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The expected outcome of a bad first date is zero second dates.

If (First Date) = BAD
Then(Count(Second Date)) = 0
Else (Second Date) = YES

In my career, I have become very attune to being able to spot when I’m not going to get a “second date” with a potential employer or prospect. When I’m on the other side of the table doing the hiring, I know who is not going to get a second date with our team too. You don’t have to be a mind reader to know that it did not go well and that they are not hoping you will call again or going to follow-up. You lose. Someone else will be the declared winner of this bout.

First Date Let Down

“It’s not you; It’s me” is what I remember from my dating life as the easy letdown. Now, most people would like to think that it is usually the case–“It must have been them” we tell ourselves. Unfortunately, it is probably the other way around. They weren’t right for you either or you would not be here.

I don’t want to “date around” in my career. I hope you don’t either–even though the data says otherwise. Most of my friends that I talk to agree that it is better to find that one-true-employer and walk down the aisle to wedded bliss. Most of us don’t lack commitment these days to employers–they do.

Unfortunately, more and more employers want to date more employees by playing the field. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. They do this in the form of high turnover and contract or contract-to-hire roles within their organizations. I worked for a leader that had a failsafe plan to wipe out most of his team when the numbers did not look good to take the focus off of leadership.

Marrying Up

The higher up you “marry” in an organization (I’m talking to you Product Leaders), the more likely that they will be to ask you to sign a prenuptial agreement (prenup).  The prenup comes in the form of a non-compete to ensure you don’t date around with their sworn enemies, “frenemies,” or “besties” in the industry. After all, they are giving you the goods every day–even if the swift divorce comes because they have had a change of heart.

Divorce is par for the course and goes along with the new dynamics of a global marketplace for talent. I wish I had a solution, but in real-life we are usually happy when we marry up. Your career should not be any different. You are the elite of the elite and sought after talent. Embrace it while you still look the part. Time has a way of degrading the beauty of that transformation that you made with your last marketing win, product line growth, and/or organization.

It’s Not Me; It IS You.

True Story: I had a terrible first date with a potential employer that stuck with me. The first date with the individual that I would be eventually working with actually went great. I was already thinking about the honeymoon. Unfortunately, it was “meeting their friends” with a potential peer that I would be working with closely in the leadership position that sent me running for the hills.

How did I know it was a bad first date with their friends?

Oh. So. Many. Signs

  1. Past Punctual: She/He showed up unapologetically late
  2. The Squeeze: Acted like he/she was doing me a favor of squeezing our meetup in before the holidays.
  3. Got the Monolog: Talked about himself/herself and the team the first half of the interview
  4. Mind-Set: Already made up her/his mind that I was “not the one” before she/he had a chance to get to know me
  5. Just Friends: Rocket scientist, I’m not. Data scientist, I am. We had zero dates coming in the future because of the lack of any cultural chemistry, and that is okay.

Yes. I still think that the boss and I would have been successful together and could have had a long work-marriage. The money and title were enough. But, why would anyone with options want to have “their frienemies” constantly trying to undermine your working-relationship…because we all have options. Not all of my options were better than this one. You won’t be making any beautiful “work babies” and moving up the organization if everyone is miserable and always fighting internally. That works for personal relationships and working ones. Life is too short always to be fighting it out.

Those are the warning signs. You’ve been warned. So, don’t be that person either.

Is There A Winner?

Everyone wins sounds like something you would here at youth sporting event hosted these days. There are in fact winners and losers. Our nation needs to wake up to that reality before our privileged Millennial kids produce other privileged kids.

Winner: You for not getting stuck in a bad situation
Winner: You for not having to have daily bad first dates with the evil friend
Loser: The hiring manager for having people that undermine the organization without knowing
Loser: The individual that feels threatened by your talent and the contributions that you would bring to the organization
Loser: The company that employs individuals that inspire blogs like this one because of few bad personalities
Loser: Organizations that can’t discern talent and who won’t invest in face-to-face interviews for candidates cause a lot of first dates for hiring managers and teams
Loser: Everyone because short phone interviews are not the same as “meeting for coffee.” Humans are visual, and phone screens are not ideal for capturing the essence of the person you hope to bring to your team
Winner: You for reading this and hopefully finding the best working-marriage for your career

Win the Interview

I’ve been on both sides of the table. Below are some tips from my experience being the employee and the employer. If you are seriously looking for your next opportunity, you need to win the first interview. In my story above, I learned some valuable items about the potential organization. They learned some valuable items about me too.

  1. Be prepared to answer the question, “What’s your number?” Not that number. Your salary. Employers want to know on a phone screen “first date” if you are playing in the right ballpark or out of your league. Know what you are worth and how to answer the question.
  2. Leave them wanting more. The tendency is to convince them that you are worth a second date or more on that first date. You don’t propose marriage on the first date. Neither will an employer. You need to get the second, third, and fourth date with the employer. There is plenty of time for more discussions. Give yourself a reason to follow up on something from your discussion that might remind them why they want to have you back for a second date.
  3. Do you date around? Most first dates are meant to quickly find out if you are just playing the field. They want to know how serious you are about moving on. It is nice to know you are wanted but don’t waste their time or yours if you are not serious–I’m talking to you perfect candidate that uses the offer to get more money and promotion out of the company you are currently married to by waiting for the day you are supposed to start “walking down the aisle” with the new company. I’ve been burned by this one and it is not fun to restart the hiring process after being idle for weeks waiting on your candidate only to get left at the alter.

So, don’t date around. Don’t be the individual that does not give someone a chance before you have a realistic opportunity to get to know them. Don’t take life so serious that you can’t move on from a bad first date either. There are plenty of organizations that would love to have someone with your skills, beauty, and talents.

Good luck on your next date with destiny my friends!

Brian Stout

Yes, I know my if, then, else syntax is wrong, but it is a true statement even if the computer would not be able to do anything with it. 🙂