08/01/2014 11:49 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When Business Etiquette Resembles a Competitive Dating Scene


While sitting in a coffee shop in Manhattan, I overheard a conversation between two women that I suspect happens, on average, every three seconds in the world.

"It was a great date and he's really cute...I could tell we were on the same page"

"When are you seeing him next?"

"Well I am not sure, he said he'd call, but it's been 5 days, should I worry?"

I looked up and smiled empathetically, the scores of articles detailing how to figure out if he's into you, flashed through my mind, and it took all the willpower I had to avoid standing up and suggesting she focus on something more productive.

Interestingly, what also stood out was how closely what she said resembled the exact conversation I had the night before with a former colleague who was job hunting. If you replaced the word 'date' with 'interview' and the word 'cute' with 'nice' it was basically the same conversation.

Men in Manhattan and successful businesses have a lot in common; both are spoilt for choice when it comes to potential candidates, so perhaps it's not surprising that they behave in the same way. What then, should hiring managers and men keep in mind when they decide to turn a cold shoulder, stay vague or exhibit some important signs of commitment phobia?

What goes around comes around
Companies increasingly spend less and less time responding to applicants, and taking the time to communicate intentions clearly. Part of the problem is that now we have access to any company in the world simply by going online and can apply for a job within minutes. The same is true for date prospects, tens of dating apps and websites later -- the options are endless. What this means is that the volume of applications has risen dramatically, and just like candidates have more options when they apply, companies or daters have more options to review, and so the potential for getting overwhelmed is huge. What's more, it is now very easy to ignore an application, no awkward conversations needed, in an email orientated era, your message can be communicated easily with radio silence.

While companies may not recognize the value in keeping everyone happy by giving feedback, the availability of information in today's world means that candidates can now talk to each other via reviews, job boards etc. about their experiences with certain companies, thus airing any dirty laundry to the masses. This may not seem like a major risk given the surplus of candidates, but as more and more people opt to open up their own businesses and economies pick up around the world, companies may want to reconsider what their reviews say about their hiring etiquette.

Effort can be measured quickly
A mid sized company I recently worked with reported 700 applications for one position, even though they hadn't even advertised it online. They only closely reviewed 45. While the volume of applications may have been overwhelming, the problem with this equation is the sheer imbalanced effort being put in with effort being put out.

Let's take a closer look by estimating the time it took on both ends:

Time in: [700 candidates] x [4 hours]* = 2,800 hours
Time out: [45 replies] x [0.25 hours]** = 11.25 hours

*The assumption here is that candidates spent time tailoring their applications.
**The assumption here is that the applications were read through and individual responses were sent out to either invite a candidate for an interview, or to reject the candidate.

What happens in a dating scenario is very similar, when considering time spent getting ready, with follow up text messages about the date sent afterwards:

Time in: 5 hours***
Time out: 0 hours

***Includes both people, sorting out logistics, shopping and preparing for the date.

How to make the process a little more human
While I am not suggesting that companies put in 2,800 hours into replying to every applicant, I am suggesting they take a hard look at how they can even out the equation, and at the same time be considerate of an applicant's time. The same applies to dating, while a follow up text being candid about whether or not you want to see the person again, may be very difficult to write, and shouldn't take five hours to compose, the message is the same.

Ultimately though, one needs to remember that we are humans dealing with other humans, and applying for a job, just like going on a date is a moment of nervous vulnerability that should at least be honored with a courteous response. The beauty of today's world is that nowadays there is probably an app for exactly that: link it to the list of applicants, and there we have it, the solution to being a little more human, could lie in just a touch of a button.