Interviewing and Dating: The Similarities

Take it from an often-hiring CEO who has stayed single for a while and dates fairly regularly: Dating and interviewing have a lot in common.

Awkward to admit, but true.

  • First impressions matter too much: The location they choose or the state of the office, the first few seconds of the encounter and what you thought of their appearance and demeanor, and whether you liked each other after a little conversation matter more than they should, given that the focus should rest on determining long-term compatibility.

  • Stilted conversation: You want to make each other comfortable, but you need to elicit critical information through slightly intrusive questions that wouldn’t come up in natural conversation. And you’ll never learn enough through a few awkward exchanges.

  • Off-limits topics: Dating and interviewing etiquette (and, with hiring, laws as well) warn us against no-go conversations. Don’t talk about your recent relationships—or ask about his. If she asks what you do for fun, don’t say “video games,” even if true. Don’t confess how much your last boss annoyed you. Don’t ask about his personal life or beliefs.

  • Limited information: You can’t know much about someone or your compatibility with him until you collaborate. Yet with interviewing, as with dating, you must make decisions based on very little data.

  • No test run: Having someone work contract or dating someone casually for a few months would prove the best way to gauge compatibility, but most people want quick commitment.

  • Awkward partings: Saying goodbye at the end of the session feels stilted. Shake hands? Kiss on the cheek? Ask for the job? Ask for another date? Did he like me—and did I like him? How long should I wait for a call before following up?

I’ve actually learned from interviewing about dating—and vice versa. I’ve seen the pitfalls in both setups, and I’ve tried to develop techniques to avoid them, focus on what matters, recognize obfuscations and distractions, and make smarter decisions as a result.

How do you get to what really matters in a date or interview?