In addition to my career in Human Resources, I have been an avid social dancer for the past 18 years.
Of all the different dances I have practiced, Argentine tango is the one that reminds me the most of interviews with recruiters.
Tango, like job interviews, is forever challenging my way of thinking, acting and communicating with anyone during the hiring process.
I offer some perspectives on how learning and practicing tango helped me interview with recruiters.
Interviews and tango tap into your listening skills and ability to respond
Tango is a dance that does not have too many set steps or figures. It is danced in a lead-and-follow fashion, where dancers are having a live conversation at all times.
In tango, a leader suggests the direction of a move and a follower responds and steps to the best of their understanding.
It is the same in a job interview. The job seeker and the recruiter have to decide the next step in the moment and set aside all preconceptions or assumptions. It is time to listen. It is time to respond.
Doing all of this requires being vulnerable, open-minded, courageous, and creative while having a sort of unspoken, yet very clear, conversation with one’s dance partner (the hiring manager or recruiter).
Learning to dance with strangers requires practice
I did not learn how to dance overnight. It took a lot of practice being open to talking to strangers. In job interviews, I use the same exact skill to approach a recruiter or a hiring manager that I use in tango. I am referring to the special way that you choose a dance partner in tango.
Using lessons learned from a Milonga
In tango, the social dancing gathering is called a Milonga. The international code at any Milonga is that the man and the woman look around the room in search for eye contact, hence their next dance partner.
Once they make eye contact, the man tilts his head or raises an eyebrow to express the invitation. The woman accepts with a nod or a smile.
In my job search, I only accept dance invitations from people who want to dance with me. I focus my energy on those recruiters who are interested in me. They are looking for me and I am looking for them. I don't waste a moment on those who won't even look my way.
Using LinkedIn as your Milonga
For example, if I scan the digital room on LinkedIn looking for a recruiter and don't receive a response after two communications, I will move on to the next one.
They have no interest in talking to me and I know there will always be other conversation partners. The best job interview will be the one where there is a mutual interest. The only way to make sure I end up with the best job interview experience is to practice focusing on those who want to talk to me.
As a job seeker, I learned to stay open to connecting with anyone, regardless of their title, company or geographical area. This way, I get to dance with outstanding professionals in other states.
I am hoping to dance with a hiring manager or recruiter in Los Angeles, but if they are not looking my way, we will dance at the next Milonga.
Lessons learned from tango for my interviews and job seeking
Let's take this a step further. Here are the lessons. After I accept an invitation to the interview and start dancing, I apply what I have learned from practicing tango.
This is both true for interviews and the job search itself.
Stay flexible to changing directions and the surrounding environment
Tango is a traveling dance, which means couples navigate around the dance floor. The woman, who is the follower, steps backward, in high heels and sometimes with her eyes closed, according to the music, with full confidence in her leader that the path is clear.
As a follower, I have to be flexible and sometimes step in a slightly different direction than what I anticipated.
It is the same in job search, sometimes you just have to trust the other person and their visibility over the entire environment. They will lead you in the safe direction if you allow them to.
For example, I had recently interviewed for a role. I found out it was offered to another candidate. After two months, the company contacted me back for another role that just opened. I am starting my new job in two weeks.
Communicating differently with each person
A tango teacher I visit in Los Angeles named Ilona Glinarsky has taught me, "Every dance is a relationship and every relationship is a dance."
There is no way I could dance the same way with all my dance partners, just as I cannot have the same conversation with all recruiters I interact with.
When dancing, I follow my leaders’ steps, direction, the speed of movement and interpretation of the music.
When job searching, I adapt my dialogue without giving rehearsed answers for job interview questions. There are definitely common ideas I drive through, but the way I do it differs.
For example, I am often asked to connect on LinkedIn by individuals I never met. If the invite is not personalized, once I accept, I follow up with a question, "What caused you to become aware of me and ultimately led you to connect?"
That gives me an opportunity to understand what they're looking for and respond specifically to that.
Learning how to do nothing but breathe and enjoy the moment
When dancing, it is common to see a couple stop for a few seconds, due to maybe an upcoming traffic jam in the line of dance.
While they look like they are fully stopped, I can assure you they are still taking a deep breath together, enjoying the moment and preparing the next move.
When I feel stuck in my job search and I don't know what will come next, I take a deep breath and enjoy a break, a long walk outdoors, reading a new book or a night out with friends.
This is by far my favorite tango lesson
I learned how to "wait in neutral". This is the process of doing nothing, being ok with it, and enjoying it.
You might have heard career coaches say, “A job loss gives you time for yourself, for going back to your hobbies and doing what you love.”
I absolutely believe this is your time to take a deep breath and do what fills your soul and makes you happy.