What You Can Learn About Job-Hunting From Dating Apps. Really.

The suggestion that "you're interviewing them too" is a familiar piece of advice in both job hunting and dating. This parallel between the two arenas is underscored by Kyle Lagunas, head of strategy and principal analyst at Aptitude Research, who points out that in both cases, we have a limited window to make an impression.

 Much like seeking a romantic connection, understanding what we seek and what makes us attractive is crucial when pursuing job opportunities. With this in mind, here's a guide, borrowing from dating terminology, for navigating the "dates" we go on while searching for a job, along with actionable insights. It's essential to recognize that every interaction in our desired industry, regardless of its nature, is an opportunity for evaluation.

 While these tips may not guarantee your dream job, they can provide valuable insights into the workplace cultures you're considering, enabling you to make informed decisions.  




A relationship (usually lasting three months or more) that isn’t exclusive, even though one partner wants it to be. Usually, this is a way for one party to enjoy the perks of a relationship without accountability.


A job without health insurance and/or with less than a yearlong contract (or no contract at all).

Situationship employers (otherwise known as gig employers) frequently like to call you “a prospective member of their family” or highlight “contributing to a purpose” during the recruiting process.

For experts, this kind of language is a red flag. “They say they are a family, but they don’t say what kind of family,” said Martin McGovern, a career consultant and executive coach. “The boss might see you as a family member, but then as soon as the budget changes, they will hire an external cousin and fire you.”

The “making a difference” lingo is more often used today in spaces with precarity and low pay, especially in the nonprofit world, said Erin McGoff, a career coach.

Situationship employers rely on family and purpose language because, whether or not they have revealed it yet, they know they cannot offer you a long-term commitment or health insurance.

Do not fall into this trap! They are not your family — you barely know them, and they want to hire you without giving you benefits or a true commitment.

If you are offered this job and decide to take it, continue your job hunt. Your employer is not committed to you, so you don’t owe them anything.




An elaborate relationship with your crush in your head (for example, if you fantasize about becoming someone’s spouse, but they see you as a no-frills hookup).


The search for a paid job when a company is really looking for an unpaid intern.

Imaginationships can be a pink flag. Define the relationship: Only work free hours if you believe they will benefit your career in the long run.

Free hours can be a way to form a relationship with a mentor, but tread carefully; given the power imbalance, it can also be a way to be taken advantage of.




After hooking up, one partner texted intermittently but resisted any kind of concrete plan to meet up again.


An employer asking for increasing amounts of work during a multistage interview process, without financial compensation.

Breadcrumbing (in the case of job interviews, uncompensated work) can be a red or pink flag, said McGoff, the career coach. “I hear from people being asked to do assignments that not only take up a lot of their time, but where they create valuable assets the company uses,” she said. There are exceptions: “You need to use common sense. If it’s a role you really want, you can go the extra mile.”

But it might be worth asking some questions in response to their request: How many candidates are they requesting this material from? How long should the assignment take you? What skills is the assignment meant to showcase? Will the company be using the deliverables for anything other than job consideration? What is the offer timeline?

Thank them for the information. Depending on their answers, McGoff suggested politely offering a truncated version of the assignment. If a company requests 30 posts and 20 reels of social-media content, for example, ask if it would be acceptable to send five posts and two short-form videos.

“Some companies budget for this, so you can always ask if this is a case where they can offer compensation for your time,” McGoff said. But, she added, “don’t ask in an entitled way. Say, ‘Since this will take me X amount of hours, I’m inquiring to see if you offer that.’”

You also can always direct them to previous examples of your work that showcase the skills they are testing for in the assignment.

Based on their answers to your questions, consider, carefully, whether continuing to pursue this job is worth your time.




Receiving compliments, gifts and other gestures of affection without a promise of exclusivity.


In the recruitment and offer stages, receiving flattery and promises of promotion rather than a reasonable starting salary.

Love-bombing can feel good, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

Use that flattery to push for a better salary — and point to inflation and other economic challenges to justify annual increases.

Ask for written promises of salary bumps and title changes (ideally, as part of your contract). It may not happen, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.




Entering into an exclusive, romantic relationship.


Landing a job with at least a yearlong contract, health insurance, and retirement benefits.

Cuffing in the job-search world isn’t necessarily a bad thing: If this is the gig you want, great. If not, use this position to look more appealing to other jobs. Only leave your current position once you have a better offer (however you choose to define “better”).




Boasting about attention from other matches to seem more appealing.


An employer talking about how many applications it has received.

Whelming in the job-search world is best ignored.

Or, if you are being hired in a cohort, talk to other candidates who received offers. Try to deduce the percentage of candidates who, when offered a job at the company, take it. (As with college admissions, this is called the yield rate.)

Yes, they might have a lot of interested applicants. But are you one of them? You need to figure that out for yourself.

Bonus points if they drop the line “It is harder to get a job here than get into Harvard.” (Matthew Bahl, workplace market lead and vice president at the Financial Health Network, a nonprofit financial services consultancy, said that this line is particularly popular in the management and consulting worlds.)




When, after a date or hookup, one person doesn't respond to a follow-up message or call. (Generally, it is ghosting only after two nonresponses.)


When you don’t hear back from an employer after interviewing for a job.

Ghosting after interviews, sadly, is all too common. Follow up once, maybe twice.

Do not wait around after that.

Bahl also noted that ghosting can be a red flag. “Is this really a place you want to spend your time before they’re even paying you? They’re already not showing you the level of respect you would want to have or you would expect to show them.”




Ghosting someone, but then, after at least a few months, reaching out as though the ghosting never happened. (Sometimes it is fun to respond to these texts with a simple ghost emoji.)


Failing to respond to a professional contact who asked a question or favor, but later reaching out with a different question or favor.

Zombieing, unlike ghosting, might be a positive thing — or not: If a professional contact reaches out to you out of the blue, they probably are looking for something. Figure out what that is.

If this is a person with power over you (someone who makes more money than you, for example, or has the power to help you get a job), proceed, but carefully: They’ve ghosted you once, and they will likely do it again.




Keeping someone on a "roster" in case your first choice doesn’t work out. Often, this comes in the form of a late-night text from a hookup (“You up?”). But sometimes serial monogamists also keep a hookup on the bench — just in case they break up with their current significant other.


Rejecting a candidate but trying to keep the person interested in case the first choice declines the offer.

Benching is normal in hiring. “Expect them to have a roster,” said McGovern, the career counselor. “Treat companies how they treat you — always have a backup plan, always be dating on the side of your job.”

McGoff agreed: “I’m a huge advocate for staying on the roster. I’m a huge advocate for seeing job interviews as a networking opportunity. And if you don’t get the job, it’s not that their door is closed forever. It’s still an open door. It’s just that right then it didn’t work out, but down the road, it might.”

But this kind of practice can be a warning signal. Check Glassdoor, a site where companies are rated by current and former employees, to see if there are reviews that mention turnover rates. If employees stay at this company for less than a year, that flag turns from pink to red.

Watch how employees talk about current and past employees — assume this is how you will be talked about when you are not in the room.

If you can speak to the last person who held the position you are being considered for, try to figure out what their experience was. Assume that yours will be similar if you are offered and take this job.

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