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Hire Your Soulmate? eHarmony Could Be Onto Something

eHarmony announced this week it's moving into the job search space, using a one-on-one matching approach. Research indicates this might work.
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 eHarmony—the online dating website with reportedly more than 20 million members—announced on Tuesday that it plans expand into the job search market before the end of this year. The twist: Rather than offering the typical employee-to-company listings-based model of its competitors, eHarmony said it hopes to pair people to people.

And according to recent research, this might not be such a bad idea. 

"When people meet in a bar they evaluate these four to five superficial data points—is the other person attractive, are they a good conversationist, what's their job, what's their socioeconomic status—and then decide whether or not to ride off into the sunset," Grant Langston, eHarmony's VP of customer experience, told Inc. "This is the same thing that's happening in the hiring world: employers just evaluate these typical four to five superficial traits and make their hire." 

Though eHarmony is tight-lipped about exactly how this new venture will work, the company plans to match individual supervisors with potential employees based on their personalities, work habits, hobbies, and other quantifiables that go beyond the typical competency metrics. 

"In the placement world, employers look for three things in a candidate: can they do the work, will they do the work, and can you stand them doing the work," Jon Osborne, VP of research at Staffing Industry Analysts said.  "From sites like Monster and LinkedIn you can figure out the first two, but not the third." 

Langston added: "We don't want you making hiring decisions based on four to five superficial data points. We want to give you 40 data points.  We want to give you a much deeper connection."

Don't roll your eyes just yet. According to research, this theory of one-on-one personality matching is already happening in the business world. 

A study that was just published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review by Lauren Rivera of the Kellogg School of Management found that hiring managers often look for potential new hires that seem like they could be "enjoyable playmates."

Rivera interviewed 120 professionals involved in hiring for the country's top-tier firms and found that cultural fit—how well interviewers felt a job applicant would mesh with the ethos and potential colleagues of their desired workplace—was one of the most important aspects that factored into hiring.  

All of the professionals ranked it as one of top three most important criteria used to assess candidates, and more than half of them reported that it was the most important criterion, rating cultural fit over analytical thinking and communication skills.

Rivera wrote: "In many respects, [these professionals] hired in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners than how sociologists portraying employers selecting new workers."  

She explained that, when it comes down to it, interviewers tend to prefer, and are even willing to make exceptions for, people who they feel most resemble themselves.

Langston said the hard part for eHarmony will be convincing companies to divulge information which might not cast them in the best light—something competitors don't ask.  He added that reformulating the eHarmony algorithm so that it's geared towards delivering job satisfaction and productivity rather than an engagement rings will be an immediate challenge. 

"For the eHarmony algorithm, we reverse-engineered 800 marriages to figure out what made some good, some bad, and most importantly, what made them last long-term," he said.  "That's going to be a big challenge going forward: we're going to have to do the same sort of process for the employer-employee relationship."

 

Last updated: Jan 10, 2013

SAMUEL WAGREICH | Staff Writer

Samuel Wagreich is a reporter for Inc.com. He covers tech industry culture and trends, entrepreneurship, and issues facing small businesses.




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