"I hate when people think ‘single’ is a bad word,” says Barbie Adler, founder and CEO of one of the world’s largest matchmaking service, Selective Search. “There’s so much societal pressure. Settling is the fastest way to get a divorce attorney on speed dial!”

The woman knows what she’s talking about. So far, her company has fixed up thousands of couples—without barking to candidates about losing weight or dyeing their hair. “It’s not my job to criticize,” she says. And the Chicago beauty with blond locks is probably the best example of proving all the stigmas wrong: She was engaged at 36 and married at 37.

Adler’s more than just a credentialed yenta, though. Coming from an executive-recruiter background with degrees in both psychology and business, she looks at the matchmaking process like a corporate headhunter. It seems she has the formula down: Adler claims a whopping 88 percent of her clients end up married or in long-term relationships. And one of every three leads to marriage after the first introduction.

To become a Selective Search success story, however, means singletons need to approach dating like a job hunt. “It’s strategic,” Adler says. “Would you leave finding your dream job up to fate? Be proactive and do something you haven’t done.”

Adler recommends candidates perform a temperature read to figure out what they are really after by asking a few probing questions, like, “Why are you still single?” “Are you protecting yourself?” or “Are you afraid of getting hurt?”

And before going on the prowl, she tells clients to take a look in the mirror and see what needs a little freshening up. “Tooth whitening— that’s a no-brainer,” she begins. “Facials. Take care of your skin. Women, don’t wear anything too revealing. Men should wear good shoes and a good watch. And don’t always look like you’re heading to a club.” She advises both sexes to get manicures and show restraint when packing on the products. Also, trust the reflection. “You know when you need to step it up at the gym,” she adds. “Ladies, if you want a fit, buff guy, he’s going to want that in return.

“There’s always a sweeping generalization in each market,” according to Adler, and in Miami, “Everyone is off to play. Boys have Peter Pan syndrome. They’re not commitment-minded. And the women look great, but don’t have substance. It’s all false, false, false.”

Her clients pay an annual fee well into the thousands and typically earn six-figure salaries. “We have high standards,” she admits, but adds, “This is not for people who want to date for sport.”

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