The Hiring Process Is Like Speed Dating and Shotgun Weddings

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For companies, hiring is like going on two dates and asking that person to marry you. Or, for job candidates, saying yes to a marriage proposal after only a couple of dates.

Somehow we’re supposed to know from a couple pieces of paper and 30 minutes or a couple of hours that you’re the one (for both of us, for a couple of years or longer).

The hiring process is simply speed dating culminating in a Vegas-style wedding. 

Yes, those marriages can sometimes work. And it does for a lot of people and companies. But undoubtedly, it’s a frustrating process, with a lot of them ending in bad breakups and bitter divorces.

By the way … no company is immune to this. No one hits 10-for-10 in the speed dating game. Anyone who thinks they’ve got the hiring process down and can pick the perfect fit every time is really a fortune teller on a hot streak who is under the delusion of thinking they are smarter than everybody else.

As an employer, I can tell you it is EXTREMELY nerve wracking, no matter how hard you try to “ask the right questions,” do your research, or read all the right hiring books. You can hit a home run or strike out on any given day (or job candidate).

My COO at iThemes, Matt Danner, tells me I “fall in love fast” in the hiring process. I find someone that I think is a good fit and I see potential — every way they can connect and contribute to our team. But I’ll admit it’s a lot of hunch and I’ve been wrong a number of times (which leads to a shotgun wedding). So I now seek to slow the process down and rely on a number of other people, including Matt who is often our initial “screener” so to speak, to help in the speed dating game of interviewing.

That’s not to say we haven’t done our homework and asked all the key questions and get input and perspectives from several team members before we make an offer to a potential candidate.

We do all that … and each time we learn more about the dating and marriage process of work.

That’s why I say … hiring is an ART more than a science. 

The common advice in the hiring realm for employers is to “Hire slow. Fire fast.”

I hate that advice. It sucks because it oversimplifies a complex and often messy situation. People, circumstances and needs cloud the hiring process, especially in a small business where every person matters. You’re also messing with people’s lives so to say you should fire fast misses a key element.

But I digress.

For the prospective employee, you often don’t get to know who you’re working with until your first day on the job, or even your boss’s style of management until you get that first order of business. (When do you ever get references for a boss!?)

After all, you really don’t get to know a person until you’ve spent a lot of time, working together. Which is why I refer to the whole process as speed dating with possible shotgun wedding implications.

HOWEVER … I think a lot of the Vegas-style wedding part of getting hired could be minimized with some effort on the side of the prospective candidate.

Here are some keys to doing that:

  • Do your own research and ask around — we, prospective employers, do ours … so should you. I’m amazed that more people don’t do their own homework. See what feedback you can get privately yet candidly about the reputation, culture and history of the company (and key managers). This doesn’t mean dig up any dirt you can or contact former (and bitter) employees. It simply means, Google the company and managers and see what you find out. Read their blog, follow them on social media. Ask people (like professors or other connected advisers) who might know about the company what their honest thoughts are about it and the people there. (This is one reason why you need to be on LinkedIn – you can see if you have a potential connection to someone who might know something about a prospective company!)
  • Observe if they’ve done THEIR homework — you also want the company to have done their homework about you. Are they asking questions related to how your expertise and experience can fit the job they are seeking to fill? As a job candidate, I want to make sure I’m not just a fling, but a long-term commitment.
  • Ask good questions — in almost every interview we’ve done we stop and say, “Do you have any questions for us?” Sometimes we’ve done this multiple times to no avail. That’s an open door to ask questions in a respectful, considerate way. Sadly, most people don’t take advantage of it. For us, we learn a lot from just the questions people ask. One question I’d highly suggest you ask in an interview is: What does success in this position look like for you? And I’d ask everyone in the room to answer it in their own words. I would ask them to clarify as much as they can about the job you would be doing, the skills required, the situation …. and simply get to know what THEIR expectations are.
  • Take notes — especially in answer to the question about what success looks like. I also write down names and titles since I often forget those in the midst of the interview frenzy. Not to document the process like a court reporter, but to merely remember the key points you’ve learned about the job to make a solid decision (if they make you an offer). Yes, always, always, always bring a notepad and (working) pen to an interview – even if you don’t write in it!
  • See if you can meet and spend time with your future team — we try to introduce candidates to teams when they are through the first interview or screening process. Lunch or dinner is typically our preferred option for this. Finding the right fit within our company is our number one priority. The wrong fit can truly disrupt a team, culture and company. And trust me, as a new employee, you don’t want to get hitched (aka hired) only to find out you don’t like the stepkids (your new coworkers) or stepdad (the boss).
  • Be yourself — yes, it’s cliche. But you have to try to be your most authentic self, which means you need to show who you are in that interview. As hard as we’ve tried to put candidates at ease in interviews, it’s usually like a blind first date. Everybody is nervous and tense and awkward. And no one wants to talk. So when I say be yourself – seek to be as normal and at ease as you can. This is why I highly suggest going to as many interviews as you can (without wasting people’s time) to learn to be relaxed and yourself.
  • First impressions are sometimes wrong — know that sometimes, your first impressions can and will be wrong. You might misinterpret something. Or you or them just aren’t on your top game that day. You never know what fire they’ve been putting out before you got there.
  • Don’t rush it — even though I don’t love the advice about “hiring slow” you can’t rush the process either … OR let the company do so. Make sure you’re both making the right and deliberate moves toward exploring if each other is a good fit for one another and not just ready to say “I do” after one really good interview. It does take time to find the right job fit.
  • Seek marriage counseling — before you agree to a job, make sure it is indeed the right fit. You’re not necessarily signing away your entire life … but you are making a commitment that could potentially cause a hole, hiccup or gap, in your resume that you’ll have to explain away to a future employer.
  • Followup after the first date — one person we interviewed sent us all separate, handwritten thank you cards mentioning things we discussed. It made a HUGE impression on us and got him a followup interview (and ultimately we hired him). Remember that people are busy, but here are 4 non-annoying ways to followup after an interview from Daily Muse.
With all this in mind, knowing that you’ve done your homework and due diligence will help the whole process feel less like being in that Vegas chapel and more like a well-thought-out commitment between two people who are right for each other.

Make sure you and your prospective employer have the right career values in line when approaching this work marriage … and have taken the necessary steps to ensure ultimate carer happiness that aligns with your life goals and dreams.

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2 thoughts on “The Hiring Process Is Like Speed Dating and Shotgun Weddings”

  1. This really hit home with me. Especially the part about “I find someone that I think is a good fit and I see potential”. Once of my faults in hiring (and life in general) is seeing the potential in a person, without seeing a propensity for not realizing it. This has resulted in more than a few bad hires that never went anywhere.

    As always, great article Cory!

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