eHarmony has helped you get a date. Can it help you get a job?

For more than a decade, eHarmony has been helping people find a date. Now, the company wants to help people find a job.

The online dating Web site is developing a career service that would connect employers with job seekers on a Web platform that incorporates many of the same principles as its site for romance.

At a time when many Americans are still struggling to find work, eHarmony is gambling that it can win users over with an approach that prioritizes the kind of personal, emotional qualities that are difficult to discern from a résumé or a LinkedIn profile.

“It seems like there’s a social problem here that needs fixing, much in the same that when we started with relationship matching, there just seemed to be a problem,” said Grant Langston, eHarmony’s vice president of customer experience.

EHarmony is poised to enter an already crowded market. Niche job boards such as Dice and professional networks such as LinkedIn have gained traction as destinations for job seekers. And while critics have knocked traditional job boards such as Monster and CareerBuilder as outdated, these sites still accounted for about 18 percent of external hires in 2012, according to a study by consulting firm CareerXroads.

Langston said eHarmony’s advantage may be in eliciting more honest answers to tough questions. For instance, if you want to know how much a job candidate values work-life balance, the candidate is likely to give you the answer “in the way they think you want them to answer it. It’s such an artificial and weird interaction,” Langston said.

If eHarmony can get better answers to these questions, the company believes it can make better workplace matches.

The product is still in development; Langston estimates it will launch in the second half of 2014. So far, many of the hardest strategic questions have not been be answered, such as what the service will cost.

The team has also not decided what criteria it will use to determine compatibility. Langston said there are some qualities that seem obvious to incorporate, such as whether someone likes a structured environment or a freewheeling one, or whether someone works slowly and thoughtfully or quickly and instinctively. But they’re still working on the best way to capture that information, and to establish what other qualities are important in determining workplace compatibility.

“We have 29 dimensions that we match on for marriage. It would not surprise me if we have even more for a worker relationship,” Langston said.

Another challenge, Langston said, will be to figure out how the product can be built to reflect that different parts of the same company might have distinct office cultures. For example, a worker might be a great fit at a firm’s regional office in Dallas, but not at its headquarters in New York.

“We need to account for that. We’re trying to figure out exactly how to do it,” Langston said.

The effort comes at a time when there are some signs that perhaps eHarmony hasn’t been on its strongest footing. Last year, Neil Warren, eHarmony’s founder, came out of retirement to resume the position of chief executive, a move the company said was meant to “bring the brand back to its roots.” Warren shook up the management team and rolled out a fresh marketing campaign.

Warren told the Los Angeles Times last year that prior to his return, “We’d gotten a bit lost. Things were going backward, and we weren’t doing nearly as well as we were doing before.”

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economics news.
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