Monday, July 1, 2013

First Message Pass-Through Rate

Reviewing his resume

I do quite a bit of interviewing for my job. One of my favorite interview questions goes something like this - You're hiring someone for your team, and you are given a stack of 100 resumes. How do you go about finding the best candidate? What are the limitations of your approach?

Trying to find the best guy out of the hundreds of messages I've received feels like a similar exercise. I've been averaging 20+ messages a day from 10+ different guys. Roughly 50% of these guys are new ones I haven't heard from before. Of those, I've been responding to less than half. This response rate has definitely gone up since being deemed "hot" so I guess it's working as advertised. With this kind of volume, I can't spend huge amounts of time evaluating the guys' "resumes", especially since the influx of messages is higher during the work week, and I still have to do real work. I realized I've started following a pattern of evaluation to determine if I want to write back and possibly give him an "onsite interview".

Step 1: The message

The message needs to have some sort of reference to my profile. It doesn't need to be long, but it should be personalized and not just an obvious copy/paste. Two exceptions to this are if the message makes me laugh or if I rated the guy highly and we got a "you chose each other" note. The message also shouldn't be overtly sexual or a "neg". I'm not interested in being insulted.

Limitations: From what my guy friends tell me, they send out a lot of messages before they get a response. I could definitely be missing out on a great guy who's just gotten tired of spending a ton of effort writing a personalized message. But a little bit of effort goes a long way.

Step 2: His stats

Age - He has to be within the age range I specified. I've gotten messages from guys as young as 20 and as old as 54. But I'll at least consider the guy if he acknowledges that he's outside the age range I put in my profile.

Gender - Male, obviously.

Orientation - Straight. I thought I was open-minded, but when I got a message from a guy who identified as bisexual, I realized I'm really not that open-minded. No judgments, but it's not the lifestyle choice I want to make.

Marital status - Single. You'd think that would be a given, but I have actually seen guys who admit they're married on the site.

Location - San Francisco. I was specific that I'm looking for someone who lives in the city. Not only do I get messages from all over the Bay Area, but I've also gotten messages from India, Indonesia, Brazil and least a dozen different states.

Limitations: I'm sure I am missing out on good guys who are outside the age range or live outside SF, but I need to narrow down the list somehow. This is a quick way to do it.

Step 3: Profile photo

I have to think he looks attractive in his profile photo. The best photos show his face clearly. If it doesn't, he has to be doing something interesting.

Limitations: Not everyone is photogenic, and many photos aren't representative of how the guy actually looks. Several guys have looked much older in person, but a couple have been more attractive than I was expecting.

Step 4: Other photos

If the first 3 steps check out, I'll click through to his profile and first look at the other photos he has posted. Photos with kids or with a woman should have captions. It's good to know if they're his kids (not a deal breaker, but I don't want to guess) and that it's not his ex-girlfriend. He should also be fully clothed in all of the photos unless he's doing something active and awesome. No selfie in the mirror.

                           Acceptable                                                         Unacceptable
      Progress #judgeme #selfie #bathroom #mirror #progress #shirtless
(These are from Google image search. They're not guys who have messaged me.)

Limitations: This one I actually think is a pretty solid filter.

Step 5: His details

I check height and assume he's an inch or two shorter. I'm not tall, but I like wearing heels on occasion. He has to be taller than I am in heels. I look at body type, and most of the guys who message me put athletic. So far the guys I've met are actually athletic since I talk so much about being active in my profile. But my less active female friends say that average actually means overweight (which I suppose is average in the US). If he says he drinks often or very often, I assume he's actually an alcoholic. Never drinks is also grounds for deleting the message. I like wine, what can I say. I check the income, though most guys don't put this.

Limitations: I'm making a lot of assumptions. All of which could be inaccurate.You should be truthful here, but you do have to be careful that you're not putting yourself at a disadvantage since so many people do lie/exaggerate on these sites.

Step 6: The questions

When you compare answers to questions you both answered, you can filter on "unacceptable answers" or questions that you answered differently from each other and you didn't mark the option he chose as acceptable. I look for the intelligence questions (if you turn a left hand glove inside out it fits on which hand). Don't put "I don't know and I don't care" for these. Just skip if you don't know. I also filter out someone who seems like he's extremely religious, a huge party guy, not over his ex-girlfriend, or really just looking for a fling. Often quite a few deal breakers pop up during this step.

Limitations: Any time a pattern emerges, this is a great filter. But making a snap judgment based on a single question could cut a good guy.

Step 7: His profile

Only after I check all of the above do I read his profile. The biggest thing that will get a guy cut at this point if he brings up sex. Don't put down sex as one of the things you can't live without. You're a guy. I assume you're into sex.

Limitations: As long as he can write and doesn't say anything too incredibly stupid, this is an easy step to get through. At this point I'm more looking for things to talk about in my response back.

Then it's time to see if he can carry a conversation and if he'll ask me out.


  1. Going through all of the questions must be exhausting. You seem to get to the personality stuff (what he writes in his profile) as the very last thing...

  2. I don't go through all of the questions. Just the "unacceptable" ones. It doesn't take too long. I can get through all of this in about 5 minutes. Personality does come out in both the first message and in the questions. A little bit in the photos too. But you are correct. The profile is last. I think it helps that I'm pretty specific.

  3. You're getting professional and very good at this online dating Sara!!! I feel like I should forward your blog to my single friends. A friend of mine after talking to this guy on OKCupid for a couple weeks, he asked her to close her profile, what is your take on this? I told her no, he seems like a control freak. They haven't met in person since he's currently out of the country. What do you think about this guy?

  4. If they haven't even met in person, I agree with you. If he wanted to be exclusive after going out a few times, totally different story. He sounds like bad news!

  5. The whole process sounds painful and time consuming, like looking for candidates in a stack of resumes. Is it 5 min per "candidate" or a stack of them.

    i read this today too, your take?

  6. 5 minutes is the most time I'll spend. If the message is terrible, 5 seconds.

    Interesting article. 100% agree on the Peter Pan mentality. Outside of online dating, my experience has been guys rarely even ask you out on a real date. They just want to "hang out". SF is definitely not a dating friendly city.

  7. one of my favorite profiles is still a one I found... the profile was so egotistical and full of himself that it made me laugh (not in a good way) and laugh even harder after I looked (yes, I did!) at his professionally done photos from the 80's (that, or he hadn't updated his closet in 30 years). It went something like this: '....I was on Millionaire Matchmaker. Before you decide to contact me, please go to this website, check out my clip and validate that you fulfill all of my requirements before you contact me. You must look like your pictures; one time I flew a woman out from New York and when she got off the plane she looked like a 40-yo version of her profile pictures..." :O Good luck finding a real person with an attitude like THAT.

  8. Right on! You have to add the part about looking for female 21-45 some college-PHD. It boggles my mind how someone's preference could be so broad, i've started to look for that as a part of the filter.