So after having been on Date Lab and gone through their interview about my date, I arranged with the editors to have an interview with one of them to talk about the behind-the-scenes of Date Lab. I got to speak with Amanda McGrath, editor of Date Lab for the past one and a half years of Date Lab’s 5-year (approx.) existence.
When people find out you work for the Washington Post Magazine, do they ask about Date Lab?
Yes, it’s the first thing people will ask about. 95% of people ask about Date Lab.
Is there any other news organization doing something similar [to Date Lab]?
Not that we are aware of. Georgetown University has started doing something similar, but I don’t know the details of it.
Which do you feel is the most meaningful question [on the Date Lab application]?
It depends on level of engagement of the applicant. The most important ones, in general, are “brag about yourself” and “what’s your type”. some people only list physical attributes, some give more meaningful answers. “what interests would you like to share” is a good one, if they’re really into politics, their hobbies. These are all taken into account when trying to make a match.
You mentioned height was added to the “newer” application, was this added due to complaints from applicants who got set up with too tall or too short matches?
Yes. Surprisingly, one of the complaints we kept getting back was about the date’s height. I was suprised that height was consistently a dealbreaker. The risk of date failure goes up exponentially if the height expectation is not met.
How many open applications do you have right now?
Our database has about 3,400 applications. The applications never expire and go back to early 2007/late 2006. The majority of applications are women, about 3 female applications for every male application.
How do you manage all the applications you receive? You must have an army of interns sorting through these?
Ha, I wish. We have two editors that sort through the database. Christina, who you spoke with for your date, does the database management.
How do you think the Date Lab matching process compares to the Match.com or EHarmony online places?
I have no idea. I would like to run a followup story to see who are still together. We only do follow up interviews to find out if there is a second date or further contact. I would like to see who ended up dating seriously or more.
Recently, a datelab match got married, do you have a trophy wall of the matches that have ended in marriage? how many (or what are the odds) for a couple to be matched and end up getting married from DateLab?
We have been aware of two weddings that have come from a Date Lab intorduction – one was this past summer. We are really hoping for invitations.
Are you tempted to set up two people you know would not be compatible, but would probably make for a great story?
There’s always the temptation, but you always have to try to legitimately try to set up with someone who has commonalities or at least being friends. We try our best to match people up who would be compatible for the long term.
Do you get one party who really really wants the others information and the other person isn’t interested at all?
Yes, and it totally breaks our hearts. We have definitely set people up and it turning into a huge disaster. But I think the worst are the ones are the ones which are disjointed – whre one person thought the date went really well while the other person thought it was so-so.
Do you feel like you’ve become a bit of a matchmaker among your friends?
A lot of my friends will joke with me, “keep an eye out for a date lab guy for me”. In an effort to be objective, it is hard to match “Real world people” with “applicants” that only exist on paper. The applicants don’t have the depth real-world people do, so it is hard to say that this applicant would be perfect for my friend.
What kinds of suggestions would you have for someone being set up on a blind date?
I think it is very ballsy for friends who set up friends on blind date – becuase potential fallout is bad. Sometimes it drives me crazy when we spend lots of time setting up two people. but at the end of the date, one or both say “there was no spark”. that phrase is the worst. the staged situation seems to keep people closed off and not willing to open up. It is worth keeping an open mind, especially that date lab is not a real world date and to give a second try at least.
We had chatted a little bit between questions as I was taking notes and it was interesting to hear Amanda speak about her job – it sounds pretty fun I think, to set up your own social experiment and see what happens.
So if you’ve considered applying to Date Lab, do it. It’s fun. The people behind it care about their work, and were great to speak with. If you’re a guy, there is a much larger pool of women to match you up with! and on top of that, you get a swank dinner courtesy of the Washington Post – and a photo of your in the paper your co-workers are sure to find!