The online dating approach to recruiting
Although there are plenty of substantive differences between dating and recruiting, there is also plenty for recruiters and job seekers to learn from the efficiencies that online technology has brought to the dating marketplace over the last two decades. Below you’ll find a list of best practices from the online dating world that job seekers can adapt for their talent search processes.
1) Play the numbers game
The logic here is pretty straightforward: the more people you meet, the more people you’ll meet that you’re interested in. For instance, one of the many appeals of Tinder in particular lies in its ability to let users quickly and effectively view and filter a large pool of relevant candidates, and to let users be viewed in the same way by others. Whereas single people 20 years ago might have been lucky to encounter one or two people a week that romantically interested them, today’s singles are able to find dozens each day and to engage with the best matches of this group almost instantaneously. And again the end result of this process is not simply more web-based communication; it’s more real-life dates and in-person interactions that more often lead to second dates and even eventually to marriage.
For MBAs looking for job or internships, playing the numbers game means finding ways to easily and effectively get your personal brand in front of more recruiters. There are lots of traditional ways to do that – company briefings, career conferences, resume books – but newer platforms like LinkedIn (or RelishCareers) let you do it at scale both passively (through your inclusion in recruiter searches) and actively (through digital engagement with companies and recruiters). Ideally, just as with dating sites, these platforms offer significantly expanded access and exposure with a minimum investment of time.
2) Present your best self
In an open marketplace like dating (or recruiting), it’s impossible to overstate the importance of first impressions. When there are thousands of eligible candidates looking for a match, searchers understandably look for any reason to narrow their focus – which means bad first impressions are often final impressions. But unlike the real world, online dating provides an opportunity to present a coherent and full picture of yourself that’s easily accessible to people whenever and wherever they’re looking. That means you can curate that image to make the best possible first impression, and appeal directly to what you know about your audience (the same way that consumer products companies manage their billion-dollar brands).
This sort of curation can have both good and bad sides. There’s nothing worse for an online dater than being tricked into a date by a misleading or dishonest profile; it’s a waste of time for everyone involved and eliminates any chance of a real relationship, even if the two parties could have been a good match without the deception. Those inclined towards dishonesty are not only doing a disservice to themselves – they’re also missing one of the biggest advantages of online dating. Their huge scale and the commensurately immense efficiency of their matchmaking processes make it possible for people of all shapes and personality types, no matter how strange or unorthodox, to find their special someone without the need for misrepresentation.
In any case, it’s important to remember that being your best self means still being yourself. But digital profiles are increasingly the way in which we make our first impressions, and having a carefully considered and authentic message to present through that profile is a huge advantage in a crowded and competitive marketplace. When people are going to find you online anyway, you might as well make sure to put your best foot forward.
3) Form a hypothesis, then test it
The scenario depicted above of the online dating trickster is a rare one, but unsuccessful first dates are more often the result of a lack of in-person chemistry. By the time most students are entering their MBA programs, they’ve likely been on at least a few failed dates themselves. They are the inevitable side effect of the dating process, but they’re not necessarily a sign of failure: dates happen in order to test an initial hypothesis that two people would enjoy spending time together, and a bad date is simply a negative response to that test. This thinking doesn’t quite capture the awkwardness of going out with someone you don’t quite click with, but it’s useful in illustrating another way that online dating optimizes the dating market: it automatically creates a huge amount of hypothetical matches and lets users more effectively choose how to spend their (increasingly scarce and precious) time. When you’re not spending as much of your social time trying to find a date (forming hypotheses), you can spend more of it actually going on dates (testing hypotheses).
In this way, using technology to source and filter candidates is a more reasonable (and scientific) way to approach matchmaking. Unfortunately, MBA recruiting still depends so heavily on in-person interactions for sourcing and filtering that there is less time for in-person engagement. With a few hours or even minutes of online research and engagement, and some serious thought about what you’re looking for and what firms might offer it, you can develop a thoughtful list of hypothetical recruiting matches, and ensure that your facetime with recruiters in the fall and spring is more targeted, more substantive, and more successful.
Zach Mayo is the chief operating officer of RelishCareers, the marketplace for MBA hiring. Available to incoming students from network schools, RelishCareers gives candidates early access to employer branding and MBA-specific career opportunities http://www.relishcareers.com/ before the hectic pace of first year MBA life begins in the fall. Admitted MBAs who sign-up for before the end of May get a sneak peek at featured company content aimed at this year’s recruiting class.
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