Like in dating, for better recruiting, know your deal breakers

Like it or not, recruiting (or finding a job, for that matter) is a lot like dating. Both the employer and the potential employee are looking for a partner – one wants to find someone perfect to fill a role and the other wants a company where he or she will be happy. The employer will likely interview multiple candidates and the job seeker will apply for multiple roles. They do this until they find the perfect fit, but, like with dating, they sometimes compromise and end up in a less-than-perfect relationship. We’ve all been there!

The similarity between hiring and dating struck me again today when I came across a Wall Street Journal article For Better Relationships, Know Your Deal Breakers. I immediately thought, huh, how much easier would recruiting or finding a job be if we all just admitted to ourselves what our absolute deal breakers are?

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Deal Breakers for Job Seekers when Job Hunting

Like most of you reading this post, I’ve had my share of jobs I hated and jobs I loved. There were roles where I couldn’t wait to get out of bed to go to work (like my current job at Search Party, I must add) and there were those that literally made me sick they were so bad. Being the stubborn “fixer” that I am, it took me a while to realise that those bad jobs aren’t worth my energy. Several times I tried to “make it better” not realising that it’s not necessarily fixable – the job and I just weren’t a fit. Clearly, my employer, me or both of us compromised. It’s only after I had that realisation did I start paying attention to my own job deal breakers.

When I sat down to examine my own job searching deal breakers, I got great clarity as to next steps in my career. I made list of the things I loved and loathed about previous companies and bosses, and very clear patterns emerged. The common “happy” theme was working in smaller teams, like in startups, where I had autonomy and could manage my own path. Some of the deal-breakers that made me miserable were: product I can’t relate to, jerks on the leadership team, having to move for a job or siloed company structures. There were others (turns out I’m maybe a bit picky!), but the exercise was huge for my self-awareness and future happiness in my work.

You may think “But Magda, life is about compromises.” That’s what I thought as well until I realised that with all the opportunities out there, there are plenty of jobs that will make me happy where I don’t have to compromise. I gave myself permission to draw a line that I wasn’t willing to cross. Yes, that may mean saying no to some great-on-paper opportunities, but that’s OK as long as it’s because of a true deal breaker. The sense of control it gives you over your own career destiny is worth closing a few (select) doors.

At the end of the day, if you’re working full time, work takes up the biggest (or close to it) portion of your week. Shouldn’t it make you happy, or at least not miserable? I think so.

Deal Breakers for Employers when Hiring

Recently I applied my deal breaker approach to hiring someone. Here, too, it was super helpful. To me, deal breakers when recruiting someone fall into two general categories: 1) skills and experience and 2) cultural fit.

Skills and Experience

Skills and experience is the easier category where you can specify hiring deal breakers. This may seem like a no-brainer, but starting with a detailed job description is key. Actually writing out the role and key responsibilities will help you think about specific requirements for the job, which you should also write out. After that’s done, take a step back and be critical – which requirements are nice to haves (or can be easily learned on the job or via training) and which ones are must haves? For example, you can learn to use spreadsheets, but attention to detail is one of those things you either have or you don’t have.

The only word of caution I have for employers is to not always get stuck on years of experience or a very specific previous job title. For example, what does 4 years in online marketing really give a candidate that 3 doesn’t? Or is a general business degree really less relevant than a marketing one if the candidate has done the role before? Or do you really need someone to be a Junior Product Manager before they’re a Product Manager? (hint: the answer is no. Check out our Career Paths tool to see all the interesting ways people get to a role). With skills and experience, the key is to be realistic and practical as to what a candidate really needs to achieve in a role.

Cultural Fit

The second category, cultural fit, is a bit more tricky. Here’s where hiring biases and discrimination can rear their ugly heads. What may seem like screening for cultural fit can actually be just your personal likes and dislikes. As humans, we tend to like and associate ourselves with people who are similar to us. It’s pretty hard – or at least not intuitive – for us to just turn that off when we’re interviewing candidates for jobs.

For example, I’m an absolute nut when it comes to animals. I want to rescue and hug them all. I also love wine and I’d drink it with every meal if I could (that’s what holidays are for! 🙂 ). This means that I relate to other animal lovers who enjoy a glass of vino. That doesn’t mean that my team should be filled with people like me. So when you’re thinking about your deal breakers in terms of cultural fit, be sensitive as to what’s really a personal preference and what’s a mismatch with the sort of culture you want to create at your company.

Nothing in life is perfect, least of all people and jobs. So let’s not pretend that they are. Being honest with yourself and identifying deal breakers – both in looking for a job or when hiring someone – can only make your work life easier.

Looking to hire someone? Sign up for Search Party and let recruiters help you out. Add in your job brief, specify your fee and niche recruiters take care of the rest. It’s the faster, cheaper and more effective way to hire.

Magda Walczak

Magda Walczak is the Chief Customer Officer at Search Party, the world's first marketplace that connects employers, recruiters and job seekers. She's a passionate supporter of animal rights and author of Saylor's Tale, a children's book promoting responsible pet ownership.

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