3 Screening Tips We Learned From TV's “Catfish”

MTV’s Internet dating reality show “Catfish” is more than just a wildly entertaining trainwreck. It actually contains some great little nuggets of wisdom that are totally applicable to the world of online hiring. This is particularly true when it comes to screening, because the employee selection process is a lot like dating. “Catfish,” for those who are unfamiliar with TV's guilty pleasure of the moment, follows the host, Nev, as he travels around helping potential couples transform online relationships into the real thing. But here's the catch: the would-be lovers have yet to actually meet in person. As you can probably imagine, there are lessons of all sorts to be learned here. We'll focus on screening.

1. Be up front about your expectations

Good communication is important during the employee selection process, just as it is in romance. So lesson number one is easy: it’s best to be straightforward about your expectations from the start.

On “Catfish,” Jarrod assumed that his Facebook flirtation was leading to something serious. But for the woman that he was crushing on, online flirtation was where it ended. Had Jarrod been specific about what he was looking for, he could have avoided a year of hopeless longing (not to mention the pain of embarrassment on a national stage).

When you’re recruiting potential employees for your company, be as up f ront and specific as you would be when seeking a mate. Be clear about what you want, what you don’t want and what the position entails. You’ll attract fewer candidates, but they'll be better ones. This early screening step will allow you to move ahead with the employee of your dreams instead of wasting time with people who have incompatible goals.

2. Don’t always rely on your gut

Going with a gut instinct can work occasionally, sure. But sometimes a psychological phenomenon called the confirmation bias can cloud our judgment. When we uncritically accept the information that we already want to believe, that's the confirmation bias at work.

On the show, Sunny chose to trust her gut about Jamison, even though he seemed too good to be true. As it turned out, Jamison wasn’t a male model in California at all. He was a young woman in Arkansas. So don’t be like Sunny. When a friend refers a likable graphic designer with a great portfolio, just remember that the most effective hiring decisions are always based upon hard evidence.

3. Check those references

By far, the biggest employee selection lesson that we can learn from the show is the importance of doing your homework. Anyone can claim to be anything on the Internet, but if you do a little digging you may find that things aren’t exactly as they appear.It happens on the show all the time. Had Jasmine clicked the employer link on her cyber-beau’s Facebook profile, she would have discovered that the modeling agency he supposedly worked for wasn't based in Atlanta, as he'd claimed, but in Pakistan.

Worse, he wasn't even a person! Her love interest turned out to be a fictional profile concocted by a jealous woman.It wouldn't be very fun to deal with deception this severe at work, would it? When a new hire lies about his qualifications, you'll waste time and money by going through the online hiring process yet again.

That's why checking references and past employers is a must when screening potential employees.


“Catfish” has more to offer than just awesomely uncomfortable confrontations and reminders about the perils of online dating. This is a TV series that actually has something to say about the employee selection process. So the next time one of your friends tries to talk trash on your love of trash TV, remind him of the valuable online hiring lessons you learned from watching “Catfish.” Who knew something so bad could be so good?

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