Be My Professional Valentine: How Recruitment is Like Dating



What is it that makes one person attracted to another? Is it pheromones, charisma, physical traits? How about similar perceptions of the world, or the excitement of contrast?


Getting this formula right is a huge preoccupation—not only for companies who make money on it, like eHarmony and Tinder, but for individuals in everyday life.


And yet, for all our efforts, attraction remains a tough code to crack. The initial rush soon gives way to more elusive questions of long-term compatibility—and although divorce rates in Australia have declined in recent years, they’re still high enough to beg the question: What part of the attraction equation are we missing?


We’re unlikely to find the answer in a blog post. What we can do is explore parallels between romantic matchmaking and professional recruitment.


After all, finding and hiring the best recruits is another area of great importance—especially in a marketplace where teams need to perform at consistently high levels.

The Brief and the Search


If I were to launch a dating consultancy (not that you should worry), the process would start like this: The “candidate” indicates what they are really looking for in a partner and why. They describe their values, their goals, their drivers, and how they spend free time. And since ideals rarely stand up to the reality of the market, they answer questions about compromise and cooperation.


Once the brief is fine-tuned, the search begins—and it’s not just a question of online profiles. The client and I take a step back and ask ourselves: Where can we find a person like this? Are they in a pub, a club, a bar? Could people in our existing network connect us, or should we expand our network to put ourselves in the better position? Do we advertise on dating sites to deepen our pool of candidates?


Since we can only choose from candidates we’ve assembled, we must be creative at this stage. We must consider all the different nooks and crannies in which the best fish might be hiding, and decide how to bring them into the light.


Interviews, References and Assessments


Now that we have a pool of candidates, the interview process begins. Sure, we could arrange a single meeting and base our decision on gut feeling—but if we want the best chance at a quality match, we’re more likely to take a multiple interview, “assessment centre” approach.


So we arrange dates and test potential partners in a variety of real situations. Everyone is on their best behaviour at first (and we know how easy it is to be on our best behaviour for an hour!)—but as we move through the honeymoon phase, the image being sold is replaced by the realities of coexistence. Armed with the knowledge that past behaviours predict future ones, we develop a realistic idea of where the relationship will go.


Now we look at our own ability to compromise. Where can we happily give ground? Nobody’s perfect, and if we’re going to be successful, we must predict our reaction to specific imperfections over time. In doing so, what we’re really looking for is a “comfort zone” where the head (thinking), heart (feeling) and gut (instinct) all come together. Only then can we confidently say that we have the data we need to make a decision.


Past references and psychological appraisals might be a logical next step to this part of the matchmaking process, but if we cross that line, potential mates are liable to run for the hills. Fortunately, such practices are perfectly acceptable in the professional realm. In fact, they add 20-25% more data toward a final decision. At the very least, they can confirm or deny various conclusions we’ve made about candidates thus far.


Once we’ve compiled all the useful data we can, there’s only one thing left to do: Take a deep breath and drop our proverbial Valentine’s Day card in the mail. The decision-making process can’t go on forever.

Ongoing Feedback


Once a relationship has begun, whether business or personal, feedback is critical to long-term success. In personal relationships, feedback is informal and often unacknowledged. When one partner says things like “you never take the rubbish out” or “you were really thoughtful in visiting my sick mother,” the other doesn’t necessarily take it onboard. Measurable action does not necessarily result.


Business, on the other hand, enjoys the advantage of formal feedback mechanisms, such as regular performance feedback against KPIs. Not only that—if a company uses a recruitment consultant to make a hire, and that hire simply does not work out, a new recruit is provided under guarantee. But if your Valentine’s Day card works and the relationship goes South, what kind of guarantee can you hope for?


The overlap is far from total, but the parallels are fascinating. How we search for a mate has much to teach us about how we recruit and hire new team members.


Is the reverse also true? Probably so—even if it’s not the most romantic idea!


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