you must supplement your on-line research with live networking and personalized follow up. If you apply for positions on-line, it is imperative that you identify a human being (at least one, but identifying multiple humans is better) in the organization to whom you can send your resume and possibly ask them to “put in a good word” for you. You may recall from a previous blog entry that a student I know sent a hard copy resume and customized cover letter with a matching envelope directly to the hiring manager for every role for which he applied. I can hear you groaning behind your computer/phone and saying to yourself, “that seems so time consuming.” Well, so is investing in a relationship, and wouldn’t you rather be with someone who values and appreciates that investment?
2. Parting gracefully is always the way to go
No one likes a scene (unless you’re a member of my crazy family). If an employer chooses not to further pursue your candidacy, it is not appropriate to mail every piece of company literature you collected back to them, leave nasty messages via voice mail or email, or to speak ill of them to everyone in your personal and extended network. While these are extreme cases of sour grapes (that we have all, at one time or another, done to a prospective significant other – don’t lie, you know you have), even mild forms of exhibiting frustration over not being hired are inappropriate. If you receive a regret, send a thank you for the opportunity, ask to stay in touch, and keep any heated venting over your situation to a trusted few. Do not burn down any proverbial bridges!
Drumroll please… #1. Sometimes you get dumped (regretted/rejected) for no reason at all and it STINKS!
How many times have you had to counsel a friend not to call an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend to understand why he/she was dumped? Typically, the reason is either lame, non-existent, and/or not worth knowing. While meaningful feedback from an employer could help you improve the next time around, it is unlikely that you will ever receive said feedback. An interviewer puts his or her organization at risk by sharing specifics about your interview performance. You are better off having a career counselor (shameless plug), friend, or mentor conduct a mock interview with you in order to receive advice on where you need to improve. As in love, when you ask “why” you’re likely to get a vague and unsatisfying answer.
Career Blunder: A student I recently worked with (let’s call him James) participated in a structured internship recruiting process several years ago. All of James’ friends received internship offers and subsequently full-time offers from one particular organization. James did not receive an offer, and has been on a slow search for a full-time gig ever since. James shared that he possessed the same credentials as all of his friends, so he was and I quote “entitled” (yes, actually used the words) to the same job. This conversation drove home the point that sometimes we just don’t know why an employer isn’t “interested in us”. Fortunately, this student’s friends were giving him the same advice I would have given, so I didn’t have to go into a diatribe on why no one is entitled to a job. The point is that companies have personalities just like people do, and in the long run an employer is not attracted to candidate just because he or she looks good on paper. It’s hard not to take things personally in a situation like this, but as in love, you have to let go of the string of emotions and eventually move forward.