[Editor's note: If you recently lost your job, take a look at Wise Bread's collection of tips and resources for the recently laid off.]
How is a job search like a romantic adventure or misadventure? Let me count the ways: nine. If you’ve ever wondered how to tell if a company is truly interested or just isn’t into you, here are clues on interpreting the signals.
A. You get a call within 24 hours of submitting your résumé.
B. You hear nothing and don’t even receive an acknowledgement that the company received your résumé.
Romantic Equivalent: He’ll call very soon after your first meeting if he’s interested.
A. You think the interview went fabulously and you’re already scheduled for a follow-up meeting.
B. You think the interview went fabulously and the company promised to call you by next Wednesday. Now it’s Friday and you’ve heard nothing.
Romantic Equivalent: You think the first date went very well (according to my recruiter friends, all position candidates think the interview went well, often contrary to the company’s opinion). But was she really fascinated by your cross-country, year-long kayaking trip and did she adore your sense of humor or did she find the way you buttered your bread irritating and your laugh annoying? If you have a second date lined up already, she is intrigued and wants to know more; but if she is avoiding your calls, she’s probably not interested.
A. Your qualifications, professional approach, and leadership style are a great fit for the job and the company.
B. You have some but not all of the qualifications required by the position.
Romantic Equivalent: You are the person he’s been hoping to meet for a long time; he didn’t realize that someone like you even existed but now that you’ve appeared, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep you happy.
Or, you might be okay but you’re not exactly what he’s looking for; if you were blonder, taller, thinner (or had a master’s degree in logistics, spent 10 years managing an overseas office, and speak English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese rather than just English and Mandarin Chinese), you’d probably be perfect.
A. You’ve had meetings with your potential colleagues and staff.
B. The group interview was nerve-wracking and you weren’t sure exactly who you were supposed to be directing your comments to but you think everything went okay.
Romantic Equivalent: She is ready to commit to you whether her dysfunctional family agrees with her decision or not.
Or, her commitment will be dependent on what her friends think about you.
A. The company runs a credit check, confirming that you are a responsible person.
B. Your credit rating reveals that you have not been fiscally responsible.
Romantic Equivalent: He wants to make sure you are financially solvent (or on your way to being financially solvent) before making a commitment. How you manage money is a good indicator of how you manage your life.
A. You can easily get time off to go to your kids’ baseball games.
B. The job requires working every weekend, no exceptions.
Romantic Equivalent: There are more conditions on the relationship than you’d like. It seems to you that the annual weekend away with the girls or spending every other holiday with your parents is reasonable, so why doesn’t he think so?
A. The company can’t afford to match your salary from your now-bankrupt employer but has a great healthcare plan, pays large performance-based bonuses, and rarely asks you to work more than 45 hours per week.
B. The company thinks you are greedy when you share your salary expectations.
Romantic Equivalent: He wants the best for you within his budget.
Or, he wants to go out with you as long as it doesn’t cost him much in time or money or lost opportunities with friends or other potential alliances.
A. An offer is structured and extended within a couple of weeks of your first meeting.
B. There is talk of an offer but it’s been several weeks and nothing has materialized.
Romantic Equivalent: If you are the one she wants to spend the rest of her life with, you will know within a reasonable time.
Or, if things seem to be headed for a long-term arrangement but stop short of a commitment (or starting date), then maybe you two just weren’t meant for each other.
A. You are offered the opportunity to start a new office in London or Hong Kong.
B. If you don’t relocate, you’ll lose your job.
Romantic Equivalent: He’d like to relocate as long as you’ll be with him.
Or, he'll let you go if it means moving.
But, there is at least one job-search rule that deviates from romantic ones: PLAY THE FIELD. Don’t wait around to get a definitive answer from Company X before you start pursuing Company Y or entertaining offers from Company Z (unless you have signed a contract saying otherwise).
Hiring managers don’t call when they say they will. Calling once to check with a potential employer is reasonable but more than a couple of voice mails makes the sanest job-seeker seem like a stalker. Often, there is little you can do to make the employer love you if you’re not the one.
You may realize that you need to earn a professional certification, learn another language, or get a graduate degree to snag that position with your ideal company. But be sure that you are pursuing improvements for yourself, not for a fickle employer. I hope you find your perfect match.