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Want a new job? Use an online dating site

08/01/2014

The Wall Street Journal. August 1, 2014.

Dating site eHarmony hopes to do for employment what it’s done for marriage, pairing employees with their future bosses to see if it’s a match made on Wall Street.

It will launch a new company, “Elevated Careers by eHarmony,” in December that will run a new version of its famous compatibility assessment — only this time for job applicants and their would-be superiors. The typical U.S. worker only lasts 4.6 years with each employer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but eHarmony wants to change all that. “The goal will be to help people get a job where they really belong,” says the company’s founder and CEO Neil Clark Warren.

EHarmony can’t say whether there exactly will be “29 Dimensions of Compatibility” for matching potential employees and their bosses, as with romantic relationships, but there will be some crossover.

“We’ll have something like that to match people for careers and have had 10 people working on that for three years,” Warren says. And there’s also an overlap in the philosophy of the two eHarmony services. “If people come home and they’re unhappy with their job and boss, it puts a lot of tension on a marriage,” he says.

Some qualities may be just as important for marriages as they are for business relationships. “When you ask what’s the most important quality in a marriage, most people say kindness, but I would argue that it’s adaptability,” he says. Conscientiousness, honesty, emotional stability, extrovert/introvert, conflict resolution and whether they are apt to follow the rules are other likely characteristics that are regarded as just as important for the jobs market, Warren adds.

American workers appear to have mixed feelings about where they work. Although 54% of workers say they like the people they work with, only 29% feel valued in their jobs, according to a recent survey by jobs listing website CareerBuilder.comand research firm Harris Interactive. More workers want to jump ship, despite a choppy jobs market: 21% of full-time employees want to change jobs in 2014, the largest percentage since 2008 and up from 17% in 2013, the study of over 3,000 workers found.

For its part, eHarmony obviously wants to reach more customers. “Last year, we spent $90 million on advertising,” Warren says. “It’s really tough to make a lot of money and attribute all that ad expense to one product.” EHarmony is responsible for 600,000 marriages with a divorce rate of just 3.8% since it started in 2000, according to a 2012 survey by Harris Interactive. “If we can do that for jobs, we will save companies enormous amounts of money, and save the person a lot of strain and stress, too.”

“Elevated Careers by eHarmony” will primarily target businesses rather than consumers, Warren says.

The dating side of the site costs $60 per month and recently surpassed 777,000 subscribers up from around 485,000 two years ago when Warren returned to the company as CEO after leaving in 2007. Steve Carter, vice president of matching at eHarmony, says the new service “will try to identify people at eHarmony who are unhappy with their job and give them a way to do something about that.”

But some sociologists are skeptical about the power of algorithms. “There is some evidence that online dating is associated with longer term positive relationship outcomes, but I’m skeptical that the matching algorithms have anything to do with it,” says Reuben J. Thomas, assistant professor of sociology at The University of New Mexico, who has also studied dating site algorithms. “It may be that people who use online dating are more likely to have already decided that they are ready to settle down.”

Others disagree. A dating site’s algorithms may be extremely useful for other purposes, says Dan Slater, author of “Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating.” He cites OkCupid, which launched a roommate service in 2012. That said, Slater says a dating company moving into the jobs market might strike some people (at first glance) as odd. “If you’re in a bar getting drunk trying to meet new people, would you want a bunch of recruiters walking up asking if you need a new job?”