By Michelle Olguin
Last week, I went straight from a job interview to a Tinder date. It required exactly none of the expertise Cosmo said I’d need to transform an outfit from day to night. No need to go back home and follow an intricate “no makeup” makeup tutorial to get it just right. No charging my phone on the off chance that my date turns out to be a serial killer. No changing into my sensible heels that give me just the right height, in case the other party blatantly exaggerates on their profile.
As a matter of fact, I was in my cozy slippers for both. That’s because both meetings were on zoom since – much like my job search or my singlehood – this pandemic cannot seem to end.
Now, I’m not going to bore you with the whole spiel about the life-altering effects of the COVID crisis. How people who used to begrudgingly rely on real-life interactions for jobs or partners are just out here, at a loss for what to do. That’s all been said/printed/vlogged to death. So, a lockdown in isolation made us… isolated. Go figure. But most people didn’t just accept this new normal and, after nearly a year, are trying to build connections again.
Whether it’s job hunting or making friendly acquaintances, everything has changed. In fact, there’s barely any difference between them. Dates in the comfort of your own home, friendly time-zone coordinated apéros, or nerve-wracking job interviews, are all in one place now. And that’s if you even get to the conversation part.
Have you seen a job application lately? What am I saying – you’re all over-achieving grad students, of course you have. Well, name a difference. This is more than zoom fatigue, the result from using one single application for every social interaction.
They say a job is like a relationship, and after a soul-crushing period of searching for either, I’m increasingly convinced the two are not only similar but intertwined.
After all of this, I couldn’t help but wonder: are we all the dude with a fish in their profile picture? Are we incapable of seeing how cringy and banal we appear because we never get a look at the competition?
I’m not completely sure the pandemic has changed this- if anything, it has only magnified it. Dates have always felt kind of like a job interview. Everyone knows you put your best foot forward and save the crazy for later. There’s always been a friend of a friend who’s looking for someone to love, for someone to hire, someone who cares. But in those cases, you had an in. The friend, colleague, or distant connection that could vouch for you and for the person you were meeting. Of course, now, a LinkedIn endorsement is as close as you’re going to get to that.
By being forced to use the internet, you are going on the blindest of dates. No matter how many blue ticks, tags, or video evidence they have in their profile, you know nothing about them. And despite the cover letters, the LinkedIn profile skills, and the 100word answers to every single one of their questions, your interviewer hasn’t got a clue who you are. Reduce yourself to nine pictures and a bio, make your C.V. resonate with the automatic word search, write about how badly you want this job or this date.
So, you keep googling “10 application email templates employers love”, or “opening lines on Tinder that are sure to get you an answer”, in the vain hope that a clever turn of phrase will save us from being left on read. Of course, we know on some level that this never works. Chances are, unless your message is inordinately witty, it won’t make a difference. Even then, you run the chance of sounding too rehearsed.
Think about it: the first thing you do when you get a message is go back to the profile and most likely decide based on that. Equally, do employers even look at the email? Or do they just word search for the subject line and download the attachments?
All of this, yet your profile is handled by an algorithm. In fact, 9 times out of 10 they’ll make you type it out in boxes so the machine can process keywords and spit out the best applicants. Human eyes may never see your perfectly designed C.V. In the exact same vein, did you know that Tinder gives you a number based on the swipes you get?
That’s right, your profile isn’t even being shown to that one person who may just be the love of your life. The only thing left is for Tinder to add a reference section. Of course, I’m sure these algorithms work to some degree, or else people wouldn’t use them. But they also make people into a list. No matter what profile you’re looking at, it’s easier to ignore, thirst over, and make up a personality for them when they’re just an image or a bunch of data on a screen.
Employers who ghost applicants: sincerely, what are you doing? If you could at least replicate the read receipts, I could carry on. But at this point, it feels like gaslighting in that I’m not even sure I sent the email to the right place. Don’t get me wrong- I’ve ghosted people before. But if I had access to an automatic reply saying, “I regret to inform you that your profile was not suited to my expectations”, I would make use of it. We are all human after all, just looking for someone to notice us. You could say this is a futile battle against our future computer overlords. But it isn’t. It’s the awkward growing pains before we get there.
Although few people like to talk about it, there is a growing sentiment that algorithms should be able to give you everything you’ve ever wanted. So far, they have fallen short. I am reminded of those times when you buy one sweater online, and then suddenly every one of your targeted ads turns into that exact sweater.
Thank you, Instagram, but I already have one- why would I want another? Style boxes are never as accurate as we’d like them to be, Tinder doesn’t guarantee soulmates, and C.V. scanners don’t always work. There are still a million unknown variables in us humans, and it would be a mistake to ignore them. So, until an app can deliver proper matches that work 100% of the time, we’ll still have to put in the effort – unless we want to get the same sweater over and over again.
Michelle is a second-year master’s student in international affairs and the content creator for the Graduate Institute’s A.V. initiative, Geneva Intl.
Photo credit: pixabay, by Solen Feyissa.