1. Don't take the first thing that comes along. When you take a job, you're signing up to spend every day in this position with this manager and these co-workers in this particular culture. This means that you need to think carefully about whether this is the right match for you, asking questions to figure out things like: Is the work well aligned with your strengths? Is the workplace culture one you'll thrive in or one that will drive you crazy? Is the manager someone you'd want to work with, or is she flaky and disorganized, an unreasonable tyrant, or a wimp who can't get things done?
2. Desperation isn't attractive. Just like in dating, employers want to feel that they're hiring someone with options, not someone who's desperate and will take anything offered. And remember, when you're seeking a job, you're not asking an employer to do a favor for you; you're offering something of value—yourself (your time and skills).
3. Your interest should be personal, not generic. Your interviewer wants to feel you want this job, not just a job, so ask questions and express a genuine interest. If you appear to just be seeking a paycheck, the employer is likely to move on.
4. Remember to ask if you like them, not just if they like you. Sometimes people get so hung up on getting the job offer (or the next date) that they forget to assess whether it's even compatible with what they want. It's natural to want to measure up when an interviewer is scrutinizing you. But the wiser goal is to focus on learning whether you're a mutual match—emphasis on mutual. Again, it's like dating: If you approached every date determined to make your date fall for you, you'd miss important cues about whether or not you were right for each other.
5. Don't badmouth your exes. As tempting as it might be to explain that you left your last job because your boss was crazy or that your previous company was mismanaged, sharing these feelings will reflect badly on you. Rightly or wrongly, the convention is that you don't badmouth a previous employer in an interview, and hiring managers are looking for evidence that you know what is and isn't appropriate to say in business situations.
6. Be honest about who you are. In a job hunting context, this means being honest about your strengths and weaknesses and giving the hiring manager an understanding of the real you, so that she can make an informed decision about how well you'd do in the job. Otherwise, you risk ending up in a job where you'll struggle or be unhappy.
7. Keep your ego in check. While it's important to be able to discuss your strengths, it's also important to show self-awareness and humility. An over-sized ego is a turn-off in any context.
8. First impressions really count. People generally care most about making a good impression at the beginning of a relationship. So if a job candidate or an employer is rude or flaky during the hiring process, it's probably not going to get any better over time.
9. Don't be a stalker. One of the hardest lessons for job seekers to learn is that employers increasingly don't respond to applicants, even after interviews. While this is rude and inconsiderate, job seekers need to realize that silence signals lack of interest and move on. Calling repeatedly when your calls aren't being returned or showing up in person to demand a meeting are as inappropriate in job hunting as they are in dating.
10. Don't force a connection that isn't there. If an employer doesn't seem interested, accept that the match isn't right. After all, your goal isn't just to win a job offer; it's to land in a job that's right for you—one where the employer values you.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.