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!

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