Thursday, July 30, 2009

You’re Hired – Part II

Ok, Part I is out of the way. We’ve gotten past the basics and you’ve made yourself an exemplary exhibit of pre-date preparation (trimmed nose hairs, ironed shirt, manicured nails, etc.). The real heart of this “laissez-faire” dating vs. “interview approach” debate now is over whether there should be strategy used in going to the date, i.e. thought-out choice of topics, subtle self promotion, well-planned time management, etc.

As previously discussed, there are men and women who fashion themselves “practical” people and yet they believe in this notion that you can step into a date and say anything that comes into your mind and it should be fine (I myself will admit to having done the aforementioned in the past – it is not a good idea). These romantics (though they would never see themselves that way) posit “why should you monitor yourself? why should you be so calculating in choice of topics and answers?” This is who YOU are after all.

But is there really virtue in complete transparency at such an early stage of the dating ritual? Let’s revisit the “interview approach” ...

We all know that one cardinal rule of interviewing is that you NEVER bad mouth your prior employer. Even the dullest of light bulbs out there knows that this is not a great idea if you are expecting to get hired.

So, why is it that when it comes to dating, some otherwise bright light bulbs think it’s totally appropriate to air one’s dirty laundry to a stranger – ok – maybe by the time the smelly socks are on the table you’ve spent 2 or 3 hours together. However, this person is still a virtual stranger who doesn’t know you well enough to find your quirks, insecurities, and flaws loveable – or, at least, excusable.

At the risk of sounding too “self-helpish,", a few examples can be thrown out to debunk the “laissez faire” theory. Here goes…

Spin City

Let's think about one discussing his or her prior dating life like discussing a resume. If a prospective employer scanned your Work Experience painstakingly described in your CV and asked “how did you enjoy working at Smith and Smith LLP?,” would you respond:

“It sucked, that’s why I left.”
“I swear to God, my boss was such an *%!$#* and we butted heads all the time.”
“I slept with my supervisor and then things just got awkward…”

Obviously not.

We are back to the basic interview rule about putting a positive spin on a job you hated ( was a great job, but after a while I felt I was ready to do a different type of work.”). We all know that after 2 years in an office where you are highly regarded you can then reveal to your now boss/friend that you in fact hated your prior employer – at this point, he or she knows you and appreciates that you are a solid worker who is good at what you do – you see, your current employer knows you well enough to see that it was clearly your old employer’s issue.

So why would an otherwise sexy, savvy vixen proceed to explain to her eager suitor how her ex hurt her to such an extent that she now has serious trust issues (read: baggage). Why would someone advertise on a first date that she was cheated on by her ex (possibly prompting someone to wonder why did this ex stray)? Why would you tell the sweet woman across the table that your ex girlfriend of five years was a shallow gold digger (prompting one to wonder what makes you a person who would be attracted to such an unlikable soul).

Years ago, I politely asked someone I was on a date with about his divorce. That was it – a whole can of worms poured out into my gnocchi with pomodoro sauce. Forty-five minutes later, we were onto another topic and I was thoroughly turned off (it didn’t help that he repeatedly mentioned how much money he was forced to give her throughout the conversation -- in a precise dollar amount. Another news flash to men: to the right girl, talking about how much money you have on a first date is not a turn on. It betrays major insecurity.

Brought to its essence a date boils down to the fact that the person across the table is judging you on limited information in a limited timeframe. When you think about it in interview lingo, what information do you want to get across? Is it the fact that you hate your ex or that you go to the Met regularly and have even taken a few drawing classes yourself?


Ok, I raise one more example re: that age old ridiculous interview question …

“What is your biggest weakness?”

Possible answers:

“I am lazy. I really don’t like to work that much.”
“Everyone I work with usually hates me – I tend to be an arrogant jackass.”
“I’m not very good at what I do.”

I thinkest not. You come up with some benign answer that we all know is b.s. (“I can sometimes be too detail oriented”) but which shows that you’ve duly prepared for being asked this question and move on. Standard interview protocol.

So why do hopeful daters reveal to their equally hopefully counterparts their true “weaknesses” about which they are terribly insecure. Prime example, women disclosing on first dates that they need to lose weight – finally, men, a news flash for the women: discussing your insecurities about your body on your first date is a major turn off. Men like confident women. Ladies, telling your date how all of the other bridesmaids in your best friend’s wedding party are sizes 2s and 4s and you’re a size 6 - not gonna get you hired. That’s talk you save for drinks with your girlfriends. Think of a guy telling you he got a crappy bonus at work and his dog hates him – uh, check please.

You’re Hired Part III?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

You’re Hired! Part I

Recently I was enjoying coffee with some friends when the conversation turned to dating (no surprise there!) In this round table Saturday morning discussion, I made the analogy of dating being like interviewing and remarked that most people could benefit from looking at it in this light, i.e. preparing for a date with the intention of making the best first impression possible and utilizing the hour/two hour time slot often allocated to a blind date to – subtly – let people know what makes you interesting and why you’re a good catch.

Quickly, the table divided itself into two schools of thought. One school of thought I have termed the “laissez faire” approach to dating which essentially represents the mindset that one should just be one’s self on a date with no effort to “self-promote” or hone one’s “dating skills.” The other I will call the “interview approach”, the implications of which my savvy readers can clearly divine.

As you can imagine, those in the “laissez faire” camp had much to say:

“People should just be themselves...”
“Eventually the real you has to come out so why not start with date one…”
“When it’s right, it’s right and you shouldn’t have to be strategic with people. You should talk about and do whatever comes naturally...”

and so on...

However, before you, dear Reader, shake your head too vigorously in agreement with the above, please pause for a moment and imagine a situation where you are unemployed and have a promising job interview.

If you really wanted the job, no doubt you would pick out your best interview suit the night before, no? You would make sure you got to bed early (no boozing) and triple check your alarm. You would leave plenty of time to get to your hopeful future employer’s office a few minutes early. And before you entered the office you might even look in the elevator mirror to make sure there are no poppy seeds stuck in your teeth from the roll you inhaled on the sidewalk.

And that’s just the half of it. Ok, you’re immaculately coiffed and on time. You don’t then just sit back with your arms crossed, feet up on the Senior VP’s desk and say “No need to do this interview-thing – trust me, I’m good. You can just give me the job right now.”

Clearly not … rather, you tune into your best self, smile confidently and let that person across the desk know – without seeming arrogant or salesperson like – why you’re the right person for the job. This is an absolutely required part of the process because this partner, vp, supervisor, etc. doesn’t know you at all and ... as you are well aware ... there are other qualified people competing for the position.

Maybe you’re thinking “but this is dating, this is potential LOVE, these things can’t be equated to a sterile interview setting.” Ok, if you walk out of the date proclaiming that references are available upon request, you’ve taken the analogy a bit too far - it is the general “interview” mindset that I am promoting.

As we are only on Part I of "You’re Hired!," I will start with just a few examples of poor “pre-interview” preparation. Let’s start with men showing up to a date in a wrinkled shirt which makes them look like they just rolled out of bed. These men wouldn’t wear a stained tie to an interview but for some reason they have no problem looking like a schlub on a date for brunch or coffee. News flash to men: while women are forgiving on a lot of fronts, they do like to feel that you are excited about your date. Being dressed well for your date makes women feel special. And, men, if that’s not reason enough to don your best and take two minutes to iron, you should know that women REALLY appreciate men who know how to dress (read: chances are you will do far better at the end of the night).

Rhetorical question: Would you announce to your prospective employer “God, I’m so hung over – was out partying until 3am – hey, can your assistant get me some more coffee?” Of course not. And yet there are clueless guys - yes, it’s usually the men – telling women on dates precisely that. For starters, if the man actually cares about making a good impression upon the woman he's meeting the next morning (yes, I'm referring to brunches here), he makes sure to get to bed at a decent hour. But even if he couldn’t bring himself to depart early from the festivities the night before, announcing his hangover sends a very clear message about not being qualified for the job (partyer, alcoholic, player…) No call back for this one.

And the tidbit I mentioned regarding stopping to take a quick look in the elevator mirror before the interview to make sure there are no unsavory items left in your teeth? Well, that applies to dates too. I have had one person report back to me that her date had that oh so awful icky white stuff around the corners of his mouth (where does that come from anyway?) Undeniably, not a good impression to make.

And while on the topic of basic hygiene, I have to announce to the public at large – I have seen single men and women with nose hair protruding so badly I want to take out a scissor and pass it across the bar and whisper imploringly “trim that, please – you would do so much better!

Let’s consider punctuality now. Just think for a minute about how you would feel if you were running late for an interview for the job of your dreams – you would beat yourself up recognizing that your chances of getting the job are going down exponentially with every minute you are late (unless of course you can claim some major calamity on the subway which will likely save your sorry late behind). Even the tardiest among us makes it a point to be on time for a job interview. People would be well served to apply that same critical emphasis on punctuality to the dating arena as a good number of people consider lateness the height of rudeness and being late is likely to create an immediately bad first impression. Though, I hate to say that there is still a double standard in play here – women can be slightly fashionably late but a guy who shows up late to a date – points lost from the onset (of course, they can be made up in other ways...)

A lesson from Dating 101: someone who’s on time, nicely dressed, groomed well, rested and shows up with a smile on his or her face conveys that he or she is serious and excited to meet the other person. No doubt a good start to a process that can have so many other challenges.

And I haven’t even gotten to the actual substance of the “interview”… much to say in Part II!