🐝🔥 Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match

What dating apps can teach us about talent platforms. A case study on The League.

Talent platforms in my advisory portfolio are laughing reading this because they know how much I love talking about dating apps. Why? Dating apps deal with tech-enabled matchmaking at scale. I’m on them all for research… I swear. 😅 

Dating apps strategically tailor user experiences and journeys, control search and filter, and algorithmically reveal pairings in ways that are not too dissimilar to talent platforms.

At the end of the day, the staffing industry is really just a bunch of paid matchmakers.

Today, we’re going to dive into a case study about the dating app The League.

What is The League?

The League is known as being the platform for elitist workaholics.

In all seriousness, the app was created for ambitious and career-oriented singles who are looking to lock into their next power couple situation.

For starters, you connect your LinkedIn account. Not only to ensure that you actually pass the quality and success measures required to be on the platform, but te use it for some additional features and functionality. It allows them to increase matches with those who share mutual connections and it also gives users the choice to filter out their current colleagues from their potential matches. Not everybody wants Martha in Legal to know that they’re single so this is a nice feature IMO.

I want to talk about The League today because it does a few clever things that really stand out from the other apps. Talent platforms can learn a thing or two here so buckle up.

Hype & Exclusivity

Upon its launch in 2015, The League launched in one beta city only - San Francisco. They built up a waitlist of 75,000 hopeful singles in a single month.

In a city where the venn diagram between identity and career is a circle, this was a no-brainer. The team started to curate initial users and those that got in wore it as a badge of honor.

The rest? They could see exactly what number they were on the waitlist in the tens of thousands. There was one way to jump the long line: find someone who’s already a member of The League and they can help you get in.

Now, nearly ten years later, they’ve launched in cities worldwide and there’s a second way to jump the queue: pay to become a member ($399.00 for a 3-month subscription).

✨ This was brilliant for a few reasons:

  • Differentiation creates Hype - It created a buzz and got a splash in the media because it was so different than anything out there to date.

    ❓️ How is your community different than others?

  • Elitism breeds Jealousy - It was a topic of conversation between friends and colleagues - something to boast about if you actually got in.

    ❓️ How are you creating an attractive brand image?

  • Exclusivity impacts Perception - If you get in, you’re part of the cool kids club. Not only does this make you want to get in more, but it also changes your perception of potential matches - they too, must be cool.

    ❓️ How are you creating community affinity and association?

  • Pricepoints impact Psychology - It’s set at a high enough price point that it created a few interesting impact points. First, it is brand-aligned to successful users: not everybody can afford that. Second, it ensures that people who pay are serious about using the app and finding a match.

    ❓️ Is your community too accessible and easy to get into? Who has skin in the game?

Creating Scarcity

Members of The League only got one “ticket” they can give to another single friend to bypass the virtual waitlist. When you went to share your referral, they flagged to you that the quality of your referral would be measured and your membership may be impacted positively or negatively in response. 

Once you’re in, it’s not a free-for-all. Most apps allow you to swipe endlessly as if you’re scrolling a social media feed. Not in here, no way. The League serves you three profiles a day at 5 pm local time. You can increase this number to five if you refer more people or become a member. We love product-enabled growth.

🤩 Again, the brilliance is blinding:

  • Peer Reviews allow Quality Growth - Knowing that your referral will impact your profile, rating, and potentially risk your membership means you’re going to give that some serious thought before passing them through. The appeal of The League was that this was a curate high-quality space. Putting the onus onto the community to keep it that way is smart. Members clubs work like this too. Want to join Soho House? Find three people who will vouch for you.

    ❓️ You are the average of your five closest friends. How do your members aide in determining the average of your community?

  • Scarcity impacts Psychology - Getting only three profiles a day not only makes you read each one meticulously, but it leads to a higher likelihood of action. The paradox of choice is real - read about this jam sample experiment to see what I mean in more detail. If I present you one match, you assume it’s the BEST POSSIBLE MATCH. If I give you tons of choices, it triggers window shopping.

    ❓️ How are you presenting jobs to talent AND talent to clients? What behaviors are you encouraging? What happens if you test showing more or less?

  • Enabling Introductions Matters - Timing is everything, they say. By having all users get a notification to log on around 5 and spend a couple minutes (likely as they log off from work), they’re ensuring there’s more activity. Those who send a message right when they match are 3x more likely to get a response. The WAY you introduce people influences the likelihood of a successful match.

    ❓️ You are the average of your five closest friends. How do your members aide in determining the average of your community?

Maintaining Quality

We’ve already lightly touched on one quality influencer of the peer reviews but there were some interesting tactics that primed people’s brains to behave in certain ways.

Not only did the quality of your referrals reflect in your “League Score” but they brought the receipts of all your activity to showcase that they were watching how you behaved and you would be rewarded or reprimanded accordingly.

📊 You know what they say, dating is a numbers game.

  • League Score - reflects the likelihood to get shown to other users factoring the rest of your stats below.

  • Popularity - how much people swipe right on you

  • Flakiness - how often are you letting a match expire without talking

  • Initiation Rate - how often you start conversations

  • Ghost Rate - how often are you the one to stop responding to a match

  • Flagged Rate - how often your behavior is flagged for review by other users

  • Blocked Rate - how often are you getting blocked by matches

  • Conversion Rate - are you getting dates through these matches

The best part? If any of your stats drop low enough, you get the 👢 .

🤓 We love this so much because:

  • Transparency breeds Good Behavior - If you know you’re being watched, you behave differently. If a match knows that there are repercussions for their actions and someone is watching, they will do better. Better behavior = better user experience = more quality matches = more time on app. The math maths.

    ❓️ How are you setting expectations, measuring them, and sharing reports about themselves back to both talent and clients?

  • Set Goals to Reach Goals - High expectations keep the bar off the floor. The League cares about quality and professionalism. If you don’t meet basic behavioral requirements they will drop you and you have to buy your way back in (skin in the game for a second chance).

    ❓️ What’s your strike system? What behaviors result in a boot for both talent and clients?


Quality over quantity. Everything The League has done is to create a curated group of individuals who are most likely to take action, match, and date. At the end of the day, that’s the goal.

  • They keep the top of the funnel massively large so that they can pick the best in the draft and get ‘em on the field.

  • They coach them to results by pairing similar players - it’s not a free-for-all all.

  • They show them their stats to ensure they don’t get cut.

I could nerd out on this stuff for ages. If you like this piece and want me to turn it into a series email me and let me know what you think.