eHarmony wants to match you with the perfect boss


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Can a dating site play matchmaker for your career? eHarmony thinks it can.

The company, facing an increasingly crowded market for online dating, is expanding to become more than just a site for finding a romantic partner. It wants to become a "relationship company" that matches users with everyone from the right employers to the best-suited investment advisers to even better friends.

Neil Clark Warren, the founder and TV pitch man of eHarmony, has been talking about that strategy since returning as CEO in 2012. Now, he says, the company is planning its first big move: a careers platform called Elevated Careers by eHarmony, which it expects to launch by December.

The company aims to distinguish itself from other online job boards and recruiting services by applying what it's learned about playing cupid to the workplace, using algorithms and assessment tools to match applicants with the right corporate culture and the right personalities of future bosses and colleagues. Companies "get so frustrated because they are thrown so many resumes," Warren says. "We think we've developed the approach that makes it much more possible to be precise and accurate in the people we send for a particular job."

The hope, of course, is that companies will pay up for that promise of better-suited employees (and, therefore, lower turnover). Warren says eHarmony intends to ask only employers to pay for the service initially, but doesn't rule out someday asking customers to pay, too.

"Matching people for careers is about an $80 billion business," Warren says. "Matching people for marriage — while very, very important — is a $2.5 billion business. So we are looking to increase the size of our business."

The new service will try to match applicants with jobs based on four different criteria: the cultural fit of the company, the skill set of the job, the personality traits of the position's direct supervisors, and the traits of their would-be closest colleagues. Providing that in-depth evaluation, Warren says, will involve a 100-200 question survey.

"You may think that sounds like an awful lot," adds Warren, a psychologist with a divinity degree who helped create eHarmony's famously lengthy application, which once involved more than 400 questions but has more recently been whittled down to about 200. It also evaluates people on 29 "dimensions of compatibility." Warren frequently brings up eHarmony's nuptial track record (600,000 marriages) as evidence the careers site will be a successful matchmaker, too.

It's not yet clear how much that will translate into corporate demand for such a matchmaking process, particularly for jobs that aren't critical, hard-to-fill roles. Recruiters increasingly value sites like LinkedIn where they can find "passive" candidates — talented individuals who already have a job and aren't looking for a new one — rather than people actively looking for jobs.

Yet that doesn't concern Gerry Crispin, a principal with the recruiting consultancy CareerXroads. He says recruiters who have identified a "passive" candidate could always later ask them to use eHarmony's matching assessment before they're hired. He also says eHarmony's new service, if it catches on with big companies, could help lower turnover and level the playing field for candidates, who, unlike in most dating relationships, don't go into a new job as an equal partner.

What makes Crispin positive about eHarmony's expansion (he calls it "potentially disruptive") could also be their biggest challenge, he says. Corporations aren't typically willing to divulge that much information. "That's what makes it difficult to do," he says. "There's built-in obstacles."

As of now, eHarmony says it is working with three Fortune 100 companies for its new service. Warren says they'll be going after large and small companies as customers and that there is "tremendous" interest in finding employees who are better fits and in helping keep turnover costs low.

One thing that does seem clear is that when the company creates TV ads to publicize its new business, Warren will likely be in front of the camera again. "I never intended to be part of the ads in the first place," he says. Now that he's become a branded figure for the online dating site, though, "I would guess I will be in them again."

Read also:

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.
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