I’ve read countless articles on why a job interview is like a date. I don’t even know why I read them. We all know why a job interview is like a first date: because you want to make a great impression. It’s true that you research and prepare for each one, but I’ve researched and prepared for purchasing a washing machine, and nobody likens a washing machine purchase to a first date.
So let me tell you the ways in which a job interview is not like a first date. I could write about why a date is not like a job interview, but this is a professional blog, so we will stick to our professional skills.
The first and foremost way in which a job interview is not like a date is that in every single job interview you go to, your goal is to be offered the job. Yes. One goal. Get the job. People often forget this. At some point in the interview, or often even before the interview, the person decides they don’t want the job. At that moment, they are not at their best in the interview.
You might ask, “but what if I don’t want the job?” If you don’t want the job, turn it down after it is offered to you. You get a backup plan, you improve your interview skills, and you make a good impression on people you may meet again in the future.
On a date, if you find the person is totally not your type, the goal is no longer to get a second date. The goal is to extricate yourself from the situation as quickly as possible while honoring the person who has made the effort to go on a date with you. This might involve being completely honest and saying “You know, we really are looking for different things in a relationship,” and if they agree, ending it then and there. Never say that in a job interview.
On a job interview, you ask questions about the company and the job to make a good impression and show them that you did some research. On a date, you ask questions because you genuinely want to know, either because you care about the person or about the topic.
More to the point, if you Google “why is a job interview like a first date?”, you’ll find that the 5th search result is the question “Why do some guys treat a first date like a job interview?” In other words, it is completely acceptable in a job interview for an employer to grill you on every kind of difficult question and even act nasty or indifferent just to see how you deal with pressure. It’s not particularly good policy to make people feel uncomfortable in job interviews, however, it is acceptable. It is expected that a job interview will resemble a test. If your first date resembles a test, the chances of a second date are quite slim indeed.
On the flip side, on a job interview you will be concerned with answering the questions “correctly”. Correctly doesn’t just mean you give an accurate picture of yourself. It means you answer the questions in a way that addresses the concerns of the company asking the question. If they give a job description that requires a high level of organization, you need to either say you can handle it, are willing to get training in it, or are great at delegating it. You can’t say “yeah, that’s a problem with me.” If you are on a date, and the person says they are a neat freak and you love chaos, you probably want to mention it before you invite them to come up for a drink.
And on the topic of references: “Well, this has been a fun evening, but before I take you home, do you mind if I call your last 3 girlfriends for a reference?” Can you imagine if you had a LinkedIn equivalent for dating? Before I’d even call you in, I could find out who you’d done and see if they provided a recommendation. “Hmm, well, you seem to have quite a bit of experience, but I see you don’t stick with any one partner for more than 6 months. Can you tell me a bit more about why you left your last girlfriend?”
Of course, the most important difference between a date and a job interview is that I am great at job interviews and mediocre at dating. It’s all about the marketing. When a guy turns me down for a date, I don’t say “I see that you aren’t in need of a date right now. Could I call you back in 6 months? Who else could I call who might be interested in what I have to offer?”
For dating, I don’t have a web site, blog or twitter account to pontificate my great knowledge of the subject. After an amazingly successful date, the person doesn’t “like” it on Facebook. Nobody writes me up at glassdoor.com or Upwork to give me 4 stars (thankfully, because that would be a totally different profession). When a relationship is going great, the guy never calls up his other single friends and says “Hey, I am dating this great lady! If you are looking for a wonderful girlfriend, let me give you her number.” Even female friends don’t refer you to extraneous dates. “Listen, I’m overbooked with dates, would you be interested in taking a few of them for me?” or “This one isn’t right for me, so I thought I’d pass on the lead to you.”
Finally, at the end of a great job interview, a warm smile and handshake are all you can expect. And at the end of a successful ongoing dating experience, a contract involving sums of money is the last thing you want.