I do not have a clue when it comes to guys. I don't have many male friends so half the time when I'm trying to navigate myself around men it's not too dissimilar to approaching the herbs and spices aisle at the supermarket; some things look quite interesting and catch my eye and some things are to be avoided but most of the time it's just a little confusing and overwhelming – seriously, someone tell me what Fenugreek is – which is where a recipe book for men would come in handy for me so I can follow the instructions. However that sounds bordering on being cannibalistic so the more humane way is for me to find commonalities.
The profile photos / beauty pageant sounds like a shallow process but it's absolutely necessary and not just for the looks. Yes, anyone resembling Ryan Reynolds is sure to catch my eye but even I have to give myself a little credit. I like seeing photos of people who have been to places I've been to or have done similar things because it gives me an opportunity to start my opening gambit with something a little more imaginative than “Hi. How are you?” and shows the guy we genuinely have shared interests.
Similarly I have a range of photos which shows a guy the kind of things I'm into. For example, me looking like a mess is not the first photo a girl would think to putting on their profile but it's me at the finishing line of Tough Mudder which shows me to be someone interested in fitness as well as being a slightly deranged individual. Therefore I get quite a few guys chatting to me about where I did my Tough Mudder and they tell me where they did theirs and voila a conversation is born.
I went on a date recently with someone from match.com and we had quite a few things in common. We work in a similar type of job which is helpful because I've been on dates when they're trying their best to explain to me their profession but it's like Stephen Hawkin explaining a brief history of time to a 1 year old, it was just a bit awkward. We also had quite similar attitudes to what we want from life and again I've been on dates when we've nearly started arguing because we didn't share the same views. I don't mind friendly debate but sometimes it's just totally not right.
To me, a first date isn't about trying to impress the other person, although this certainly does not mean it is OK turning up like you just got out of bed! It's about the two of you figuring out if you might go together like salt and pepper (I started this post with my bizarre spice analogy so thought I'd keep it rolling). However whilst a criteria or even just a broad list of things you'd like to have in common is a good idea to have in the back of you mind, after all that conversation, it's that little bit of spice that makes it.