Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dating Skills That Work Well During Interviews

Love is in the air this week, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to share some advice from one of my favorite career books, Courting Your Career. Author Shawn Graham is Associate Director of the MBA Career Management Center at the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School. He's written a fun but powerful little book on how getting a job is a lot like looking for a mate.

Here's an excerpt from the book that relates the most important interviewing skills to the most important dating skills. (And hey, get your mind out of the gutter. This is a G-rated blog.)

When you’re dating, you need to possess certain skills if you’re going to have any success. These skills include active listening, communicating, time management, persuasion, negotiation, judgment, and decision making. As luck would have it, these skills also work well during your job interview. Let’s look at each skill to see how and why they’ll play a role during your interviews (as well as your search as a whole).

  • Active listening: Giving your full attention to what the other person is saying, nodding, asking questions as appropriate, maintaining eye contact and open body language, smiling, and not interrupting when he or she is speaking are the keys to active listening. Being an active listener makes your interactions with others, both when dating and when looking for jobs, more effective. It increases your chances of making a genuine connection with the person you’re speaking with. In a romantic relationship, being an active listener means not staring at the TV when your boyfriend or girlfriend is trying to talk to you. During a job interview, being an active listener means maintaining eye contact, taking limited notes when necessary, and verbally and nonverbally acknowledging what the other person is saying.

  • Communicating: If you’re not able to communicate with others effectively, you’re not going to get very far on the dating scene or the job market. Being an effective communicator involves not only what you say, but also how you say it. During a job interview, hand gestures, body movements, facial expressions, and posture can be just as important as the words coming out of your mouth. For example, if a woman asks her boyfriend whether her jeans make her look fat and he says "no" but rolls his eyes, he’s in hot water.

  • Time management: Being able to balance time with your loved ones, work, outside interests, family, and so on isn’t something that happens by accident. You have to prioritize tasks and sometimes make difficult sacrifices. The same holds true during your job search when you have to squeeze in time to get ready for an interview or write a bunch of cover letters when you already have a ton on your plate. Identify those things you can postpone and those things you can’t.

  • Persuasion: Persuasion goes hand in hand with negotiation. Say you’re in the mood for a movie and your girlfriend or boyfriend wants to play miniature golf. Your ability to persuade your date to change his or her mind will determine whether you’ll be eating popcorn or heading for a water hazard. Your ability to persuade an interviewer that you are the right candidate for the job will go a long way in determining whether you get an offer letter or a rejection letter.

  • Negotiation: Anytime you’re dealing with other people, you’re going to have differences. Negotiation is part of the give-and-take process of any relationship, whether you’re negotiating for more money when you receive a job offer, or you’re negotiating with your boyfriend or girlfriend about the possibility of relocating after graduation so that you can go to graduate school.

  • Judgment and decision making: Two people who can never make up their minds probably won’t end up dating for long. After all, they’d probably never be able to figure out what they wanted to do or where they wanted to eat. During your job search and when you ultimately land a job, your judgment and decision making are critical. Which suit should you wear to your big job interview? When offered two jobs, which one is the better fit?

You use the preceding skills every day when you’re dating someone. The more you’re able to master these skills and exhibit them during your job search, the more success you'll have in finding your dream job.

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