aziz ansari modern romanceAziz Ansari of Parks and Recreation fame has written a new book, Modern Romance, about love in the digital age. John Heilpern writes an interesting review of the book in Vanity Fair’s June edition.

The meteoric rise of, OK Cupid, Tinder, and other online sites for meet ups has opened up a host of new opportunities for people looking for love. Ansari recognizes that there is good news and bad news with the advent of this new way to find a love match. One of the surprising discoveries about the efficacy of online matchmaking is that “the partner people say they want online often doesn’t match up to the one they’re actually interested in.” Ansari himself is dating a woman he admits would not have “made it through the filters he placed on his own online dating profile.” He was looking for a woman who was younger, smaller, and had dark hair. The woman he has been happily dating for two years is slightly older, taller, and blonde.

It can be difficult to define what you are looking for using the online metrics. Sometimes what you think you want is not what you really need. This is true for employers trying to find the right match for the jobs they need to fill. Writing a description of a desired employee can be a challenge. Employers write job descriptions with a focus on the hard skills they need. But even if you can get a definition of the right hard skills, that is no assurance that the person with the right soft skills will also have those hard skills. Arguably, since hard skills can be acquired, personality and soft skills ought to be the ones an employer focuses on in the online job posting. But that is rarely done. You are not likely to read a job posting like this: “Looking for a worker who is people-smart with high emotional IQ and an ability to roll with the punches. Must get along with our crazy, demanding clients and a manager who screams at everyone because he is anxious about making budget.” You won’t find a job posting like that, but maybe you should.

What Ansari probably found with his current girlfriend is a set of deeply personal traits that make her who she is, and that resonate with him. Those traits are not skin deep. They have nothing to do with hair color or height. When we search for the real building blocks of personality that make people who they are – their grit and determination, their ability to be calm under pressure, their sense of humor, generosity, ability to be supportive of others and step up to do the work, we are getting at the real stuff of a human being. That is too hard to reduce to words in a job posting or a description for online dating purposes. Just as there are limits to getting the person you really want from an online dating post, there are limits to getting the person you really want to join a workplace from an online job post.

The best way to find the right personality traits is to meet in person. A “real live risky meeting” is the best vetting tool to use at least in the beginning of a process that includes a fuller revelation of information. That is why it is so important for job seekers to engage in person, in rapid relationship and trust building meetings with people in their industry as they look for job opportunities. The meetings they have in person with people who are connected or respected by a particular workplace may well trump the online submission for a job at that same workplace. If you meet with people who are central in your industry and those meetings are good, there can be a positive buzz about you that spreads through the grapevine of that industry. When that happens, you are more likely to be able to come to the attention of a workplace through the recommendation of an internal source, which increases the likelihood of being hired. I write about this process in my book, Job Quest: How to Become the Insider Who Gets Hired. Of course it also matters that you do your own research about the workplace if you are a job seeker. You may not want to work in a pressure cooker setting with a difficult boss even if you could handle it.

Finding the right match is a two way street. And getting that match right happens in person.