Dating and recruiting have many similarities. Interviewing candidates for a critical position can feel a lot like dating. The stakes are certainly high– the right match could change your future in exciting ways. You and your date both want to convey interest without coming on too strong. There’s an extensive selection process and mutual vetting. Losing out on your first choice can feel like a deeply personal rejection. And when everyone else seems happily paired off, it’s natural to wonder, “Will I ever find the one?”

As an executive recruiter, my job is often to play “matchmaker,” bringing top talent together with exceptional companies for a mutually rewarding professional partnership. Along the way, I’ve seen how small missteps during the interview process can jeopardize an otherwise perfect match. In today’s talent-driven market, there’s no room for error. Applying a few basic dating dos and don’ts to the interview process can help hiring managers can put their best foot forward. Here’s how:

Do set the right expectations.

You wouldn’t show up 45 minutes late to a big date and the same goes for interviewing top candidates. Punctuality sends a message that you value the candidate’s time and take him seriously. My colleague Eric McMath calls this the “art of showing well.” It can be as simple as emailing an agenda in advance, promptly greeting a candidate upon arrival, and starting the interview on time. Let the candidate know you’re serious about your future together and the candidate will respond in kind.

Don’t come on too strong too early.

Sometimes you fall head over heels on the first date. But in dating and in hiring, you don’t want to come on too strong to the object of your affection. Top candidates want to work for selective companies and they expect to go through extensive vetting. Make an offer too soon and you may seem desperate. I had a candidate experience something like this recently, and his first thought was, “Is there something wrong with this company? Why are they so eager to hire me after a single interview?” Even when you’re sure a candidate is “the one,” you should still take the time to thoroughly vet the candidate, introduce him to the team, and put together a formal offer package.

Do let a dream date know you’re interested.

The flip side to coming on too strong too early? Moving so slowly through the interview process that candidates wonder if they’ve been “ghosted!” When the match is right, both parties are excited. When one party stalls, it throws cold water on a budding romance and you may lose that feeling of excitement forever. Don’t let this happen to you: if you anticipate a lengthy hiring process, set expectations from day one and give candidates an estimated timetable for when they will hear about next steps. Candidates are interviewing at other companies. If you disappear for a month, they’ll move forward with these opportunities, assuming you’re no longer interested.

Don’t have a mile-long requirement list.

In the world of dating apps, it’s easy to keep swiping through options and adopt a mindset that something better is always out there. This mindset is also a problem I see hiring managers face: they find a candidate they like but want to keep interviewing. Part of the problem is that the hiring manager has a requirement list that’s so extensive it’s impossible for a single person to tick every box. If internal disagreement over the new hire’s role is making it difficult to narrow down this list, start by asking, “What is the main problem this hire will solve? What skills will the hire need to solve this problem?” Then, break these skills down between “required” and “preferred” skills. If you find the “required” list is still too long, a recruiter can help you pare this down and, consider other experience or leadership credentials that may be beneficial to the role.

Do you have any professional “dating” tips to share? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.


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