By: Katie Robinson, PeopleTech Advisor, HRBP Leader and Executive Coach
In the rapidly transforming work landscape, the employer-employee dynamic continues to take center stage. From new hire to new job search, the employee experience remains a key element of work, life and business success with unique challenges for those navigating the current job market. To shed light on the intricacy of the modern workplace, we at PeopleTech Partners (PTP), a community of over 250 executive People Leaders, aim to share critical insights, best practices, experiences and thought provoking perspectives from PTP Advisors on all things People and HR, fueling the future of work.
So many aspects of our lives have migrated online, including job hunting and dating. While these seem like two entirely different areas of life, they are eerily the same. Sit tight as we walk through the cringe-worthy moments and uncomfortable situations, and explore the bizarre similarities between these two phenomenons. From being ghosted and obsessively checking LinkedIn and networking profiles, to the emotional roller coaster of not being “chosen”, for another date or being offered the job, the parallels between job hunting and dating are undeniable.
It’s been over 10 years since I was in the dating market, filled with dating web sites, random coffee dates, tears about “why didn’t he call me?”, and moments of unabashed excitement over “he might be the one.” It definitely had its ups and downs. Now married and in the middle of a job search, I feel like I’m dating AGAIN. It’s just without the cocktails, romantic dinners, and ahem…. first kisses.
Ghosting: The Enigma of Disappearing Acts
Ghosting is such a common dating phenomenon, it’s laughable. For the lucky few that haven’t had the honor, it’s when someone suddenly stops talking to you with no explanation or closure. Ghosting is deep in our recruiting and job search culture with potential employers, after initial interactions, suddenly going silent or never even responding after you apply, leaving you wondering about your “status”. Please know you’re not alone. According to a recent survey by Greenhouse, 67% of job seekers have been “ghosted” after an interview, never hearing from the employer again. That number increased to 76% for underrepresented job seekers.
Of course there are recruiters and companies who take a different approach. They sometimes seem like the exception not the rule. Just do a quick search on LinkedIn and you’ll see the volume of articles and recommendations for job seekers on navigating this phenomenon. When I’m ghosted it’s annoying and, quite frankly, demoralizing. Many others feel the same. According to Talent Boards global survey of job seekers, there continues to be a spike in candidate resentment, which rates how job-seekers feel after participating in a stage of the recruitment process. While there are a myriad of reasons for being ghosted, self-doubt and feelings of rejection always creep in. It stinks. Coping with ghosting requires some resilience. I’m going to leave my fellow job searchers with a poignant cliche from my dating life that I believe holds true here : “It’s really not you, it’s them.” Keep going my friends!
Website and Profile Lurking: The Rabbit Hole of Endless Scrolling
Fast forward to today and I’m doing the same things I did when I was online dating, but now on LinkedIn! I’m stalking and refreshing job boards, reaching out to recruiters, updating my profiles and resume, and networking. The anticipation of a new opportunity or connection can be all-consuming, leading to my compulsive need to stay on line or up to date. Just as when I was dating, all these efforts can feel counterproductive, anxiety inducing and a bit obsessive. A job search can take an exorbitant amount of time and feel like a full time job. According to Gitnux, the average time to find a job in 2023 is 5 months and it’s been recommended the average person spend 20-30 hours a week on their job search (LinkedIn).
Going back to my dating days, once I set some healthy boundaries and added time for things that sparked joy, made me laugh and kept me active, everything started to fall into place. A few boundaries that have kept me sane during this job search are:
- I limit my time spent on-line job searching/scrolling. I use the “Date Posted” filter on LinkedIn to see job posts from the last 24 hours and I network with search firms and colleagues in my industry.
- I get lots of sleep → It makes me a better, more productive version of myself
- I stay as active as I can during the week. I walk the dog, do yard work, go to the gym, visit friends, and attempt to play pickleball.
- I meet friends for lunch and often have a glass (or 2) of wine. Why not? I’m not going back to the office.
- I end my job search work day by 5:00 and make an effort to take Fridays off
The Awkward First Date: Getting To Know Each Other
Whether it’s a first date or an interview, it’s a nerve-racking experience that can make even the most confident individual break out in a cold sweat. A CNBC article cited that 93% of us experienced anxiety about the job interview. When I was dating, I was waiting anxiously at a café or bar. Now I’m nervously waiting on a Zoom call or sitting in an office waiting room, rehearsing potential conversations, or responses in my head.
In my experience the interview has the same ingredients as a date; the necessary small talk to break the ice and the dreaded “tell me about yourself” question. That question has me thinking, “well, what do you REALLY want to know?” If you’re looking for a short interview, don’t move too fast. According to Indeed, the golden length of time for an in person interview is 45 – 90 minutes. If you’re like me, you will always do the post interview analysis and dissect every interaction, searching for hidden meanings and second-guess every word uttered. Did I make a good impression? Was I too awkward? Should I have made that joke? Given there’s no sure fire way to get into your interviewer’s head, The Muse has some helpful ways to assess the success of your interview.
The next time you find yourself in the awkward first interview, take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. Whether it’s a date or an interview, the awkwardness is universal, and we all stumble through these situations in our own unique ways. We should all continue to prepare for those insightful and sometimes awkward questions asked by recruiters and hiring managers. You can also check out some helpful strategies from Indeed to calm your nerves during the interview. But equally important, is to embrace the hilarity of it all, laugh at ourselves, and remember life is too short to take everything so seriously.
Emotional Roller Coaster: The Trials of Not Being Chosen
The emotional roller coaster of rejection, where job searching and dating intertwine like a hilarious tango! It’s that moment when you realize the person or company you were so excited about isn’t quite as smitten with you. For me the emotions range from sadness, confusion, frustration, resentment and sometimes even relief. Rejection is something we all have to navigate. According to Joblist, the majority of successful job applicants had applied for anywhere from 11 to 15 jobs and received between 6 and 10 rejections.
Given rejection is a normal part of the process, the toughest part for me is navigating the feelings and self doubt that can come with it. If you’re unemployed during the process, there can be the added pressure of needing to do well in the interview to boost your chances of landing a job and a steady paycheck.
Here is the thing, my rational brain knows there’s a lot of reasons for why I wasn’t hired and it’s not a reflection of my inherent value. But it does not stop the feelings of self doubt. Honestly, it takes a toll on my self-esteem and well-being. Digging into the research, the American Psychological Association found that social rejection can influence emotion, cognition and even physical health, highlighting how important self care is during this time. Right now my rejection self care strategy includes sharing high/low job search moments with some super supportive colleagues, drinking wine, writing this article, and spending time with friends. A few additional ideas to consider:
- Explore taking on some contract/consultant work to curb the panic of finding A job vs THE job. Anyone who had a “friends with benefits” arrangement will easily see the dating comparison with this one!
- Check out HackingHR’s recommendations for managing stress, anxiety and burnout during the job search.
Remember, just as in dating, there are plenty of fish in the sea and countless job opportunities waiting to be discovered. So, keep your chin up, laugh at the awkward moments, and embrace the roller coaster ride of rejections. Who knows? The next swipe or interview might be the one that makes your heart skip a beat or jump for joy.
The Honeymoon Period: The Initial Spark and Excitement
Ah, the honeymoon period, where dating and job search collide in a whirlwind of excitement and infatuation! In the world of romance, it’s that blissful phase when everything is sunshine and rainbows, and your love interest can do no wrong. Similarly, during a job search, it’s that initial period when you’re head over heels for a role or company, and everything seems perfect. You’re enchanted by the company culture, thrilled by the work, and convinced you’ve found “the one” among a sea of opportunities.
Like all honeymoons, reality eventually sets in. According to a survey conducted by Muse, 72% of jobseekers say they’ve experienced “shift shock”, that feeling when you start a new job and realize, with either surprise or regret, the position or company is very different from what you were led to believe. Additionally, according to Quantum Workplace, 84% of new hires are considered “highly engaged” and take a nosedive after one year, as optimism and expectations fade. Eventually the quirks and challenges of the job become apparent, and you realize that even the most heavenly experiences have their share of imperfections.
I recommend approaching the job search honeymoon just like the dating honeymoon: keep it in perspective, stay balanced, and avoid making impulsive decisions based on your initial excitement. Having clarity on non-negotiables for the perfect job before beginning the journey can help mitigate buyers’ remorse. And when the initial infatuation fades, remember that relationships, whether with a job or a person, require commitment, understanding, and a sprinkle of playful spontaneity to keep the magic alive!
The job search and dating parallels are there. Ghosting, obsessive profile checking, the awkward first date, the emotional roller coaster of emotions, and the honeymoon period are all part of the journey. A few things to remember:
- There are a myriad of reasons for being ghosted. It’s really not you, it’s them.
- A job search can be a full time job, so set healthy boundaries. Add time for things that spark joy, make you smile, and keep you active.
- Continue preparing for those awkward first interviews. But equally important, embrace the hilarity and humanity of it all and remember life is too short to take everything so seriously.
- There’s a lot of reasons for why you weren’t hired and it’s not a reflection of your inherent value. There are plenty of fish in the sea and countless job opportunities waiting to be discovered. Keep your chin up, and embrace the roller coaster ride of rejections.
- The honeymoon period will end. Be clear on your non-negotiables for the perfect job and when the initial infatuation fades, remember that relationships, whether with a job or a person, require commitment, understanding, and a sprinkle of playful spontaneity to keep the magic alive!
About the Author
Katie has deep expertise guiding business leaders in organizational design, talent development and creating compelling employee experiences. Most recently she was leading Business Partner Teams at Robinhood and is on the hunt for her next big adventure.