Can a Slob Survive Today's Unforgiving Job Market?

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by Nanci Lamborn – Blogger/Writer – BrightMove Recruiting Software

This week I was planning to post the continuation of last week’s article about the pros and cons of hiring inside referrals. But a story I just read piqued my interest, sending me down memory lane to discover some truths about some ugly habits and some even uglier recruiting tactics that hopefully most candidates won’t have to endure.

In a story on Yahoo’s career articles page written by Maria Hanson for LiveCareer and entitled “Hiring Tricks that Job Seekers Must Know,” the author claims that, “…employers and recruiters are using unconventional techniques to screen candidates… (and) job seekers need to be prepared to be judged even when it’s not clear they’re being judged.” (Read the full article here:

I have to agree with another blogger’s take on the story, Toni Bowers of TechRepublic, who states in her blog that, “…The good thing about these recruiter tactics is that it allows job candidates to weed out the loser companies they wouldn’t possibly want to work with anyway.” (Toni’s full article can be found here:  The employers who use these kinds of recruiting tactics are probably the very same who would question just who accompanied you to your weekend beach getaway, or who would ask young female candidates what their future childbearing plans are. If you are one of these such employers, be ashamed, be very ashamed!

But one of the tactics mentioned in Ms. Hanson’s article, namely about recruiters sending someone to peek inside a candidate’s vehicle to see what messiness lurked therein, almost sent me running for my handheld portable vacuum, because I confess a secret shame. For the first half of my career, I was a complete and utter slob.

I don’t know from which genetic pools my slovenliness originated. But I do recall, even as I grew up and shared a room with a sister, that fully half of the room was pristine, and the other half was a full blown health hazard. My half. I loved my half. It spoke of my personality – intense, passionate, overly multi-tasked, creative, energetic (my logical side is berating me for my excuses here… ok, FINE, it was gross). But I somehow was able to thrive within the chaos, doing very well in school and extracurricular activities. In some ways I think this contributed to my capacity as an adult to withstand a highly chaotic situation without so much as batting an eye (at least that’s what I’ve convinced myself).

But these habits of chaos did find a way to overtake my worklife when I settled into an office position early in my career. I quickly grew accustomed to using the all purpose, flat surfaced work-in-progress filing method that had served me so well in my youth. Picture dumping one full lateral filing cabinet upside down on a table, and shuffle randomly. Perfect, that will do nicely. Many visitors probably thought I’d been ransacked by some counter-terrorism team searching for Jason Bourne’s latest passport. But despite the mess, my assignments were accurate and on time, and I always knew exactly where every single document was located (left side, three layers down, back two… got it!).

Until a lovingly honest performance review later in my career addressed my untidy habits, I was really oblivious that my methods were a problem for others. I was so unaware of my issues that, in the later course of my interviewing for an administrative role, when the interviewer asked, “Are you a neat person?” I was so young and clueless that I truly thought the question meant whether I were nifty, cool, hip – neato. “Why, of course I am!” Then he asked the strangest thing. “Is your car clean and tidy on the inside?” (Good Lord whatever is the reason to ask this question? Will I have to take clients to lunch or something in this job? The ad didn’t say that! Oh wait! I vacuumed out the Cheerios spill and the forgotten apple cores yesterday. Whew!) Miracle of miracles, I did not have to lie, as I had given the mom-mobile a sound cleansing. It wasn’t until months later in that job (with a boss who prized tidiness above diplomacy) that I realized the true intent of the question. Facepalm DOH!

Now that I have matured and embraced my former enemy of organization, somewhat like a reformed smoker who now detests the slightest hint of smoke, I see the evil side of slobbery and can quickly recognize a fellow member of the Society for the Organizationally Challenged. But these passionate and creative candidates are going to have a significantly rougher time of it in the current job market. Vital documents will be irretrievably lost (directions to the interview, the yellow sticky note with the appointment date and time, keys to start the car…), and the resulting frustration on the candidate’s part is bound to be visible to the interviewer if and when the candidate makes it to the interview. Resumes become dog-eared, reference lists display coffee rings or kitten footprints… and with recruiters now having more viable candidates than ever to choose from, these behavioral byproducts will sadly eliminate some otherwise bright and capable candidates from the mix.

I truly hope that most recruiters display better behavior than those quoted in Ms. Hanson’s article, because glimpsing inside one’s vehicle cannot possible provide enough insight into that person’s creativity, ability, or intelligence. And no, you can’t look in my car today.

I will depart this discussion with my favorite quote on the issue. “DISORGANIZATION is merely the sign of a healthy individual trying to do more in a shorter period of time than those lazy, obsessively tidy types who can think of nothing better to do than straighten objects in drawers and put pictures on walls and other mindless notions that only feed their own egos and make them think they’re better than those of us who are truly gifted.” (Author unknown)


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