I’ve been told that a first conversation with me can feel somewhat like a job interview, and like a recruiter, I do a lot of online research before meeting someone. It’s safe to assume that before I first see you IRL, I know where you grew up, where you went to school, and what kind of music you like. But since someone’s internet personality can strongly differ from their authentic self, it’s hardly a catch-all for avoiding bad dates. 

As I’ve started to date more, I’ve found that how someone answers certain questions can quickly help me decide whether I want to see them again or how serious I see things becoming. That’s a change from the time in my life when I would waste months dating a guy who I wasn’t super compatible with, all because we didn’t discuss our personalities, morals, and behaviors in the initial stages of talking. 

When I fall, I fall hard, and admittedly, I fall pretty easily, so it’s proven important that I don’t sacrifice too much time to a potential partner if we’re bound to end up in different places or don’t really suit each other’s needs. By asking these four questions, I ensure I don’t.

1. What’s your sign? 

As a strong believer in astrology, I always ask this first. While I don’t believe everyone fits the exact profile of their sign, I do believe a lot of our traits resonate with our zodiac. I don’t knock anyone, not even Geminis, but I do pay attention to a potential partner’s characteristics the good and the bad — and see if any of them align with their sign.

Efosa, 25, also always asks this question. Although he’s not a strong believer in astrology, he finds that learning someone’s sign is an easy way to get them to talk about their good traits and even open up about their flaws. That’s a lot of valuable information when it comes to determining compatibility.

2. When was your last relationship? 

This question typically opens the door to answers about the role they’ve played in past relationships, how they deal with relationship problems, and how much experience they have. If someone just recently got out of a long-term relationship, I can assume that they’re looking for a rebound. If someone hasn’t been in a relationship for awhile, I figure that they’re probably over their ex and might be looking for something a little less casual. And if someone says they’ve never been in a relationship, I understand that I might end up as a trial, which could translate into a lot of work, patience, and teaching. 

Not everyone brings this topic up so early. Marisa, 25, only asks about past relationships if it somehow naturally comes up in conversation. While deeply curious, she’s afraid of scaring someone off by even uttering the word “relationship” too soon. Yet, she says, “it’s something I really want to know about because it can raise red flags or show signs of repeated behavior.”

3. Who are your top five music artists? 

I spent two years as a music journalist and read through Genius lyric breakdowns for fun. It’s no wonder that it’s important to me that my partner and I can connect through music. While everyone might not be as obsessed as I am, I want to find something we have in common to quickly create a vibe outside of physical attraction. For you, it could be books, television shows, etc. Taste matters. 

4. How do you feel about abortion (or another hot, controversial topic)? 

Most people would say this is too intense to throw out in the beginning stages of dating, but I’ve found that falling for someone only to find out that you have extremely different political views can result in pushing aside what’s important to you because you’re already emotionally invested in the relationship. It’s simple: I’m only seriously interested in men who believe men should have no say in what women do with their bodies. I’m not willing to take on the emotional labor to educate or change the mind of someone who thinks otherwise. If your view differs from mine, we might still enjoy a good time, but we probably won’t end up committing. 

I learned this the hard way. It (somehow) took two years of dating an ex-boyfriend for the topic of cultural appropriation to come up. At that point, he told me he didn’t believe in it and that it was an imagined construct. This discussion led to many other findings that would have helped me avoid wasting two years of my life. 

Mya, 24, always brings up a controversial topic midway into a first date. “I ask about their thoughts on consent, police brutality, and ‘all lives matter.’ It helps me decide if they’re low-key misogynistic or [harbor] prejudice,” she says. 

Relationship coach and dating expert Shan Boodram swears by the “frozen five” rule. “Dating is like a job — each position has requirements. Coming up with five basic traits or characteristics that your partner has to have will let you know if this person is fit for this role,” she says. While Boodram doesn’t think you can figure out during a first date if someone will be your forever, you can decide if you’ll have an enjoyable experience with them, presuming you vet them to some extent. Determining if someone has at least two of your frozen five before going on a date with them is a good way to safeguard your time and energy. Once you’re on the date, start asking questions.