Use the 3-4 Rule from Dating to Ace Your Job Interviews

3-4 ruleThe 3-4 Rule is a dating guideline stating that singles should learn four key principles about their dates by the end of the third date. It’s long been said that job search is like dating, and the 3-4 rule might just offer valuable insights for your job search as well.

When it comes to job interviews, many of us focus on brushing up on our technical skills, researching the company, and preparing answers for likely questions. But what if the key to acing an interview could be gleaned from an unlikely source: the world of dating? This post will explore how the principles of chemistry, core values, emotional maturity, and readiness can be adapted for your next job interview.

How You Might Have Prepared for an Interview or Offer Before

Many people are looking to interview at companies that are the market leader in their industry. Big companies pay enough money, and may have a significant impact on their futures because of how those companies look on a resume. These companies might be the right choice for you, but it’s kind of like dating the prom queen or quarterback not because you like them, but because you think it’s going to make you more popular.

Besides looking for market leaders, you might be focused on companies that are close to you geographically, a place where you have some sort of connection (maybe a past co-worker works there now,) or someplace that has been advertising for a role. Then, once you get an offer or offers, you might choose the one that looks like your best option based on how much money was offered, benefits, and the work that you’d be doing.

What if we looked at it a different way? While all of the above might be a decent starting point, you might think about your long-term compatibility with the role, much like you would if you were deciding about getting married.

What is the 3-4 Rule: An Overview

The 3-4 Rule in dating suggests that by the end of the third date, you should have a clear understanding of four crucial aspects of the other person: chemistry, core values, emotional maturity, and readiness.

While this rule was initially designed for romantic encounters, its core principles can provide a unique lens through which to view job interviews and evaluating job offers.

Understanding Your Career Goals

When you’re looking for target companies, interviewing, or evaluating offers, there’s no right answer, only right answers for you. What are your career goals? How do you want to feel at work? Are you looking to maximize your ability to stay in a role for the long term, make some lifestyle changes, or build your nest egg? Whatever your goals, you’ll want to understand what you want, so you’re not job searching again next year.

The 3-4 Rule Tenets: Chemistry is a Two-Way Street

In a job interview, just like in dating, chemistry is crucial. Of course, the company is also assessing if you mesh well with their team and culture, but you are there to figure out if you fit with the company as well. This means you want to be excited about the work, be excited about the company, and be excited about the people you work with every day.

Some questions to ask to gauge chemistry:

How do the interviewers interact with each other and with you?

Everything from the tone communications in the interview and via email, to whether they reschedule or are unclear in their communications can help you assess whether there is a good fit.

Get a feel for the over all overall vibe of the place:

What is the body language of the people you meet, and the overall tone of the place? In other words, are people enthusiastic, or depressed? Review historical data on the company – what does it tell you about how you will feel there? Informational interviews can provide you with useful information as well. What did you learn that wasn’t visible before? Does the work environment feels comfortable and inspiring to you?

The 3-4 Rule Tenets: Core Values and Aligning Goals

What is a core value? Core values are deeply engrained principles that guide all the company’s values. In dating and marriage, if you want someone who can be with you into your golden years, you need to make sure you align on these values. In the same vein, a company’s core values should align with your personal and professional values. You’ll need to understand your core values to determine whether the company’s values resonate with yours.

While your core values might include and overlap with things that are related to chemistry (above), your core values might be unrelated, and a company’s core values can contribute to the chemistry you feel, or again, be unrelated.

Some company core values might be around their risk tolerance (are they innovative or status quo?), how they view curiosity and vulnerability, accountability, inclusion and more.

Some questions to ask to understand core values:

What is the company’s mission statement, their social initiatives, and culture? What do they say they care about?

These values might or might not reflect your own, and ideally, just like in a relationship, you want as much overlap as possible. You can understand more about how they value their people through assessing things like how much responsibility they take for medical costs, what their retirement plans look like and more.

What are their sources of income? Where do they spend their money?

The rule of thumb around following the money applies here as well. If you understand where their money comes from and goes, you can see what they are incentivized to do. Their beliefs do influence what they choose to spend on and how they believe money is made. For example, do they believe that treating people well and abiding the local laws will get them ahead, or do they do whatever they can to get ahead? What specific circumstances have occurred that pushed them to understand their values?

How have they dealt with historical scenarios when the company was under fire?

When something goes wrong, the rubber meets the road. You can understand a lot about a person and a company by how they deal with stress. What has stressed this company? Market conditions and dips in the stock market, a product recall, lower profits in a given year? Whatever it is, understanding what they do will help you determine core values.

How are their values are implemented in day-to-day operations?

What do they actually do day to day that reflects their values? Do they reward certain types of people? Do they have commitments that they honor?

The 3-4 Rule Tenets: Emotional Maturity

Your ability to manage your emotions and work to understand them, especially when under stress indicates a person’s emotional maturity, and these traits are vital in the workplace. Whether it’s the emotional maturity of the company overall (see the section above on how they deal with stress), or the people within the organization, this is an important factor when understanding if this is the right company for you.

Don’t be afraid to ask how leaders have handled stressful situations or conflict in the past.

Observe the interviewers: How do they handle any unexpected disruptions or tough questions?

The 3-4 Rule Tenets: Readiness

The principle of readiness in dating is all about whether two people are ready to commit to a relationship. This directly translates to job search and hiring. Here’s how you can understand both your readiness and the company’s

Are you ready for the job?

If you’ve landed the interview, you are ready from a skills and experience perspective. However, when you get a new job, there are contractual obligations. Are you ok with lots of travel and working late, for example, or are you looking for a calmer work situation?

Is the company prepared to bring someone into the role?

The number of times that companies look to hire someone and then have the role disappear is unbelievable. It could be that they’ve already hired someone, and have to go through a hiring process anyway. It might be that the role is rescinded or that earmarked funds have dried up. This can be unpredictable at times, surprising even the hiring manager. That makes it difficult to assess, but here are some tips:

Look at the company’s financials and understand their view of your particular department. Is your department essential? Is it viewed as money making?

How long has the role been open? Look for signs that the job was advertised previously, withdrawn and then advertised again. This could mean several things, but one is that they aren’t committed to hiring.

Ask about your potential boss. If they aren’t clear about the leadership, expectations for the role, or future projects you’d be involved in, it may be that they aren’t ready to hire.

Implementing the 3-4 Rule in Your Job Search

Applying the 3-4 Rule to your job interviews involves proactive research, keen observation, introspection and mindful interaction throughout the interview process.

1. Before the Interview: Do your homework. Research the company culture, history, and core values. Ask questions that dig deeper, and prepare STAR stories that illustrate your match with the company.

2. During the Interview: How does the company feel to you? Be alert to cues about chemistry and emotional maturity from your interactions with your interviewers. Ask questions to clarify your understanding of the company’s core values and readiness to bring on a new team member.

3. After the Interview: Reflect on what you’ve learned. Did the company meet your expectations in terms of core values and emotional maturity? Did you feel a sense of chemistry? Was the organization ready for someone with your skills and experience?

By viewing your job interviews through the 3-4 Rule, you can gain valuable insights into your compatibility with a potential employer, allowing you to make more informed decisions and improve your chances of landing a job that’s truly right for you.


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