What The Bachelor Can Teach You About The Hiring Process

mm Russ Finkelstein

Like most Americans I like to watch television. My weaknesses run typically toward shows that I think are very funny such as Atlanta, Veep, Broad City, Master of None, and Silicon Valley. And to shows that help me think about the human experience in a different way, such as Game of Thrones, This Is Us, Black Mirror, and UnReal.

If you’re as into those shows as I am, there’s a good chance we’d enjoy a reasonably highbrow conversation about all of them. I do, however, have a dark secret that I can only share with you, my faithful readers: All of my snobby tastes melt in the face of a dating show.

In fact, I think I gained a sizable amount of my understanding, as a kid, from watching half-hour efforts to partner people up. And as an adult I have largely gotten out of the habit of watching these shows with one notable, and rather odd exception. Each year I like to watch the first episode, and the first episode only, of The Bachelor. It has just launched a new season again, so you can Google the first episode and experience what it’s like to be me, if you like. Hint: It’s a little too awesome for some people to bear. Fair warning.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, The Bachelor works on a premise that there is a man that is so intriguing based on his pictures and biography that 25 to 30 women will do almost anything to land him as a marriage prospect.

The premise is a lot like looking for a job. Often, there are opportunities that look so good on paper that applicants find themselves gathering around like bees to honey.

There are more parallels between The Bachelor and your career search: We live in a time where half our marriages end in divorce, and where 75% of Americans are unhappy in their jobs. This means that many of us are a desperate to improve our situation, whether it comes to navigating the search for our next partner or our next professional position.

Here is fuller context for episode one of the show itself: A limousine delivers a bunch of beautiful people, one at a time, to a beautiful estate where the bachelor (or bachelorette, because we live in modern times) lives. Each person attempts to woo the bachelor with a great first impression. Everyone goes into the house and the bachelor has a lot of conversations. Some of the suitors start drinking like crazy because of all the social pressure, and the awkwardness of the situation. Within a couple of hours, the bachelor sends a sizable percentage of their suitors away as rejects from the process.

Here are my chief takeaways about what we can learn about your job search from the show:

People fall in love suddenly and prematurely. When we’re looking for love, or for a job, we often decide quickly that something is perfect before we have the full information. We fill in the blanks, perhaps because we’re over-eager to land something, and then, when it turns out the person wasn’t even interested in us, we get disappointed more than we should. When you’re in the running for a job, just don’t get too excited. The recruitment process should be deliberate, an opportunity for you to get to know whether the position is a good fit for you, as much as the other way around. Take it easy. Take it slow. The truth is that employers and dates both get a bit concerned when you appear over eager. We all need to walk that line of being interested without seeming either cocky or desperate. Does being on The Bachelor itself make you look desperate? Not necessarily. But it also may not help.

What you believe to be a great first impression could be very far off. Rule number one on the show is that you need to be very attractive, and that you are likely in a pool of very attractive people. So people come in offering a gift, a song, sight of their abs, or something else that they think will put them above the crowd. There are norms for acceptable behavior, but desperation, or any number of other things, can sometimes throw us off. When we are seeking work we often share our summary of skills, accomplishments and answers to some fairly predictable questions. That’s fine. Just be careful. In a first-round interview I conducted many years ago when I asked the candidate why he wanted the job he replied: “I am in the process of coming out and I think this work will be rather easy during what I expect to be an emotional time.” It wasn’t the ideal first impression, although I wished the young man the best of luck in his personal life. You have the opportunity to practice your first impression in front of others. Please get feedback, so some person in the future isn’t sharing your blunder before the world, as I just did.

You will never understand why you weren’t chosen. Just as the bachelor just gives out roses to the people he wants to keep on the show, those without roses aren’t offered explanations, and most would-be employers won’t get in touch, either, to let you know why they didn’t pick you. I’m always amazed at how poorly run a lot of recruitment processes are, in this regard. You’d think it would be common courtesy to email applicants, who’ve spent a lot of time and energy applying, even for a moment, about the receipt of their application, how the process works and a time by which those chosen or not chosen to interview in a next round will be notified. But that’s just not the way most organizations function. You often really don’t know who’s making the decision and what might trigger them to see you as the right fit. You may look like or have a similar personality to a recent awful or great hire, so it’s probably best to focus on yourself, rather than on the other person, or the organization you’d applied for. They may just have a “type”. It’s also worth considering, however, what sort of “bachelor” you might like to date. You deserve a nice one. Think hard about that when it comes to the organizational cultures you’re considering slotting into.

Don’t focus on the competition. People who get stuck on putting down others rather than emphasizing their strengths never get chosen for the show, and it’s a very distracting and bad look for any would-be job applicant, too. Whether you want to be dismissive of former employers or people you know in the applicant pool it can make you look small and petty. Simply focus on getting clarity about what you want in your next career opportunity, and on delivering a compelling narrative about why you’re looking at a specific position. It’ll help a lot more than sniping, and it’ll feel a lot better, too.

Even the people who get chosen don’t always end up happy. The truth is, being rejected at the first or even fourth round of The Bachelor isn’t always a bad thing. And the people who do end up “selected” often don’t end up happy, after the show concludes. That’s partly because it’s a television show, and television shows are a little bit ridiculous, usually. But I’d urge you to remember, when you’re looking for a job, that every great success story includes a lot of roads not taken, and opportunities not landed. I’m not suggesting you send them a “thank-you” note for having gone with another candidate, but it may be that you dodged a bullet. Try to be philosophical about the rejection rather than adding the would-be recruiter’s name to a list of people with whom you’d like to get even.

Focus on yourself, first and foremost. In my work at ClearlyNext, we help people gain clarity about what to pursue in their job search. We think that the best way of navigating a search is to try to enjoy the journey as much as the destination, just as the best way to date is to enjoy being happy with whom you are, as an individual. After all, that’s usually when the right person happens to come along.

Good luck.

Russ Finkelstein is Managing Director of ClearlyNext, a guided online career program that helps people of all backgrounds and incomes figure out what to do next. Read more >