my manager won’t hire people with messy cars

A reader writes:

Am I crazy or is this a red flag?

I’m working a temp to perm job, and was just let in on a departmental secret. Apparently, when our supervisor is deciding who to keep on permanently, she will figure out which car is yours and walk out to it on a break to inspect the inside. If it’s messy, she doesn’t hire you on full-time.

This is insane, right? I feel a little bit like my privacy is being violated, honestly. I know people can see into my car, of course. But I don’t expect anyone to be actively snooping.

Is this a sign I don’t want to work here? I like all my colleagues and the work I’m doing. This is the first red flag I’ve seen, and I want to make sure I’m not blowing things out of proportion.

As a hiring test, this is insane.

Plenty of people have messy cars for reasons that have nothing to do with how they’ll perform on the job. Maybe they had a hectic weekend and their car ended up messy and they haven’t had a chance to clean it. Maybe they’re neat in every other area of their life and their car is the one spot they don’t care much about. Maybe they share the car with a slob. Maybe they’re a generally messy person but they’re still awesome at their job. It means nothing.

It’s particularly silly as a hiring test for people she already works with. It’s one thing to look for proxies when you don’t have much other data to go on — but when she works with people every day, she has loads of direct information about their work and how they operate. She doesn’t need to go looking for hidden meaning in their cars.

All that said … is it a sign you don’t want to work there? Eh.

It would be easy to say “anyone with ridiculous tests like this is a bad manager who you don’t want to work for.” But I’ve worked with people who have silly pet hiring theories, and they were perfectly fine to work for.

For example, I used to work with a woman who was absolutely lovely — a good manager and a good person. And she believed that she could tell things about candidates by how they handled the offer of a beverage. I asked her about it for this very old post and she said, “It’s a measure of politeness extended, politeness rejected or accepted, and how it’s done. I don’t care if they accept the drink or not, but I do pay attention to how they respond to the offer. Also, I pay attention to whether they dispose of the cup themselves (these were paper cups that would tossed in the trash) or leave it for me to do myself. Tells me so much about what kind of person they are.”

I think that’s reading way too much into it (especially in an interview situation where people are nervous and may simply forget to throw away their trash), but my point is: she had a silly test that she had convinced herself she could learn from, and she was still a fine person to work for.

Would she be better at hiring if she got rid of that test? Yes. Should interviewers move to more evidence-based forms of hiring that more objectively assess the must-have characteristics and skills for the role? Yes. Was her test an indicator of what she was like to work for? No.

Just as your manager should be focusing on the more substantive things she sees from you every day, the same goes for you: Pay attention to the substantive things you see about her. Does she set clear and realistic expectations, give useful feedback, resolve roadblocks, and ensure you have the space and tools you need to do good work? Is she fair, transparent, and even-keeled? Do other people seem generally happy working with her? If all those things are good, her car test may be a fluke. On the other hand, if some of those things are bad, the silly car test doesn’t really matter; she’ll be a problem to work for regardless.

{ 436 comments… read them below }

  1. Hills to Die on*

    And also it’s about 5000 harder to keep the car clean when you have kids. Just a dumb idea and feels deliberately playing a weird power game.

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      The front seats in my car are nice and presentable… but the back? Where my dang kids are? Good lord, the other day I found a fossilized orange back there.

      1. Ohhh deeeer*

        I have children and I do not allow food in cars.
        And yet for some strange reason I always find corn flakes, shrivelled grapes, mandarin peels and ice cream cone crumbs in the back!
        Parent life be like that!

        1. LilPinkSock*

          What?! How? Did it fall out of a lunchbox or something? Lol I’m picturing my kindergartener nephew waltzing out of the house with a porkchop stuffed in his pocket…and then promptly losing it underneath the seat.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            A friend of mine once got called by their school because their (2nd grade I IIRC) kid was acting kind of strange, looking a bit odd. Turns out he had for some reason raided the fridge after breakfast, stuffed a hunk of leftover pork in his mouth … and then kept it there, in his cheek, all during the bus ride to school, and the start of the school day until his teacher noticed.

            IDK, did he think he’d be hungry later?

            Kids are weird

          2. Kit*

            A friend found a chicken bone stuffed down into her couch cushions the other day after her niblings had visited – kids are weirrrrrrrrd.

        2. JustaTech*

          I very nearly spit my coffee all over my keyboard!
          A porkchop!
          And I thought the random milk spray onto the opposite window was bad.

        3. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          Not a car, but I found out yesterday my son has been dropping his banana peels behind the table next to one of the living room chairs instead of taking them to the trash…needless to say he’s not allowed bananas anywhere but the kitchen any longer.

      2. allathian*

        Ha. Both my husband and I are fairly messy people because while I wouldn’t call us hoarders, we definitely have too much stuff for every object to have its own designated place. My desk is a horrible mess, for example, and there’s absolutely no way I’d participate in a “show your home office desk” icebreaker.

        But our son is nearly 15 and his “teenage rebellion” shows in that he’s meticulous about keeping his own room clean and tidy! I only have to remind him to put his snack plates in the dishwasher, for some reason he’s blind to those.

        About a month ago we bought a new-to-us car pretty much on the spur of the moment and it took the three of us about 15 minutes to empty the trash and move all the other stuff to the new car.

        The only time that there’s been an actual mess in the car was when our son got sick in daycare once and when I took him home, he vomited all over the back seat. We had to have the interior detailed because it was impossible to get the smell out. After that, we put a removable and washable cover on the back seat, but luckily he never vomited in the car again.

        1. Sandman*

          actual puke bags are a lifesaver, and are super cheap. I have a pile in the seat back pockets now

        2. Reluctant Mezzo*

          Oh, I have a better story. With a bigger kid. My second older brother mixed wine and beer to Great Excess his last night of leave with the Army. Mom drove him to the airport, and alas, the back seat cushions were never the same again. Detailing didn’t even get rid of it. Mom waited till it was cold weather and left the windows down while driving to a car dealership out of town (we lived in a small town and everyone there had heard the story). She and Dad still got a good deal on a trade-in, but I feel a little bit sorry for the dealership.

    2. Emikyu*

      Or a lazy spouse, for that matter. My ex-husband and I had to share a car for a while, and he could never be bothered to get rid of all the drive-thru trash that would accumulate in it.

      So whether she knows it or not, this manager would essentially have made a hiring decision about me based on my (admittedly poor) taste in men in my 20s. I feel like that is perhaps not the best metric.

      1. Bast*

        Okay, so it isn’t just my husband who does this. For whatever reason, he will ball up his fast food wrappers and bags and throw them in his backseat instead of just placing them to the side and then throwing them out when he exits the vehicle. It drives me insane.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          Cans and bottles. So.many.cans.and.bottles. My car isn’t particularly clean – there are sweaters in the back and crumbs on the floor – but I hate having things rolling around even if they can’t get under my feet while I’m driving. He doesn’t care. These days he drives an EV and I need more range so I never drive it, and that’s totally fine with me.

          1. JustaTech*

            One time a coworker was giving several of us a ride to lunch and when I opened the back door a veritable rain of empty soda cans fell out.
            Mostly sparking water, but there were Coke and Pepsi cans in the mix too. (Which was weird to me, I thought people usually did one or the other.)

            My car is dirty (baby, also the time the coffee shop didn’t have any lids for the cups), but it isn’t messy, because I don’t tend to keep things in the car. And I have a very short commute and no drive-thru options.

        2. COHikerGirl*

          My vehicle is messy (partly due to dogs, partly because of something happens, I can survive in my car while waiting for rescue!) but it’s not dirty. My husband’s car? Messy and dirty. If I ever needed to borrow my husband’s car and a coworker looked inside, they’d be horrified (heck, I’m horrified!). But he does the same in my car. I have to remind him to take the trash with him when he leaves it.

          1. Spring*

            I have a trash bag and a recycling bag in my car. so there’s no loose trash, and everything has place, and it’s fairly tidy. But – it’s very dirty: dog dirt, dust, dirt from shoes. I really need to go to the damn car wash sometimes! And – I’m very good at my job.

            1. Kyrielle*

              I hate to think what these people would think of my mom’s car growing up. She was an absolute neat freak, so trash, etc., wasn’t allowed to accumulate. But we lived on a dirt and gravel road, and the first model year of the Ford Taurus station wagon had an issue with the hatchback gaskets where they deformed in hot weather, so after its first summer it let dust in around it. So the outside of the car was always very dusty or muddy, and the inside was always at least a little dusty. What’s the point in washing it frequently when, the next time you drive it to or from home, it’s just going to be a mess again?

        3. Ellie*

          Oh dear… this is me. I squeeze my rubbish into the cup holder because it’s easier, and the back seat is a disaster area because we have two children and I do allow them to eat snacks in the car, during the commute home. My husband can’t stand it. He cleans the car’s interior every weekend.

          If this test was pulled on me, they’d really want to make sure they were hiring my husband and not me, based on the same car.

        4. Mallory Janis Ian*

          My husband and I have always shared a car until recently, when we purchased a Subaru as primarily my vehicle. All our other vehicles have been slightly to very messy because I can’t keep up with the amount of stuff he leaves in the car. With a car to myself, I didn’t even do anything differently — i.e. just continued to implement the rule of removing any trash or clutter from the car whenever I get out.

          He commented that he was irritated that my car by myself was so clean when our car together never was, like I was doing it to spite him or something. So now I’m irritated that he was irritated: Dude, there is no difference in my habits — it’s the absence of YOU that is letting the car be clean!

      2. Petty Betty*

        Oh gods. I had a used suburban and the 3rd row seat seemed to be a portal for chicken bones. We never once ate fried chicken in that vehicle at all in the 8 years we owned that rig, but every single time I cleaned out the ‘burb, I would find at least ONE fried chicken drumsticks underneath the 3rd row seat.
        I sold off that truck and bought a newer suburban. We REMOVED the 3rd row and installed it into the newer suburban (I still had four teenage boys to haul around). We had to weld it in place because of the size mismatch, but we got it in there. In the 5 years we owned the newer suburban WE STILL KEPT FINDING EATEN FRIED CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS! We even moved and were parking in a garage that only we could access. The only explanation we can come up with is that the 3rd row seat was truly a portal to a KFC trash can that only issued drumsticks.

        1. Judy*

          Hate to tell you this but rodents often times crawl into cars (through engines, anywhere they can) and bring their meals. When I had a car in the city, I often found chicken bones in and around the engine but luckily never inside the car. Drumsticks are the favorite of rats, at least in my hood.

          1. Petty Betty*

            I’d considered that, but no evidence of rodents in the vehicle. I tore that vehicle apart multiple times looking for evidence of any and everything I could to explain why we’d have chicken remnants in a vehicle we never ate chicken in.

      3. Abundant Shrimp*

        I once shared my car with a then-SO for a few months. No matter how I cleaned it whenever I had a chance, the man would get into my car and a few hours later, it would look like a convenience store and a coinstar machine had both exploded inside of it at the same time. Don’t know how he did it. It’s a talent that I do not possess. That manager would’ve never hired me during that period of my life. Ever. Ever.

        Or, or one of the people sharing the car could simply be working a blue-collar job. I once swapped cars with a family member when he was working construction. On an outdoor site. In late fall. I dressed up to go to a music show, opened the car, and the inside was all covered with dust and mud. I swear there had to be at least a half-inch of mud covering the floor. Threw a bunch of old towels over everything, drove the car to the music show, and had a good time. But my point is, it would’ve been wild and a lil bit classist if I’d needed to drive that car to, say, the office, and got turned down for a permanent job because of what my family member does for a living.

      4. Freya*

        The only reason my car gets vacuumed is because of my husband. We have a seat cover for the dog purely because I don’t like furry seats but also forget that I wanted to vacuum the car in between getting out of it and opening the door to the house! I used to brush my hair on the way to work (there’s a couple of lights that you always have to wait at, and with limited hairstyle exceptions the headrest ruins any work I put in prior to getting in the car so I was finishing my hair in the parking lot at work anyway) so my old car had not just drifts but geological strata of my hair in places, with layers of different colours.

        If the state of my car was a factor in hiring me, then I would have been hired purely based on my great taste in men in my late 30s :-P

      5. Middle Aged Lady*

        Ugh. I don’t think people realize that leaving food and food waste in their car can attract mice, who will wreak havoc on your car.

        The only way this could be seen as reasonable on the part of the hiring manager is if they are, like me, viscerally affected by clutter and are afraid the employee will have a messy desk. I know this is an odd sensory processing disorder, but visual clutter makes me dizzy, nauseated, and angry. I once had a boss who was like me and she mandated clutter-free work surfaces. I liked that about her!

        1. Middle Aged Lady*

          Edited to say if a boss wants clean desks, they should mention it in the process: ‘we keep the work area free of clutter. Can you work like that?’ and not just go snooping at cars, because they are a snapshot and not the whole picture of a person’s life. And that it could be a hiring method that discriminates against moms. One of my besties has a neat house but her car is always full of recycling—which means she is a good person.
          After reading other’s posts, I realize even more that it was a good idea not to be a mother. Kids come with clutter.

    3. Meredith*

      Absolutely . I worked full time with kids and my husband travelled out of the country a lot on business and had no family within hundreds of miles to help. The kids really trashed my car. I rarely called in sick in 15 years, was never late and made many solid contributions to the company.

    4. Polaris*

      I actually had a bit of a conversation with my boss once upon a time about the exterior appearance of my car.

      Background – my kids’ babysitter lived on a dirt road, and it was spring (aka mud season that falls between winter 3 and false spring 2) in a midwestern state. I traversed said navigable mud 2x daily, utilizing AWD to deal with said mud. Because of said mud, I typically went to one of the very few car washes locally on Saturday mornings.

      He felt I should be washing my vehicle more often, not realizing that I was basically going mudding twice daily and that I was going weekly. My response was “um, why? It’ll be filthy again within 24 hours unless its Saturday. That’s ridiculous.”

      1. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

        We have horribly thick pollen all through spring and most of summer. I frequently lose my car in the parking lot because I’m looking for a sparkly blue car, not a matte green car. If I get a car wash, it will be green again the next day. And even if the outside was clean, the inside would be just as filthy because I use my car as the hauler for dirty equipment, mulch, brush, etc. So I guess I couldn’t have a job either.

    5. ferrina*


      My car looks like a hurricane has hit the back seat. Crumbs and random toys everywhere. My kids do a lot of eating in the car (we have a couple extra curriculars that happen around dinner time), and, well, they act their age. I clean it out every few weeks, but it’s a couple hours each time I have to do it. Collect all the toys, shake out all the crumbs, power vacuum…I genuinely don’t know how they get it that messy!

    6. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Yeah, that was 100% my first thought and I’m surprised Alison didn’t mention it as an option. The front seat of my car is okay. Not spotless – there’s a small litter bag in there for tissues and the like, and usually a spare ball cap or something, and it could certainly stand to be vacuumed – but okay. The back seat is a complete disaster area because I have an 11-year-old who can barely remember to bring in his lunchbox, much less the random kid crap that accumulates.

    7. Emma*

      Yes, seems like a good way to screen out women from the job, which is obviously not right.

      1. Nina*


        Which, yes, will disproportionately affect women, but not only women, and discriminating based on whether you have kids is illegal too.

        1. Katie Impact*

          Not actually illegal federally in the US (unless you work directly for the federal government, in which case you’re covered by Executive Order 13152). Some states have their own protections against discrimination based on family status, though.

    8. Ally McBeal*

      Absolutely this. The most capable, competent career woman I know has a disaster car and a disaster social life. She got not one but two promotions/raises while going through a terrible divorce from a horribly abusive man, with whom she has two kids under age 10. Her car is the very least of her worries.

      1. Paint N Drip*

        and THAT is the hire I would want to make!
        I may be biased because I am the person with hit-by-a-hurricane vehicles

    9. Miss V*

      No kids, but in 2022, between the beginning of February and the end of March I had four deaths in my family (including both my mom and MIL) and my brother was in the middle of getting divorced and needed to move.

      For months I had to go help someone move or sort through things almost every day. My car was piled with stuff, the back seat and trunk were stuffed with things that needed to go to Goodwill/the animal shelter/be taken somewhere until someone else could pick it up, etc. Not to mention I was living off of Cliff bars and Starbucks and the bag for trash I keep in my car was filled in a week with wrappers and empty cups and I didn’t have the energy to replace it.

      My usually neat car was a wreck. Heck, I still have some bins in the trunk I haven’t dealt with.

      All this to say, the are plenty of reasons someone’s car might be (really really REALLY) messy that have nothing to do with their level of organization .

    10. Alright Alright Alright*

      This boss would get the vapors after one glance at my minivan! And I can’t even blame it solely on my kids, I’m just a messy car person. Drives my husband crazy but it doesn’t bother me.

      1. Big Pig*

        I can’t drive and don’t have a car so that would stump her (or explode her mind as it seems to for a lot of Americans, I’m a Brit). Although as a very typical in this respect ADHD if I did have a car I imagine it would be as untidy as my home office/sewing room and she would never hire me.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Not owning a car is common in particularly large cities in the US. Unfortunately our public transit is crap in most places, so having a car is often necessary just to have a job.

    11. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      Two kids in sports in a state where you can go from 95 and sunny to 40 and rainy in minutes. Plus one kid who did theatre and dance. Anyone who removes the bleacher seats, camp chairs, stadium blankets, coats, hats, gloves, gear bags, etc risks their life.

      On the plus side once my friends and I went to a movie where the AC was stuck on freezing and I had enough warms stuff in my car for 7 people.

      1. Cathie from Canada*

        Yes, when the kids were in spring outdoor sports, I kept the winter coats in the trunk until mid-June at least.

    12. Sloanicota*

      I have a giant, slobbery, motion sick dog. My car is not a good stand-in for my performance as an employee unless the job is specifically cleaning up after pets.

    13. NotARealManager*

      Truth! I try to empty my car of trash and tupperware/dishes at least weekly. But there is still so much other stuff that seems to develop a life of its own: coats, socks, toys, stickers, paper (so much paper from school!), leaves, gravel. Plus there’s the stuff it just makes sense to leave in the car with young kids like outdoor chairs for the soccer games, emergency kits, first aid, a change of clothes, etc.

      My partner prides himself on keeping his car clean even with our little one. He drives her home from school once a week *eye roll*. I take her on the other approximately 100 trips throughout the week.

      1. Spring*

        oh the leaves! but they don’t count as dirt or mess because they’re natural!

    14. Lily*

      A few years ago, I had a co-worker whose car was always spotless, inside and out. She was whiny, lazy, and racist. Our patients didn’t want to work with her if they could avoid it.
      But her car was always clean.

      1. not nice, don't care*

        Reminds me of my maga neighbors who seem to think politeness and a golf course type lawn cancels out all the times they followed church directions to vote against anything gay/black/brown/female/woke. But hey, they are tidy and courteous.

        1. Polaris*


          They’re “nice” (tidy, I’d argue not really courteous but hey) and nice is just gift-wrapping and says nothing of their character.

    15. Ruby*

      This was my first thought, an extremely sketchy way to weed out people (let’s face it- women) with kids.

    16. Artemesia*

      And maybe it is her spouses car that day because her’s is in the shop or whatever. Really dumb. But maybe I think that because mine was the messier car. One day my son asked why I don’t keep my car neat like dad’s car — my car that was used to ferry his messy self and his sister’s messy self around. We shaped up after that. He wasn’t that pleased to have to clean up after himself.

    17. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I would hate to have been judged on a day I had to drive my husband’s car.

    18. JPalmer*

      I mean… that could be a feature rather than a bug for why LW’s manager does this.

      If you’re trying to avoid hiring people with kids (which is against the law), it is a vaguely obfuscated metric for doing so.

      It’s just such a stupid metric.

    19. Orv*

      I’ve never been in a parent’s car that didn’t smell like sour milk. It just is what it is.

    20. Thetidesturnforeveryone*

      My car is sometimes my second purse. It gets cleaned out regularly but if it’s caught just before the weekly cleaning then, I’d never be hired.

    21. allhailtheboi*

      My parents tell a story about the time they picked up my carseat and found an entire, intact Jaffa Cake underneath!

  2. Hills to Die on*

    Also, I am now curious about Alison’s former manager thought the proper way was to accept / reject a beverage offered.

    1. me*

      It’s an assessment of politeness and how you function in a world where you have to exist with other people. I see it as similar to seeing how a date treats the waitstaff at a restaurant.

      For a “proper” rejection, I would be very surprised if a polite “no thank you” would be inappropriate in this situation.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yeah, I’m imagining that “yes, please” and “no, thank you” (and variations thereof–“I’m not thirsty, but thanks for the offer,” etc.) were acceptable and a brusque “of course!” or “no!” would be unacceptable.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          This reminds me of my sister as a teen being asked “tea or coffee” and looking at the waiter offering (this was at our cousin’s communion meal out) as if they were crazy and responding in disapproving tones, “neither!”

          I’m guessing that is the sort of thing she was screening against, but…I don’t think anybody who isn’t 15 is likely to do that.

          And honestly, I think she’s at risk of screening out neuroatypical people who may both be more likely to respond in ways that don’t fit the set responses and who may be more likely to be awkward about being offered food or bevereges.

        2. Hills to Die on*

          I thought that too – it seems like a given to say please and thank you so I was wondering if there was something else. I see advice that you should always accept the offer for a beverage so I learned that today too.

        3. londonedit*

          I don’t think you necessarily always have to accept the offer, but they’re probably looking for you to say ‘Oh, no thank you’ or ‘Could I just have a glass of water, please?’ or something, rather than being dismissive about it.

        4. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

          Obviously general manners in an interview matter. Offering a drink specifically to test for it is a bit odd.

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      It could also be if they immediately start giving out their complicated order like they are at Starbucks — “yes, I’ll have half caff, soy milk with 2 1/2 shots caramel, whip … ”

      If you’re offered a complimentary beverage while waiting in reception, IME it’s generally understood to be yes/no thank you with minimal requests — asking for cream/sugar probably fine unless you want excessive amounts.

  3. Bad Wolf*

    When I was still dating, getting into a grown man’s filthy car was an instant turn off. Maybe manager is taking the “interviewing is like dating” thing a bit too literally.

    1. lilsheba*

      Same here. I judged harshly on a man’s car that was filled with trash. There is really NO reason for that. If their car is like that then their house is like that guaranteed. NOPE.

      1. hohumdrum*

        Not a man, but my car is filled with trash and my house is quite clean so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        in particular my car is where I store junk, so actually my car being trashed is part of what helps my house stay so nice lol

        I really think everyone needs to assume less tbh, though at least in dating there’s not a power imbalance so you do you

          1. hohumdrum*

            yeah, currently it has a few big bags of stuff I need to drop off at goodwill, plus some other odds and ends that need to go to other people, and then a bunch of equipment for work.

            my car is just a hunk of junk that gets me from place to place, whereas my house is my home. if there is stuff I need to store somewhere temporarily I’d much rather it live in my car than my living room.

            1. PhyllisB*

              I so hear you sohumdrum. I am constantly hauling stuff that needs to go somewhere else: books to the library, magazines to share with others, clothes to drop off at a thrift store…I had four bundles of silk flowers, flower foam and wire cutters in my trunk. Things to put on family graves. Finally got that done yesterday so car is relatively clean for today.
              When I had kids and drove a minivan I would have all the above plus their assorted junk. Drove my husband crazy, he’s always kept his vehicles clean, but as I reminded him, he wasn’t the family taxi/drop-off service either.

            2. Shutterdoula*

              I wouldn’t think of that as “trash” – that’s stuff in transit.
              When I think of a car full of trash, I’m picturing fast food wrappers, empty drink containers, used tissues, stuff that is literally garbage.
              And yes, I’ve seen that. And smelled that. And judged the car owner for it. Particularly since it was on a date and he didn’t think to clear out the car enough that I could sit in the passenger seat when he picked me up.
              It was our third and last date. (We’d met in public for the first two.)

              1. hohumdrum*

                I mean there is definitely trash in the car too, I was just explaining the inquiry about the junk. I usually just toss stuff in the back if I’m giving someone a ride, I feel like doing a full car clean out before giving someone a ride is a lot, unless it’s like a really special event.

          2. Aftran*

            I also did that for a while when I had to move unexpectedly and there were things I was afraid to unpack for a while until I felt secure in a new living place. My car looked pretty bad at that point and I always kind of worried what people might think if they noticed. It would be nice if people wouldn’t be so quick to decide that someone is just a messy person in general. You never know what might be going on.

            1. not nice, don't care*

              It’s true that we never know what might be going on. That’s why nature made us prone to snap judgements. It can be a survival skill, and not something survivors want to discount or ignore. It would be nice if people weren’t so randomly dangerous, but here we are.

            2. Dek*

              I’m in the middle of a very long decluttering/organization process. A lot of things stay in the car until I’ve made an actual place (as in A Specific Place For Them To Go, not just room to put them down) for them in my apartment.

              …there’s also a lot of trash.

      2. Bad Wolf*

        Don’t even need to imagine their house. I’m just never going to be okay sitting on a half-eaten sandwich.

        1. Quill*

          My car is a disaster zone (dirt, mail, gloves, grocery bags, crumbs) but I draw the line at eating in there enough that you have obvious food leftovers / wrappers. All fossilized french fries should be a surprise for when you get around to vacuuming.

    2. Tisserande d'Encre*

      That makes more sense, though, because he presumably has been forewarned of having a guest in his car and hasn’t bothered to do basic tidying. Similarly if the job required driving around clients (do realtors still do that?), having a messy car would have an impact, however slight. If the car is just sitting in the parking lot waiting for the commute home, it has zero bearing on the job and I agree wholeheartedly with Alison.

    3. Lady_Lessa*

      Was for me also. For the man I’m thinking of, he didn’t even bother to make sure that the floor on the passenger side had room for feet.

      That and the fact that he was unsympathetic to me when I was emotionally hung over about a photography exhibit were good reasons for not a second date.

    4. Elsewise*

      I feel like a big part of that is whether or not people make an effort to clean *for an occasion*. If I’m having a dinner party, I clean my house. If I’m picking up a date, I clean my car. I don’t do either for a new job or a job interview, because I don’t expect my boss or interviewer to be in my car or house.

      1. kiki*

        I definitely agree that it’s part of it! Who doesn’t at least tidy their apartment before hosting a dinner party?

        I also think with a date, I’m seeing if I want to get serious with somebody with the end goal being to partner in life and likely share a home and maybe even a vehicle. If somebody demonstrates that the best they can do for a first impression is a car covered in garbage… I don’t want to sign up for a life with that person. I don’t want to be the partner who has to teach them about keeping a tidy space or nag them about cleaning their car. But in a workplace, that’s different. My boss and I aren’t ever going in on a car or home together.

    5. Orv*

      My car sometimes accumulates litter and tracked-in grass clippings, but I clean it out first if I’m picking up someone important or that I want to impress.

    6. kiki*

      Yeah, especially because if I was riding with them in their car, it was likely planned at least a few days in advance. Not taking any time to do a little tidying before makes me raise my eyebrows. And to be clear, I don’t expect an immaculate vehicle and I’m not judging anyone who has a normal amount of kid chaos going on. But when I try to get into the passenger seat for a date and the man’s entire vehicle is covered in piles of papers and garbage and there isn’t a clear space to sit down or put my feet… that’s a no from me.

      But for a job, I don’t care, their car isn’t my business. They weren’t expecting me to inspect that.

    7. BubbleTea*

      Both my house and my car are cluttered messes with rubbish and random stuff strewn everywhere most of the time. It’s a product of having a toddler, running a business, being chronically ill, and hating tidying. But then I’m not dating and people don’t come over, so it doesn’t matter much. It certainly doesn’t affect my ability to do my job.

    8. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      Yes, apart from anything else, there’s no equalities law about reasons for not dating people. You can choose not to date people for any reason at all and it doesn’t matter if you indirectly discriminate against certain groups. That’s not true with hiring.

      1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        Also, noticing the state of someone’s car when they choose to invite you inside it is different from snooping through their windows and drawing conclusions.

  4. Jaybeetee*

    Funny, just this weekend I was thinking my car interior is looking a little grimy lately and I should clean it or get it detailed (I tend to let it go to hell in winter). So no job for me I guess!

    It does irritate me that there’s an idea a person needs to be good at everything in life to be good at a job. Lots of people are messy and somehow still know how to enter data or talk on the phone or write reports or whatever.

    1. Antilles*

      It’s especially irritating because in my experience, the vast majority of people who hold these sort of beliefs are NEVER self-consistent with them. They’ll be super judgmental about others, but then they’ll have similar things and say it’s totally normal.

      If you have a messy car, it’s because you’re a lazy slob who lacks the discipline necessary to be a good employee. But when my car is messy, it’s just a temporary condition that doesn’t mean anything except that I’ve been super busy recently.

      Or maybe my car is clean but my inbox is a mess, but it doesn’t matter because it’s totally different. I know where to find stuff so my 48,173 unread messages don’t mean anything, let’s get back to focusing on you, your messy car, and what that says about your terrible organizational skills.


      1. Evan Þ*

        It’s called the Fundamental Attribution Error. When I do something bad, I see all the reasons it was understandable in my individual situation, and so I insist it doesn’t say anything about me as a person. When I see you do something bad, well, I don’t notice all those reasons and so I conclude you’re just the sort of person who does bad things like this.

    2. Katie*

      My van is messy most of the time (I wish I could blame my kids…) but I am excellent at my job. I wouldn’t be hired even though I hit the ground running at any job I ever had.

    3. Simona*

      I’m extremely messy. I just…am. I also am extremely smart and wildly successful at my job, but I have dirty clothes all over my bathroom at home.

      1. Pam*

        This is me. I’m great at my job but my house is a complete disaster. I could never work as a maid or housekeeper- I would genuinely suck at it.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I’m not inherently tidy at home… but I can do the work for someone else. Someone else’s stuff has no emotional baggage.

          I’m definitely against this boss’s hiring criterion.

      2. JP*

        Same here. Housekeeping is very overwhelming for me for some reason, and I struggle with it. In the office, I have a massive workload and I handle it very well. From my perspective, it’s crazy that someone would conflate the two areas.

      3. Meg*

        Ditto. The way I see it, my job is paying me to be a better version of myself. I’m kinder, patient with assholes, and work hard to be as organized as possible. Then I get home and relax and don’t have to be that person anymore.

    4. Anonym*

      Yeah, I only have so much organizational energy to go around, and it goes first to making sure loved ones are safe, fed and in order, then to work. And what little is left over gets distributed to whatever else is top of mind.

      I’m a very organized employee in part because my house is somewhat disorganized.

    5. Chirpy*

      Even if cleaning is part of the job, some people (me) have a finite ability to stay organized. I spend all day at work being neat, cleaning, and organizing – because it matters there. I do a good job at work.

      My car doesn’t matter. I’m the only one using it, I make sure that trash gets taken out, but I have a bin of recycling in there, plus a backseat that hasn’t been cleaned out yet from winter (shovel, etc) and some donations for Goodwill that I haven’t dropped off yet. There’s just more important things going on, and more pressing things to clean. So my car is sometimes a mess because I’ve used all my cleaning “spoons” elsewhere.

    6. Sloanicota*

      I recall a similar post on this very blog about asking job candidates to turn out their purses. The theory was messy purse = disorganized employee. Bonus points I guess for assuming all admin roles are for ladies. It does follow a logic I find suspect – that good/conscientious people are like that in all aspects of their life.

      1. rainbow crocs are the best crocs*

        Jokes on them, I have a wallet (which I’m sure they would also make assumptions about). Also, asking someone to turn out their purses is horrifying.

      2. Jamoche*

        I used to see late-night TV ads for organizer purses, full of little pockets for organizing your stuff, which only worked if you had exactly the same kinds of stuff as the purse designers.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        Can’t wait to be hired based on…let’s see…Lolita and Rebecca paperbacks, my fat wallet shaped like an owl, Chapstick, sunglasses, keys, a ridiculously expensive pen I bought at the airport, Narcan nasal spray dosers, a handwarmer, bus pass…

        1. Professor Dog*

          1) An owl-shaped wallet sounds adorable
          2) Fist-bump for a fellow Narcan carrier!

      4. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        Having a messy purse is nothing to do with being good or conscientious.

    7. Artemesia*

      WE moved to a new condo 3 years ago and we pay a ton as one always does in a city for our parking garage — but they clean and wash the car every week. A couple of times a year I pay the guy extra to also wax the car. It is heaven. As a former sloppy car owner.

      1. Freya*

        Not having to schedule cleaning the car would be AMAZING – it takes that little bit of mental load off so you can apply it to something else

    8. Star Trek Nutcase*

      Assuming anything based on “appearance” is always a crapshoot IMO. My office and my separate file room (450+ long-term resident files) were always pristine despite being a high producer. My car inside was also very clean, but outside not (usually washed 1-2 times/year). My house always needs cleaning cause I’m a comfortable slob at home. We’re all human & not one dimensional.

      OP’s supervisor is making faulty judgements based on a car’s appearance, but that’s better than making one based on applicant’s race, sex, age, size, etc. Although I bet supervisor does some of that to but is just more subtle.

  5. SnootyGirl*

    I got hired once for a position that had already been filled. It turned out to be my favorite job ever and the manager who hired me turned into a good friend. After I had been there several months I asked her why she had hired me when she had already filled the position. Her answer? “Because you walked fast.” Not as crazy as it sounds – it was very high end boutique [think $5,000 dresses, $3,000 suits, etc.] and the customers expected above-and-way-beyond service so being a fast walker I was able to respond to their request almost before they had finished asking.

    1. Jessica*

      I was pleasantly surprised to learn that walking quickly was actually a relevant job skill here, and not just something a wacky manager had decided was a test of your moral worth.

      1. Artemesia*

        I was wishing that all jobs screened for walking fast because that is my number one trait.

    2. GrumpyPenguin*

      Then the fast walking was more of a job requirement. If someone has a job where they frequently have to drive people around (customers/ business partners), I’d understand the car thing, but that just sounds like a weird personal quirk.

    3. Dawbs*

      i do also think it’s problematic, but at least there was a reason.

      (problematic because of disability. Besides the myriad obvious things that might result in walking slower, there are hidden things there to. people with sensory processing differences and ASD walk slower, with wider stance and shorter steps, even when accounting for co-occuring things like EDS. Most likely attributed to how the vestibular input is processed)

      1. GrumpyPenguin*

        It’s indeed problematic for the reasons you named. I’d see fast walking more as a “nice to have” ability for that specific job, but there are other skills that are way more important for retail. I’m a slow walker and that was never a problem when I was in retail.

    4. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      Why not tell people during interviews that fast walking is important in the job and assess how fast they can walk? It’s the “testing people on things you never mentioned” element that seems less effective here.

  6. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Absurd. What would that manager do about someone like me, who commuted by bicycle?
    A reasonably clean & tidy bike, but with a big pink rear basket so I could easily pick it out from the several hundred other bikes in our bike stand.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I walk to work, so this manager would have to resort to looking through my handbag or something!

      1. A Significant Tree*

        See “the weirdest interview question ever?” AAM post from 2009 for exactly this situation! (it occurred in the 80s and was just as gendered as you’d expect)

      2. not nice, don't care*

        I don’t carry a handbag, but I suppose a hiring manager could take a peek at my teeth. My dentist thinks I do a great job, so maybe that will do.

    2. François Caron*

      Or what if you use public transportation? Many recruiters already reject such candidates because they’re considered as unreliable as their “chosen” mode of transportation.

      Funny thing. I used my clean car to get to the interview for my current job. But after four months of stressful daily driving that ended with a blown exhaust valve and a serious drop in physical fitness, I went back to public transportation where I let someone else do the driving for me along with finally catching up with my walking!

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Or what if you use public transportation?

        The manager single-handedly inspects all subway cars and buses in your city. If she finds any trash or other messes, no permanent job for you. (/joking)

    3. bamcheeks*

      My car is messy because I hate owning a car and can’t wait til I don’t need it. My bike is sleek and pink and LOVELY.

    4. GrumpyPenguin*

      New business idea: Rent-A-Car (extra neat and tidy) for job interviews.

    5. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      Oh man, I hope they wouldn’t check my bike’s drivetrain for cleanliness! I wouldn’t be able to land a job from like October-May in any year.

    6. Marshmallows*

      My boss has a bias against people that don’t have their own car… so you’d already have points against you with him.

    7. Your Mate in Oz*

      I’ve been turned down for a job before because I ride a bicycle. The potential employer didn’t explain, they just said “we only employ people who drive” (this was a computer programming position with no travel or on-site support duties).

      And I’ve had a couple of really weird interviews where I had to explain that I didn’t want a car, would not consider it part of the salary package and if forced to accept it would park it in the company-provided car park and leave it there except when the job required me to move it. One interview consisted almost entirely of this discussion because they started by explaining the benefits of working for them and just could not let go of the idea that a company car was a positive thing. Obviously I treated that as an opportunity to explain the benefits of not driving etc because I knew early on that I wouldn’t take the job. So the question was whether I could change the policy.

    8. londonedit*

      Yeah, they’d have a tough time trying to assess mine and most of my colleagues’ cars, firstly because people are far less likely to have a car in the first place if they live in London (the roads are busy and we have excellent public transport) and even less likely to use their car to actually drive to work (excellent public transport, and also driving into central London is a nightmare and it’s expensive and there isn’t really much parking, and what parking there is is also expensive). What business is it of my employer’s whether I have a car or not, and how clean that car is? It’s a very narrow-minded view.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Exactly. Your car will not look neat and organized if you have young kids.

      Or just like me, my car is my way to get from point a to point b, I do not care about anything else about my car. so it tends to messy. But am I good at my job? Darn right I am.

    2. Double A*

      Yeah seriously. Do you know what it’s really, really hard to do when you have young kids? Keep your car clean. First, they trash it. Second, it’s a really difficult chore to complete when the kids are around — either they have to be with you in the garage, or outside, and that is not ideal. Or you do it while your coparent is watching them, but there are a million other things I want to do with that time because who cares what my car looks like.

      1. ferrina*

        there are a million other things I want to do with that time because who cares what my car looks like

        Truth! Time is a precious, precious commodity. Spending it cleaning a car that will immediately revert back to a crumb-filled mess? I calculated the ROI and re-prioritized the resources into higher-return strategic investments.

    3. yeep*

      Also, someone with a life and a long commute. I spent 2 hours a day in my car including my commute and running (not young, just not driving age) kids around. I keep some stuff in there for easy access. It probably looks tidy about 30% of the time.

      1. Dawbs*

        this is where i went.

        Mr. dawb’s vehicle is tidy. He’s naturally more tidy, but realistically, he spends 20 min per day in his truck- usually alone. His truck is his.

        Much of the recent past, i spent 2 hours per day in my car, half of which includes a kid and/ or a dog.
        my car is the family car.

        but damn he’d be bad at my job.
        (fairness, if be bad at his)

    4. Janeric*

      Absolutely! What a fun way to be biased against people in a protected class!

      (My car is a disaster zone and it’s only 60% because I have a child.)

      1. Hey Nonny Nonny Mous*

        And if you’re messy because you’re ADHD and working memory and executive function = dirty car, it’s also discrimination!

    5. Guacamole Bob*

      I got a little $10 car trash can that straps behind the center console of our minivan and absolutely love it. My kids are school age and will sometimes remember to put their granola bar wrappers in there, but even when they forget I can take 10 seconds when I get out of the car to shove a few wrappers and napkins and receipts in the trash as I gather up my belongings.

      Does it keep my car clean? No, absolutely not. Does it make it noticeably better? Definitely.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        I have a little trash container in my car too. My kids put their stuff in it. My husband does not. Drives me nuts.

      2. dawbs*

        Ha, I have one of those.
        Recently my kid got in, took the kleenex (probably mine) out of the cupholder and threw it on the floor next to her feet so she could set her drink in the cupholder.
        And then she made eye contact with me…maintained eye contact with me while reaching down and finding the tissue and continued to maintain eye contact until she finished depositing the kleenex in the trash container.

        She claims that my mom glare allowed me to posess her body and make her clean up.

        whatever, it worked.

          1. dawbs*

            Almost 14, so you’re close :)

            (She’s kinda hilarious. In reminding her of behavioral expectations around a fieldtrip to a memorial said that, yes, she was well aware that if she behaved shamefully there, I would astroproject to wherever she was to glare and yell and she would be aware of my fury echoing in her brain from a few hundred miles away. I only mind-control-from-afar for super important things, apparently.)

            1. Thinking*

              lol! I told my adult kids that if they fight over anything I leave to them, I will haunt them. They have let me know they sincerely believe me because they believe I have “Powers”!

  7. AMH*

    Ugh, this one hits personal. My car is a disaster right now. I’m ashamed of my car. It’s a disaster because I’m struggling through a really tough period of my life right now, and I use ALL my energy on a) doing a good job at work, b) making sure I eat, shower and sleep regularly, c) keeping my home at least passable and not a depression nest. At the end of the day, I have nothing left.

    I am saying this because with a lot of things like mess, people can’t see the underlying causes and assume the worst of the messy person, but sometimes it’s so much more complicated than that, and to implore those about to share horror stories of cars they’ve seen to extend a little mental grace.

    1. Lara*

      Huge internet hug. Messiness is not a moral issue. Your car is not a reflection of your worth or value or inherent goodness.

      My car is messy because it’s the least important thing I could be doing with my time (including reading and commenting on this site). It’s in good working condition. It has gas and oil and air and regular maintenance. It’s never been through the car wash.

      1. ferrina*

        One more time!
        Messiness is not a moral issue

        So many reasons why mess occurs. Time and energy are limited commodities, and cleaning isn’t always the best use of those resources. If you have health or mental health issues, you can’t prioritize cleaning your car. If you have life events that need high amounts of attention/energy, you can’t prioritize cleaning your car. If you are unfortunate enough to have both at once, then do what you need to and don’t even think about that car!

        Several years ago I had a traumatic life event compounded by an unrelated major life change, that sparked a depressive episode. I already have a chronic condition that impacts my functioning. I barely had energy to feed myself. I recovered, but my house won’t be the same for several more years (AMH, your description of “depression nest” is right on).

        AMH, sending you hugs if you want them! It sounds like you are doing amazing

        1. Jackalope*

          As someone on the other side of this, I wholeheartedly concur. My car is always neat (except on camping trips). This is absolutely 0% an indication of any moral superiority on my part, and 100% due to the fact that a) when I was a new driver I lived in a high break-in area so I learned to never leave l anything in my car, and b) I take my bike or my feet most places instead. I have plenty of messes in other places in my life, so I’m certainly not a paragon of neatness. But also, my neat car and messy house are neither of them an indication of my value and worth. Same for the person who started this thread, same for all of us.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Yes. When I have had bouts of depression over the years, I developed the skill of extreme prioritization. There was a time when I didn’t use fabric softener in my laundry because I have a front-loader which requires me to dilute it with water, and I couldn’t spare the mental energy to walk 3 extra steps to the bathroom sink. My car was certainly dirty then! But I performed acceptably at work because I had to.

      1. allathian*

        Ha, I never use fabric softener, it’s an extra load of chemicals that I can live without, and I also use unscented products. They get clean if you wash them in the hottest water the item of clothing can tolerate. (As much as I enjoy the current environmentally friendly trends, I’d rather wash in hot water than use extra chemicals that get the dirt out in cold water.)

        I also have a slight sensory issue in that I don’t feel that clothes are truly clean unless they feel slightly rough on my sensitive skin, so my weird brain equates softened with dirty. I prefer cheap, unironed cotton sheets for the same reason. Ironed sheets feel sort of slimy to me, especially because I sleep naked at home.

    3. Chirpy*

      Same. If the choice is between cleaning the kitchen and cleaning the car because there’s only so much mental energy available, having the kitchen clean enough to cook/eat in is way more important. If letting the car slide means you eat, there’s no shame in that.

    4. OP*

      Your whole comment is exactly why my car is messy and perhaps why I felt concerned enough about this to write in. Also you’re doing better than me, because I’m not currently succeeding at point C very well either I cleaned out my car when I found out, but that didn’t last long. So the whole thing felt kind of like a losing game.

      1. Freya*

        You’re eating, sleeping and bathing yourself, AND getting to work and achieving things there. There have been periods of my life when I could only manage one out of the three, which kind of precludes the fourth. You are doing good, even though it’s difficult right now to be kind to yourself.

        1. Paint N Drip*

          and I’d say that doing well at a temp job is inherently difficult and extra energy-sucking, so any lack of energy you’re feeling is so so normal

    5. learnedthehardway*

      If I’m busy decluttering, you can bet it is because I’m avoiding something that needs to be done. ADHD in action – avoid one necessary thing by doing another necessary thing. Arguably, cleaning my office is MUCH LESS important than getting my work done.

  8. Carter*

    RIP to anyone with children, I guess. I don’t even have kids but my car is not the neatest. I take shelter animals on little hiking field trips on the weekends so I leave some dog stuff and cleaning stuff (for actual like “clean it up right now” messes) that are just tossed in the backseat; but I am extremely organized about my work and projects.

    It’s stupid and sort of thoughtless but maybe she just really doesn’t know how to hire.

    1. Boss Mare*

      I am also a rather neat and organized person, but it’s horse show season and my vehicle is my mobile tack locker for myself and anything my students might need. It doesn’t smell great and there is a fine film of footing dust, boot polish, shavings, and who knows what else.

      1. Sled Dog Mama*

        I feel this comment so hard. My daughter had to perch her violin on top of a saddle on the way to school this morning and I nearly panicked when I got to the barn and thought I was missing a boot, somehow one was in the back seat and one in the trunk/boot. Can’t wait to put everything back in the trailer this weekend now that it’s home from the shop.

      2. EEEEE*

        Sometimes I have to drive my Ram 2500 diesel truck to work, usually the Monday after an endurance ride when it’s still coated in mud/dust/hay, the bed is full of camping gear, hay, and water, and it clearly smells of wet Labrador with a bunch of riding and camping gear I was too tired to unload Sunday night after a 2-6 hour haul home. I’m proud of the dirty truck because I have it, because it shows my priorities and personality. But I’m Inbox Zero at work….

        1. Sled Dog Mama*

          This was also me about 2 months ago when a deer ran into me one day (yes I do say the deer ran in to me not the other way because it hit the side of my car) fortunately daily driver was fine after a new door panel and window. I was stuck driving my F-350 dually king cab to work for a week.

  9. Project Maniac-ger*

    It sounds like this person cannot make a decision and so is relying on an arbitrary factor to determine the outcome. Does she often do weird things instead of actually manage people.

    Alternatively, this would be a very funny rumor if it wasn’t tied to actual employment. If you didn’t hear the manager say it herself seriously, this does seem like something someone said jokingly and then the rumor mill churned.

    1. OP*

      I did consider that, and obviously I can’t know for sure, but I do feel like I got the information from a fairly reliable source.

  10. Caramel & Cheddar*

    I wonder what taking public transit, getting a ride from a family member or friend, biking, or walking would mean for this person’s hiring practices.

    1. Carter*

      If it’s in a city where public transit sucks, it’s almost certainly a big red flag for her (which is not fair). I grew up in a town that really required a car, the bus service was not complete or super reliable. I bet a million dollars that means “no reliable transportation, can’t be trusted” to this manager.

    2. Garblesnark*

      Yeah, I was wondering how she can possibly evaluate candidates who take the bus. A bicycle at least would still be on site, presumably, and I suppose someone who carpooled she could engage in some hijinks to spy on (although that would be incredible).

      1. Jessica*

        Depends. Do you keep the bus tidy? She’ll be standing out by the stop when you arrive to check on this.

        1. Packaged Frozen Lemon Zest*

          I live in Chicago. Can definitely state that if I was in charge, CTA trains would be kept cleaner than they are now.

          1. Orv*

            Heh, we got on an L train a couple weekends ago while visiting Chicago. My wife remarked that the floor was sticky. I said “of course it is, it’s public transit.”

    3. LawDog*

      As an interviewer, my concern would be: “Does Caramel & Cheddar have a reliable means of getting to/from work?”

      I’m reminded of the other posts in AAM where intern demands rides home, etc etc. Problems!

      Public transit in a city with a system? Totally normal. In a small rural community – find out applicant lives 30-45 minutes away (not unusual) and doesn’t have their own car? Problem.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Sure, but her concern as an interviewer would be, idk, “Does Caramel & Cheddar have a messy bicycle basket?” not whether or not I could reliably get to work.

      2. Orv*

        I once had a coworker who didn’t have a car and lived 15 miles from work, in a rural area. He rode his bike to work every day. It wasn’t a good bike either, a little BMX.

        1. metadata minion*

          It sounds like it worked for him, though? 15 miles twice a day isn’t a huge distance for a serious commuter biker.

          1. Orv*

            He made it work. He was eventually fired, but not for that reason. It sucked in the winter, though. (This was Michigan.)

        1. Orv*

          That’s a good point, but if you live in an area with no public transit, hiring someone who has no means to get to your place of business may not be a reasonable accommodation.

  11. Stuart Foote*

    This is a dumb test, but is it really any dumber than talking to someone about the job for 60 minutes and getting hired based on those responses, and not hiring them if they flub a question?

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Yes, because at least talking to someone about the job and seeing how they answer questions is an actual indication of how they’d be in the job. The cleanliness of your car is so unrelated to your job performance that it makes it much worse as a metric.

    2. Double A*

      Yes, it’s a lot dumber. Personal interaction and asking about relevant experiences directly relates to the job being done. The cleanliness of your car, unless you are interviewing to be a driver, say nothing relevant about the job you’re applying for.

    3. Antilles*

      It absolutely is, because at least talking to someone can get you job-related information. If you ask me to give an example of how I’ve handled project delays with a touchy client, that’s a real scenario that happens regularly. I may or may not be answering honestly (either via lying or a lack of self-awareness), but you’re at least checking on a job-related metric that impacts my ability to do the job.

      How clean my car is has zero relevance to anything, with the possible exception of Uber/Lyft where paying customers ride in my personal vehicle.

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Yes, because if the manager is so dead set against someone who has a messy car, she can ask about it. “I saw your car. You don’t keep the inside very neat/clean. Can you tell me why?”
      But she’s not telling people about it. She’s using it as a secret test.
      We all have internal biases, but one should at least acknowledge it is a preference and not a psychic connection to the soul of the candidate.

    5. John*

      Especially in tech, where you’ll be asked to code something in front of someone, when during the actual job:
      a. You won’t be under time pressure (or if you are it’ll be more like a ton of stuff to get done in a week, not someone watching you while you code)
      b. You can Google things if you forget some little detail of something

      I’m convinced software engineering interviews are the least effective way to judge someone’s readiness for a job.

    6. DyneinWalking*

      Predicting the day’s weather based on what it’s like outside in the morning is not as reliable as the weather forecast on the news but still tons more reliable than e.g. analyzing the pattern of leaves on my terrace.
      Sure, there have been times when I’ve totally misjudged the weather based on the what’s-it-like-in-the-morning method but (at least here in southern Germany) it gives me a decent idea of the likely weather most of the time.

      A short time window will never give you the entire picture, but basing your decisions on the actually relevant (if limited) data will give you a waaaaay better success rate than essentially just throwing dice.

      1. Catfish Mke*

        Yeah this is emphatically not a good plan here in the central US where 20 degree celsius shifts happen in hours and you can experience three or four varieties of precipitation in a given day

        1. Roland*

          Well yes, the entire point of their comment is that looking outside isn’t perfect but it’s still better than say reading tea leaves. That is still true with changeable weather.

    7. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Unless they are being hired to clean and detail cars, or to drive people around, or something else where “is the interior of your vehicle clean” is job-relevant, then yes. Yes it is dumber.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I once WAS interviewed for a job by having someone come and look at the state of my house – but the job was as a cleaner. Still daft because I lived with my parents at the time and wasn’t actually the one who did the majority of the cleaning, but still a lot closer to relevant than this.

      2. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        And even if the cleanliness of your car is relevant, you should ask in a transparent way. Ask whether they have a clean vehicle to transport people in. Ask for examples of how they stay tidy and organised. Ask for examples of how they maintain cleanliness under pressure.

        You don’t snoop around and conclude that if their personal car is messy they will have a similar mess in a work context.

        (If it’s the same vehicle they use for transport you have a normal transparent process for ensuring everyone’s vehicles are appropriately managed. Still no need for secret snooping and assumptions.)

    8. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I’d say yes because at least in those 60 minutes we’re talking about skills directly related to the job the person is being considered for. The inside of someone’s car tells me nothing of someone’s ability to crunch numbers for a finance job.

    9. Irish Teacher.*

      I’d say it’s also pretty dumb not to hire somebody if they flub a question but I would hope most interviewers aren’t doing “stumble over one question = x through your name.” I would imagine it’s more likely they focus on a combination of overall impression and on the actual information you give them.

      And there are instances where it might make sense to not hire somebody if they flub a question, if it is something that a knowledge of is important for the role. Like as a teacher, if I were hiring and somebody showed no understanding of differentiation, like they didn’t even seem to have considered the idea of changing their teaching methods to suit the learners before them, then yeah, that would be a major black mark against them.

      But in general, I would hope most interviewers wouldn’t think, “well, she has experience in all the areas of importance, has qualifications in the area and graduated top of her class. She seemed friendly and personable and has great references but she blurted out something silly in response to one question so we won’t hire her.”

    10. Quill*

      In theory the questions are at least related to the job.

      Unless you are being hired to detail clean the insides of cars, the interior of your car does not pertain to the job at all.

  12. ZSD*

    I remember that old post about being offered beverages! I read it when I was new to office life and also desperately applying for jobs away from the terrible one I had, and I internalized that piece of advice. Ever since then, I have been *very careful* to throw away my own paper cup after being offered water at interviews.

  13. Not your typical admin*

    Yeah – I’m a pretty neat and tidy person. However, there’s days when my 4 kids and I basically live in our van for the day. Between guitar, ballet, cross-county, theater, and a million other activities we go from place to place, and eat the food and snacks I’ve packed in between. It usually takes a day or two to empty everything out and clean out all the trash. So my employment would be totally dependent on what my vehicle looked like that day, lol

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      You clean it out? Pretty sure when we traded in our van there was a fossilized cheeseburger and some random fries plus a few socks stuck under the seats….

      1. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

        I had a chicken sandwich from the Golden Arches slip under the seat of a car once when my older two children were very small. Fossilized really is a good description, and it’s why I’m now super picky about where I get fast food. When even the ants won’t touch it….

      2. Not your typical admin*

        One time, the kid and I were picking up a grocery order and while it was being loaded I asking them if they wanted chicken nuggets for dinner. Without missing a beat, the guy loadijg the groceries said “there’s one back here, but I don’t think you want to eat it”

    2. Pam Adams*

      Dog crates, earthquake emergency supplies, extra this and that no, not neat.

  14. Pandas*

    My mom had a landlord once who told her she decided to rent to my mom because the interior of my mom’s car was really clean. She thought that how people maintained their cars was a good proxy for how they might take care of the rental, which does at least make more sense than thinking it is any kind of indicator of job performance.

      1. azvlr*

        I had to scroll way to far to find any comments about this being a potentially discriminatory practice towards working parents and lower socioeconomic groups who can’t afford a snazzy vehicle with the new car smell.

    1. Pandas*

      To be clear, I’m not saying the landlord was right to make that a test, just that I can see where she got the logic of clean car = clean house easier than clean car = good at writing reports.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      And yet there are zillions of jokes & memes about people with messy cars & clean apartments, and vice versa.

    3. I heart Paul Buchman*

      My father in law was a real estate agent and this is a very common method of screening tenants. I’ve always cleaned my car dutifully before a viewing for this reason.

  15. LawDog*

    Hiring isn’t about a single data point, but it is about collecting data points and putting them together to paint a picture of the applicant. At best, a hiring decision is 50-50. Hence the need to hire slow, fire fast – if you want a business to stay profitable.

    While the messy car test is NOT a conclusive test, I’ve found it to be a somewhat reliable indication of the personal life of the applicant when it is in extremes . It’s a fair addage to say “extremely messy car interior, messy personal life.” Always correct? NO WAY. Correct more than it isn’t? Definitely.

    Some papers on the seat? No big deal. Backseat piled like a hoarder? Clothes strewn about? negative data point.

    Keep in mind, for some jobs, a messy personal life is a good thing. Traveling sales? Great! Accountant? No.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      How does having a messy personal correlate with job performance?

      1. Carter*

        Right? I spent two years of my life getting out of a terrible relationship and going through therapy to get back on my feet emotionally. So messy literally and figuratively. I was excellent at my job, no performance or attendance issues. But apparently accountants have to have nice neat lives to be adequate /eyeroll.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          I am the same. My car and cube are pristine; my home looks awful. I am traumatized and I just can’t right now. I try. I do the minimum. But I am healing, keeping things going as a parent and an employee. If sweeping and mopping don’t get done, then whatever. If someone is the same about their car, then that really is unfair.

      2. LawDog*


        Messy personal life, all other things being equal means more time out, more sick days / no shows, “I can’t even” days… you name it.

        Like I said, hiring is an expensive gamble. It is about collecting data points and using them as best you can.

        1. Velomont*

          “Messy personal life, all other things being equal means more time out, more sick days / no shows, “I can’t even” days… you name it.”

          Please, show us the data that supports this.

        2. MsM*

          If I took more vacations and mental health days, my home would be much, much cleaner than it is.

        3. Bast*

          1) As others have stated, there is nothing wrong with using the benefits being offered (sick, vacation, etc). Using those should not be seen as a failing, or a bad employee any more than using your health insurance or participating in your company’s 401k program should make you a bad employee.

          2) Plenty of people have messy personal lives but come to work and soldier on anyway. While some people overshare at work, I’m willing to bet you have worked with many individuals over the years who have something difficult or messy going on in their personal life that you knew nothing about. Why? Because they separated their work and home life and did not bring the “messy life” into work.

        4. Chocoholic*

          How do you define a “messy personal life?”

          The presence of children? The presence or absence of a spouse? Living parents? Siblings? Friends? What about health statuses of everyone listed above?

          Life in general is messy. It just is. Many times the messes in my personal life really have nothing to do with me, but I am adjacent to them and sometimes they affect me.

          Maybe just hire robots if you don’t want to deal with the messiness of life.

        5. She of Many Hats*

          Yet it also plays into implicit biases: messy due to kids reduces the number of women hired, old beater on its 6th owner reduces the number of low income people and likely POC, etc….

        6. Katy*

          For someone talking about data, you are certainly willing to pile one logical fallacy on top of another. You haven’t proven that a messy car has any connection with a messy personal life; this is a completely unfounded premise. You haven’t defined what exactly a messy personal life is. And you haven’t proven that there is a connection between a messy personal life and missed time at work.

          Personally, I have a very messy car and a very boring personal life, and I rarely miss work and always provide clear and organized plans for the person who covers for me when I do. This is because I organize for other people, not for myself.

      3. Pizza Rat*

        having a messy personal might mean the job is the only sane thing in a person’s life.

    2. Carter*

      Come on. You cannot be serious. You don’t want to hire people with a “messy personal life” either? What does THAT have to do with their ability to do their job?

      You’re discriminating against parents, young people, poor people, folks getting out of abusive relationships and more this way. It’s gross.

      1. LawDog*

        All parents don’t have messy personal lives. Neither do young people, poor people, or those getting out of abusive relationships. If anything, the generalization that they DO is what is “gross.”

        You hire individuals, not categories. The workplace isn’t a social service. Work has to get done and hiring managers have to make hard choices in order to make the best selection for the job.

        If a hiring manager is ONLY relying on “messy car” as the sole indicator, then that’s obviously a bad way to proceed. Incorporate it into the decision process? Maybe!

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          You’re the one who equated having a messy car – which is something parents are much more likely to do – with having a “messy personal life”. Saying “but not all parents have messy personal lives” is exactly what people are trying to tell you. You’re just not getting the “….and therefore not all people with messy cars have messy personal lives” next step.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            I’m not in favor of hiring based on car cleanliness, but I’m also baffled by this idea that parents automatically have messy cars. I’ve known a lot of parents with children of all ages who kept their car neat. Not spotless-just-rolled-off-the-lot clean, but reasonably tidy.

            When someone talks about an “extremely messy car” I’m envisioning lots of accumulated trash, old food wrappers littering the floor, crusted spills, seats completely taken up by piles of stuff, lots of unsecured objects that could fly around in a crash, etc. Things which I would find *more* concerning if someone drove young children around in the car. Normal kid messes like stains from cleaned-up spills, a few crumbs in the back seat, some clutter from toys/blankets/kids belongings they forgot to take in, etc… that’s not extremely messy, and I didn’t get the impression LawDog was judging people over those sorts of routine things.

            1. Hoarders Cory*

              “I’m not in favor of hiring based on car cleanliness, but I’m also baffled by this idea that parents automatically have messy cars. I’ve known a lot of parents with children of all ages who kept their car neat. Not spotless-just-rolled-off-the-lot clean, but reasonably tidy.”

              Same here. Most of the people I know who have very messy cars(like what most commenters are describing with fossilized food and biohazards) are either childless or have adult children who are long out of the house. And TBH, their personal lives are also kind of really messy and drama-filled all the time. In a way that spills over into work. I’m not saying one causes the other but like, I can’t say that LawDog pulled this observation out of their butt wholesale, either.

        2. Alright Alright Alright*

          So “messy personal life” is completely subjective and only based on whether or not you personally approve of the reason the person needs time off? This is nonsense.

        3. Chirpy*

          Here’s another point: a single person might have a messier car than a coupled person, because the single person has to do most things by themselves and has less free time for car cleaning than someone who can trade off cooking dinner or household chores once in a while….it’s just a silly test.

        4. I Have RBF*

          I can tell that you haven’t been around the block much.

          At least 90% of the people I know more than superficially have messy parts of their lives. It’s part of living in our fast paced, unforgiving modern society.

          Yes, young people, old people, poor people, people escaping abusive relationships, people who have health issues, or whose family member have health issues, parents, pet owners, etc have messy lives. Most of them. They just don’t let judgemental people like you see it.

    3. Bast*

      My car falls pretty far down my priority list as long as it is getting me where I need to go. To me, it is a tool that serves a purpose. I’m sure someone who really wanted to be judgmental would also look in the backseat and see the car seat and Disney Princess dolls and that would be another strike (parent of a young kid! Young enough to have more! Red flag!). I try to periodically clean my car out, but my house comes above the car, since I actually have to live in the house and the constant kid clutter/pet hair will drive me insane if I don’t deal with it.

    4. metadata minion*

      Why is a messy personal life good if you’re in sales? If anything, I’d think a solid work/life balance and the ability to keep things tidy while traveling would be *more* important.

    5. Beancounter Eric*

      33 years building/running Accounting Departments.

      My car is very lived in.

      My financial records are impeccable.

      A ≠ B

      1. Bitte Meddler*

        Yep, I’m in accounting/finance and also co-own a well-run and profitable small company. I only use credit cards for the cash rewards / airline miles and pay the balance down to $0 a few times a week. My only debt is the under $20k amount I owe on my house and student loans.

        And my car has to have a 10-15 minute cleaning session before I can carry a single passenger. More than one passenger is going to require 30-45 minutes of cleaning.

        LawDog’s “messy personal life” rule of thumb is bonkers.

    6. metadata minion*

      As another anecdata point, I am a library cataloger. Scrupulously following complex, detailed organizational systems is literally my job. And yet my apartment is a realm of cheerful clutter and my desk — along with those of almost all my coworkers in the same field — is a disaster area that possibly contains the lost Ark of the Covenant somewhere in the piles of books with “??? recutter??” post-its on them.

      1. Yes Anastasia*

        Chaos librarian high-five. I try to keep the office clutter under control, but my car is a maelstrom of food wrappers and gardening implements.

      2. Be Gneiss*

        I always knew when they told Indy they had “top men” working on the Ark, it was probably actually librarians of some variety.

        1. not nice, don't care*

          Not all catalogers, or library employees in general, are librarians.

      3. MsM*

        Yep. I don’t see why it matters what my physical notes look like. Those are for me. All the digital stuff I need to share with coworkers – including the typed versions of any notes that need to be circulated and archived – is kept neatly organized.

      4. obleighvious*

        As a fellow cataloger – YES, exactly. I spend my day organizing collection materials and paying attention to All The Details, and when I get home my hubby will literally “hide” birthday flowers in plain sight on top of the fridge, because I don’t expect to see them there so I just won’t notice them. It would probably shock a lot of my coworkers, as I’ve received several awards for my ability to juggle so many balls/workflows… so who cares if I let the very unimportant (to me) “clean the car” ball drop? What does that have to do with my work ethic?

    7. Sweet Summer Child*

      I think there is a difference between a messy personal life and a messy personal space.
      How does the OP’s boss feel about that? Any strong feelings about people with jobs where they are in charge of other people’s money, people trying to sell high end items like houses and cars, people in position of power over others who cheat on their partners?
      Does she think it is different?
      I’m 100% curious. Does she think: He would never steal from his clients. She would never pad her hours.
      Because neither of them swore in front of god and great aunt Mehetabel to love, honor and cherish client till death to they part? Or because they are able to clean the detritus of daily commutes out of their cars?

      1. AnonORama*

        Ha, some folks clean and tidy everything because our life is a mess in other ways and it’s a thing we can control. I’m one of those odd people for whom cleaning can be therapeutic, and I’ll tell you what — my house/car are never filthy, but when I’m cleaning with a toothbrush is when I’m at my worst.

    8. Fluffy Fish*

      what you’ve found is more likely confirmation bias than any actual indicator of anything relevant.

      i suggest you stop worrying about peoples personal lives at work that have absolutely nothing to do with you or the job. especially since what you are actually doing is making up arbitrary rules and assigning them meaning.

      however someone’s askamanager comments can certainly be reflective of whether theyd be a good hiring manager or not.

    9. Antilles*

      I have many questions about the logistics of this strategy.
      How do you figure out which car to check out? Do you spend time just staring out the window when the interview is approaching so you can identify their car, even if they show up 10+ minutes early? What if you have a shared parking lot, a garage, or other situation with lots of vehicles? Do you exclusively work for firms small enough that any new car is instantly noticeable?
      Once you’ve figured out the car, what then? Do you pretend to have a phone call to sneak out to the parking lot and peek through the windows?

      1. Resentful Oreos*

        I was wondering about that, because I’m used to those giant multi-story lots that are shared with an entire building. Or, a candidate parking outside the company parking lot because they don’t have a visitor’s space, they have two visitor’s spaces and both are filled, or because they want to run errands or something after the interview.

        I have to assume this is a small or small-ish business with a single, dedicated, and small(ish) parking lot. Otherwise, Manager is going to be spending a lot of time in parking lots. “Where is Mehitabel?” “Oh, she’s out in the parking garage. She’ll be back in an hour.” “So she’s a member of the Duck Club, eh?” (Look up that letter if you dare. I’m still not convinced it wasn’t a prank.)

        If I ever hear of a manager who has this policy, I’ll be sure to park at the far end of the parking lot. Especially if it’s raining.

    10. Bitte Meddler*

      LOL. What a ridiculous adage to put any faith into.

      My personal life is extremely UN-messy — no drama, no personal conflict, I eat right and get plenty of sleep, etc. — yet the interior of my car is almost always a mess.

      I buy cars used and I drive them until the cost to repair / maintain them is more than the value of the car itself. I Do. Not. Care. if my backseat is a jumble of things I occasionally need when I’m on the road.

      I do keep a trash bag dangling off the gear shifter, but I don’t empty it until it’s overflowing and I usually have a mix of full and empty water bottles in the passenger seat.

    11. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      Nope. Nope. Nope.

      I have a job that is all record keeping, attention to detail, meticulous. I am great at it.

      My car is a disorganized pile of stuff that I clean out once a year or so. Not dirty, I don’t have food wrappers in there, but the pile of things.

      My car was messy when my personal life was messy, my car was messy when my personal life was peaceful. I just don’t give a crap about cleaning out my car and count on the things that “live” there being there.

    12. CommanderBanana*

      Wow, I didn’t realize that using my car to bring boxes of donations to the various shelters where I volunteered meant I had a “messy” personal life. /s

      I personally like to use the misspelling test. If someone is sharing an adage but can’t spell adage, I ignore them.

    13. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

      I don’t think I have a particularly messy personal life, but I do have a *busy* one. This time of year, as we are winding down the school year, there is a lot of crap in my car. At one point, I could outfit most of a dojo with the spare karate gear in my car (which I know, because I did it). I kept hauling it with me because it kept coming in handy. All four of my kids, my husband, and I do karate, and we all have more than one gi because trying to get them washed between class days is a pain (and if you miss it by a day when class days are Tuesday/Thursday, you roll in a wet gi, and that stinks), so by the end of the week, there can be a LOT of gi tops tossed about. I pull them out when I’m ready to do laundry. Also gear bags for all of us, which can be open with stuff falling out if I’ve fished in one for something at a non class time.

      I also cheerfully haul friends’ kids around, and it’s not unusual for them to leave things in my car because, well, kids.

      My husband is not physically capable of getting out of the car with the travel mug he brought into it.

      The kids leave water bottles, food wrappers, etc. everywhere, and they do not care that there is a trash can in the front.

      Messes happen. It’s not a descriptor of my personal life or an idea of what I’m like on the job; my car just…shows that I live life hard and frequently busy. When I’m working, my focus is on work; but I play just as hard.

    14. Orv*

      When I interviewed for my first job I borrowed my parents’ Cadillac rather than drive my crusty old beater, pretty much exactly because I was worried about encountering someone like you.

      Of course, then then muffler fell off on my way to the interview, somewhat undermining the look.

  16. Hiring Mgr*

    Your coworkers might be playing a prank on you, because this sounds too dumb to be a real hiring method

    1. unpleased*

      Seriously. Life is a rich tapestry and all but people are getting way too invested in what seems like complete BS.

    2. CheerfulGinger*

      Or, they could be tipping you off so that you can clean your car and get hired!

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      Yes. This did occur to me. I’d be reluctant not to take a job based on “somebody told me the manager makes decisions in this bananapants way.” It could be a joke. It could be somebody lying to undermine the manager. It could be something the person who said it genuinely believes but still completely false.

      It could also be true, but it doesn’t sound as if the LW really knows for sure whether it is or not.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I don’t think I’d jump to “prank” exactly–but if OP likes everything else about the job, likes the people they work with, and has otherwise had no issues with this manager then I would definitely remember not only everything Alison said above but also the fact that this is second-hand information that you don’t know for 100% sure is true.

      It could be someone lying, or it could be they heard a comment or joke the manager made and misunderstood it as a genuine factor in hiring. Or it could be completely true because sometimes people faced with having to make a ton of hiring decisions come up with absolutely ridiculous ways of narrowing the field of potential hires!

      I do think I’d take it as a flag and consider it in the context of everything else you know about the job and the manager. But I wouldn’t let it be a complete dealbreaker on its own.

    5. JustaTech*

      I wish I thought this, but then I remembered a letter where someone was reprimanded at work because they had a box of tampons (or pads) in a bag on the seat of their car, and someone saw and got upset.

      So if there exists one person in the world who would reprimand an employee over a shopping bag in their car, then there might well be a person who thinks you can judge an employee by their car.

  17. Overit*

    Is her name Sebrena? Because I had a DM who used your car’s interior cleanliness as a dealbreaker in promotions.
    I found out when she asked me which car in the lot was mine and she told me! I laughed it off and changed the subject. But wow! It rankled. Really rankled bec some of her promotions were terrible choices. In fact, one of her car cleanliness based promotions was on a PIP because his store was such a messy disaster. But hus personal car was spic and span!
    I then discovered that she was asking my staff to point out my car! Luckily, my staff thought it was a riot to tell her that they had no idea.

  18. Yup*

    So many of these judgements of people and their worth come down to an imposition of personal moral values (clean = good, messy = evil!), inflexible comfort zones (I could never drive in a dirty car, how can he!), and the inability to understand and recognize neurodivergent behaviour. The photo of Einstein’s desk on the day he died is a prime example of a messy space where a genius did good, important, world-changing work.

    1. Eagle*

      Yep, all of this. I’m so sick of nonsensical, ableist, uninformed stuff like this being utilised by those with power or influence, and with it being encouraged, accepted, or just seen as something we should just accept. It needs to be actively discouraged, at a minimum.

  19. Ziggy*

    It reeks of ableism. I’m disabled, and I prefer to spend my energy on maintaining my personal hygiene, not that of my car. I have systems for keeping it free of trash, but it’s definitely cluttered! I am great at what I do because I know what to prioritize and spend my energy on.

    1. Garblesnark*

      Same here. I am disabled and share a vehicle with people who have different cleanliness standards than I do and are the ones capable of deciding whether things get carried inside. Since I can’t carry the things, it just isn’t up to me. But I’m great at paperwork, which is the sort of thing I’d apply to work with.

      1. kalli*

        I’m disabled and I keep instant ice packs, a few CDs, the first aid kit, a power pack and a few other handy things in the front passenger seat so that if I’m driving and in pain it’s easy to grab what I need instead of searching through reusable shopping bags and spare clothes to find.

        I need to “clean” to have a passenger and it “looks messy”.

        But my priorities are being able to drive the 5 hours to the nearest major hospital on short/no notice and being able to manage pain spikes long enough to get the 45 minutes home from the shops, not being able to take passengers or displaying a particular style of organisation.

        And my dad gets very confused as to why I take everything out for the car to go in for service, but every 6-12 months that’s the spare jacket getting a wash, the first aid kit checked to make sure everything that can expire hasn’t etc.

        But ain’t nobody seeing that from glancing through tinted windows.

    2. Ann Onymous*

      I’m neurodivergent. I’m excellent at my job because I’m in a career that’s well suited to the way my brain is wired, but keeping a neat house and car is not one of my strengths. I keep my space clean enough that it’s livable and sanitary, but going above and beyond that isn’t where I want to spend my energy.

  20. Anonymous Koala*

    Is there any chance “messy” is a proxy for finding out which hires have young kids? People can be so weird about hiring parents, and carseats make it very obvious when someone has a young child at home.

    1. Bast*

      Yeah, I thought about this too. The general mess in my car is mostly kid clutter. The car seat is very visible, and combined with the Disney Princess paraphernalia, forgotten ballet shoes, and discarded snack wrappers, if you wanted to discriminate against me for having young kids… I make it very easy. However, if you are going to hold that against me, I wouldn’t want to work for you, so please, tell on yourself early on.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Even once kids age out of carseats, there’s still plenty of evidence of their presence in cars. Somehow I doubt my kid is the only one who will leave granola bar wrappers, last week’s returned homework, one soccer cleat, a broken fidget, headphones, and a book in the car.

      1. dawbs*

        Hell, I set my work bag neatly on the seat when I get off work every day…and because I transport kids and pets, the odds are high that it’s instead dumped in a pile on the back seat, spilling my carefully packed notebooks, because someone needed that seat and the dog does not understand boundries and is convinced the car monster is going to eat her if she stops moving while I’m driving.

  21. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

    I keep my apartment and workspace neat and clean. My car exists in a constant state of looking like a bomb went off in it. Deal w/it.

  22. I should really pick a name*

    My first thought is: how reliable is the source that told you this?

    1. OP*

      I believe that they believe it’s true. I do admit that I can’t know for sure.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Well, at least you can game the system then, and maintain a scrupulously clean car until the HM makes their hiring decision.

        If they’re going to base a hiring decision on a stupid criterium, you might as well benefit from it.

  23. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    I’d be fairly sure this is a departmental prank that they play on each temp-to-hire person to see if they believe it.

  24. the clash*

    lol I am a librarian and my whole job is keeping things organized, I am neat as a pin at work…but I have a long commute and a small child and all my latent messy tendencies need to come out SOMEWHERE, so my car is a disaster zone

    1. Beth*

      My wife is a librarian, and is the reverse — she really likes that we keep our home (fairly) neat and clean (especially the kitchen, her other domain), but her office is in the eye of a perpetual whirlwind. It’s the one place in her life that she never has time to clean up.

  25. BellyButton*

    I worked for a guy while in college who did the same thing! But he did during the interview, he would walk a candidate to their car and look in. He WAS a horrible manager.

    PS; one of my all time favorite letters is linked in the related: why won’t anyone hire me as their visionary? I wonder how that guy is doing.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      If someone asked me to walk them during my car during an interview, I would walk to my car, get in, turn it on, and drive away, because no way will I work for someone that bananapants.

      1. Audrey Puffins*

        I assume it was more of a feigned-casual “the interview is over, let’s keep chatting while I walk you to your car and wave you off the premises” vibe than “I’ve asked my questions, we’ve done the interview task, now for the escorted car inspection, then we’ll tour the office and you may ask your questions”

  26. blue ink pens*

    An old boss of mine did this! I didn’t find out until a year or so after I’d been hired, when he was interviewing for another staff member and I discovered his #2 guy was going outside to look in their cars and report back. The joke was on him, though — I had borrowed my mom’s very clean car to drive in for my interview that day because hers was nicer and newer. My own car was old and beat up and always very messy.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      This is legit amazing. It would have been great if you had been able to tell him you’d foiled his genius plan.

  27. Justin from accounting*

    This test is from a Fortune 500 CEO if I remember correctly. When interviewing someone and it was going well he would suggest they go for lunch and ask to take the interviewee’s car to see if it was messy or not. If it was messy they wouldn’t get hired. At least that was the story told at lecture on the last cruise I took.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Ah, there it is! More or less an urban legend. Well if a CEO did it, it must be a good idea for me to do it too. Sigh.

  28. GrumpyPenguin*

    Reminds me of the job interview where the hiring manager was stunned by the fact that I carry a backpack instead of a purse. He asked why (I prefer to have my hands free) and made some weird comments about the backpack making me look less feminine. I didn’t get the job, but I wasn’t upset about it since the manager’s comments had made him look less competent.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      You can never win with the “look more feminine” boss, because even though you may think “Oh I’ll just buy a handbag and maybe a brooch, I can totally win this”, nope…. you will either look too feminine and fashiony to take seriously, or you’re not feminine enough and your practical choices …. does something bad to the workplace, I’ve never figured out what, because it’s okay for men. Still haven’t got over a friend being told to “dress more provocatively”.

      1. BellyButton*

        Oh yeah, in the 90s I was once told I should wear tighter and shorter skirts. GROSS.

      2. GrumpyPenguin*

        Provocatively? oO I won’t be able to get over this for quite a while too.

    2. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

      Has he met my mother in law? It sounds like he may have met my mother in law. Who has never quite forgiven me for carrying my wallet like a man, in my pocket, instead of a huge fancy thing that requires me to carry a purse.

    3. allathian*

      Ugh yeah. I use a backpack because I want to keep at least one hand free and cross-body bags hurt my back.

      But then I don’t wear makeup, although I probably would wear tinted moisturizer and mascara for an interview, and pretty much never style my hair other than to pull it back in a ponytail, so a boss looking for a “feminine” employee would not hire me based on that alone.

    4. londonedit*

      So bizarre. Practically everyone in London uses a rucksack because we commute on the tube/buses/walking and it’s far easier to have all your stuff in a rucksack. And it’s better for your back!

  29. Coffee Please*

    My car is always trashed because I have a toddler. I try to keep it as tidy as possible but it’s not really at the top of my priorities list. Somehow I still excel at work!

  30. Prof*

    Alison, could you please not use words like “insane”? It’s sanist and ableist, as well as offputting.

    1. JR17*

      I’ve been working on a list of alternatives, because I realized I used to use “crazy” a lot (in a “that’s crazy” type of context – referring to situations, not people/behavior). Depends on the context, of course, but wild often works. Absurd and ridiculous are good, in this case. Unbelievable. Would love suggestions from other commenters.

    2. ldub*

      Seconding this, please! It’s easy to replace with “wild” and “bananas” and probably a hundred other things that are both funny and get the point across.

      1. kalli*

        ‘Wild’ isn’t a good one because it has connotations relating to socialisation and comparative knowledge of etiquette.

        The general advice is to be accurately descriptive. In this case the test in question is not indicative of someone’s work performance – it’s inappropriate, irrelevant, jarring, apophenic, ridiculous, preposterous, bizarre, outrageous, ludicrous.

        But apophenia is a normal brain function that can be distorted to the point of being symptomatic, it isn’t in itself an indicator of mental health concerns.

        1. it’s gonna be bye bye bye*

          That’s a little silly. Wild is fine. Not every hyperbolic phrase needs to be ground down to its most thuddingly literal, least generous interpretation, or we won’t have any left.

          It’s one thing to flag up that we want to phase out phrases that stigmatize mental illness, but saying that “that’s wild” is equally problematic is a Stretch Armstrong of a reach.

          1. kalli*

            I didn’t say it’s equally problematic. I said it’s not a good alternative because it can carry other imputations.

            Drawing false equivalencies isn’t helpful.

    3. Garblesnark*

      Yeah, I was surprised to read that on the blog that gave us bananapants.

  31. Trout 'Waver*

    I work in a laboratory environment and I’ve never seen someone whose car is a disaster keep their lab space tidy and clean. And nothing kills lab morale faster than someone who doesn’t do their share of the cleaning.

    Note: I’m talking about layers of fast food bags. Not some pet fur or a stray spilled sippy cup.

    1. Dave*

      I can see this test in some circumstances like a lab being helpful and checking to see if you are in hoarding like situation, but I would think that would be more practical at the time of an interview and not having worked with someone for months.
      I have worked with people who you open their door and trash falls out and it makes me bonkers that they can’t be bothered to throw away trash. Their office was usually a disaster as well … because they were the boss it didn’t matter and I was left to deal with it. I could see where a boss didn’t want to deal with it.
      The one place this test could really matters is if this person has to take their personal car to business meetings or transport clients. The test there actually makes more sense.

    2. Hrodvitnir*

      I work in a lab and I am meticulous at work/horrendous at home if that helps. :)

      Yes, I know ableism is being beaten to death online in response to everything right now, but this is genuinely just peak “physical and mental illnesses cause you to pick your battles.”

      Personally, something about my specific mix of issues has made me exceptionally driven and high performing at work, and barely functioning outside of it (for my entire not-short life: I have improved but the bar is very low :/).

    3. MeepMeep123*

      Meet me. My car is a disaster because I share it with my borderline-hoarder spouse and messy child. And I am talking about layers of fast food bags and God only knows what else. I simply don’t have the energy to pick up after all of them.

      My own office, and all the offices I’ve ever worked in, has always been neat as a pin. I’ve always had the neatest office in any kind of working environment I worked in. When I lived alone and had my own car, both my home and my car were very neat. But now I live with pigs and I simply can’t keep up with them both at home and in the car.

    4. metadata minion*

      This seems like a prime case for checking references and asking their previous lab manager/lab science professor/etc. what their laboratory behavior is like.

    5. JustaTech*

      My car is quite tidy (if currently dirty) by virtue of being empty.
      My lab space is very clean, tidy and organized.
      My desk is very cluttered, as is my home office.

      One time I got a ride with an excellent lab scientist and when I opened the back door of her car a veritable rain of empty soda cans fell out.
      My old lab manager’s car was full of stuff (clutter and trash and dirty plates, but also emergency kits), and she kept our lab organized to a T.

  32. Adds*

    What a garbage thing to weigh in hiring practices.

    Is she THE BOSS or is there someone above her who would be interested in seeing footage of her pressing her face up to car windows that don’t belong to her? Because that feels like something that might be discouraged if it was known by the higher-ups (assuming they exist).

    This scenario also reminds me a little of the letter writer who was called into HR because one of her coworkers complained that she had a box of tampons, partially visible, in the backseat of her car …

      1. Audrey Puffins*

        The LW was written up, though when they were later laid off (for presumably non-sanitary-related reasons), HR assured them that the write-up was silly and wouldn’t be mentioned in any reference context.

  33. The Nice Car Test*

    I knew a man who wouldn’t hire someone who got out of a fancy car on the way to the interview (his windows overlooked the parking lot) because if they could afford the nice car they wouldn’t have a financial motivation to do a good job. He was/is a jerk.

    1. JR17*

      Now thing about what his reaction would be to a candidate wearing a large engagement ring…

    2. BellyButton*

      People are so ridiculous. I knew a guy who wouldn’t hire people with unusually spelled names. No matter how much I tried to convince him that was wrong– on SO MANY levels, he wouldn’t listen to me. He too was/is a jerk.

    3. pally*

      And yet it is also equally likely the candidate will work extra hard and diligently so as to continue to afford the fancy vehicle.

      Funny how some never see how their own biases work against them.

  34. JR17*

    My car is a literal disaster right now, because we just completed a very busy time at work and I spent all my energy on work projects, at the expense of my poor car interior. Seems like a choice my manager would approve of! (Of course, as others have mentioned, my kids really don’t help.)

  35. ldub*

    I keep an immaculate house- shoes off, mopping regularly, neat and tidy almost all the time- because it makes me happy. My office? Neat, clean, and I vacuum and dust regularly. My files? A little disorganized but accessible. My car? I clean it maaaaaybe once every two years. I just don’t care! It’s old and it gets me to places where public transit doesn’t go, and I cannot be bothered to think about it any more than I need to keep it safe and running.

    Luckily I take the subway 90% of the time so it doesn’t matter, but it’s wild to me that my car could be the thing that made me not get hired!

  36. Software Engineer*

    Reminds me of my mother when she owned a Dairy Queen. While she was interviewing a candidate, someone else would casually go outside and look at the cleanliness of the candidate’s vehicle.

    Why yes, she had a hard time finding people to work. People “not wanting to work anymore” was another complaint too, but nothing was ever wrong with any of her hiring practices or behavior in general. Wish I was being sarcastic but she honestly couldn’t find fault in herself.

    1. Mesquito*

      I think people who use these “life hack” type approaches, in business or in personal life, think it makes them look really perceptive or discerning. But all I see is a person who needs some sort of black-and-white objective test of someone’s character because they don’t trust their own subjective judgement of a person. I think Allison’s advice stands tho, and lots of smart people don’t trust their own judgement.

  37. goddessoftransitory*

    Absolutely the only way this would make any sense at all is if they were company vehicles and were:

    A) used to transport clients and such, or going to job sites where the interior would be in view of the client,

    and/or B) the company pays for cleaning and the person’s such a slob it costs them extra.

    1. Orv*

      Yeah, I could see this if you were hiring a realtor. (And in fact realtors are often required to have late-model cars.)

      1. allathian*

        Depends on the company and location. I’m in Finland and all the realtors I’ve ever seen use company cars on the job because they’re all styled with the company colors and logos, etc. Companies aren’t allowed to require employees to get their own cars styled like that. But yeah, the cars are fairly late models. The realtor I know has a company car and the lease gets renewed every three years, so his car is always at most three years old.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, I think most company cars are on three-year leases (I remember my dad’s was before he retired) so you get a new car every three years anyway. Most estate agencies here also use company-branded cars (you get a nice Mini if you work for Foxtons, but it’ll have Foxtons branding all over it and also Foxtons are pretty awful to work for, so…)

  38. Bird Lady*

    I would not get a job offer from this hiring manager. In my professional life, I am meticulous and very neat. My house is normally clean and organized.

    When it comes to my car and purse, I am a walking trash panda. This irks my husband to no end, because is a petrol head, raced cars in his 20s, and values a clear, well-maintained car. I used to work at a working shipyard, and my car very much looks like I traveled a bit too quickly over gravel. (Because it did.)

  39. LCH*

    i had a job where the interview included a writing sample so that my handwriting could be analyzed. for like, personality traits? this is basically in the same camp as phrenology. but i needed a job. and, yes, she was a horrible person to work for.

  40. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    My car is spotless but my job gets, at most, 50% of my effort at any given time. So yeah. This is just stupid.

  41. Spicy Tuna*

    The inside and outside of my car is a disaster. I don’t care about cars. I am too busy focusing on important things like work to invest any time in keeping my car neat and clean. It gets regular service and I keep the tank filled.

  42. CV*

    The frustrating thing with this question is that we don’t know what “messy” means to the alleged manager. What I think is messy maybe somebody else’s “fairly clean.”

    I had a friend whose passenger footwell was completely filled with trash. That is definitely messy and I don’t think anyone would disagree.
    My car has a lot of dog fur woven into the carpet, and a lot of coins in the beverage holders. I dust the dashboard once a month. This might or might not seem messy to the alleged manager in the question.

    1. Freya*

      My dash gets dusted only when a) I’m stopped at a red light, and b) my husband hasn’t tidied my dustcloth out of the car

  43. Wendy Darling*

    I’m an incredibly messy person in a lot of areas (my DESK, good lord) but my car is immaculate.

    The reason my car is immaculate is that car prowls are notoriously common in my city and if you leave anything in your car someone will break the window to steal it. Getting a window replaced is expensive and a huge pain, so I pretty much leave nothing visible in my car ever, not even garbage (because sometimes someone breaks the window to check for valuables under the garbage). Right now there’s a couple used facemasks and a bottle of water in there and that’s a ton of stuff for my car.

  44. Addison DeWitt*

    Man, if everyone did that, there’s a stretch where no one would have hired me who couldn’t handle goldfish crackers in the cracks of the back seat.

    That said, I kind of agree with the thing about noticing who at least offers to get rid of their beverage container. A prospective employer is not a waitress.

    1. Dahlia*

      What do you do if you don’t finish it, though? Like do you pour your half-full cup of coffee into the trash, leaving a mess for the next person to have to change the bag, or do you ask to dump it in the break room you won’t actually be allowed in?

      1. Freya*

        You ask what they’d like you to do with it, thereby testing if there’s bananapants norms in the office around bins that may or may not annoy you in six months time

      2. Addison DeWitt*

        I would just pick it up, say “Where should I…” and then follow whatever they suggest. The point (not to sound cynical) is to appear to be considerate.

  45. Jeopard*

    I think we need a “What’s the craziest hiring rule you’ve ever seen?” Mine isn’t so crazy, but at a previous job, they would hand candidates a two-page bootleg version of the Myers-Briggs copied out of a book. I can’t remember which types they would and would not hire, but it was part of the hiring decision.

    1. Jake*

      Did you work for a construction company in Mississippi that recently was bought out?

      They told me straight up that there were 2 personalities of the 9 that they straight won’t hire, and 3 more that they only hire if they are all green flags otherwise.

      I was “lucky” enough to be one of the two that were considered, “hire unless they are a walking dumpster fire.”

      1. Jenzee*

        Ha, no! Different state. Different industry. Company went bankrupt early in Covid.

        I hate how common this must be!

  46. Essentially Cheesy*

    I don’t know what the right answer here is because I have worked with some truly horribly messy coworkers. One had a nightmare looking car, while the others had quite clean cars but apparently their homes were disasters.

    The one with the nightmare car had a nightmare office, it might have needed to be fumigated after he was let go. The carpeting had to be replaced at least.

    1. Essentially Cheesy*

      And honestly, can’t we distinguish between perhaps in-between errands clutter vs. general filth? There has to be an obvious difference.

  47. woops*

    when i was a kid i got a job at an oildfield services company. in the interview, the old operations manager asked me to borrow a knife. i handed him my pocket knife (which i rarely carried but happened to have on me) and he handed it back and told me he didn’t hire men that don’t carry a pocket knife. redneck.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      I was just reading this morning that Victorinox is developing Swiss Army knives with no blades, because there are a lot of places (in Europe, Asia) where even a pocket knife is forbidden for daily carry.

      1. Angstrom*

        There are multi-tools(Leatherman, etc.) that omit the knife blade(s) for carry in blade-restricted areas.

    2. it’s gonna be bye bye bye*

      That’s very adventure-guy-cosplay. Kind of like if someone took Lemony Snicket’s quote seriously and didn’t trust (or hire) anyone who hadn’t brought a book with them. (I do carry a small pocketknife in my purse and it’s handy, but somehow, I doubt he would be asking ladies for one!)

    3. Jake*

      I’m in construction, and you’d be shocked how many foreman make hiring decisions this way.

  48. OliveSplash*

    Looking into a car is one thing but breaking into a car is another! Was that just a turn of phrase or is this person actually breaking into people’s cars?!

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I also read it as the manager breaking into cars the first time (!) but on a closer re-read, the letter says the manager will “walk out to it [when she is] on a break.” No car break-ins happening here, thankfully.

    1. Emily*

      I say this as a non driver who hates cars and wishes the bus system were better

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Not true.

      Clean car with no trash in it = car of person who brings in and throws away trash in their car as soon as possible

    3. JustaTech*

      I once had someone politely clean out their car off all the accumulated stuff, bag it up and dispose of it in a can.

      Sadly that can was my compost bin, so I then had to dig through the (thankfully mostly full of garden debris) compost to correctly throw away all that stuff.

      But hey, at least they weren’t just littering.

  49. IllyriaShaw*

    As someone whose job is mom my car is a hot mess from 3 kids and usually the back is crazy because next to the one seat up for my oldest kid is my collect of reusable shopping bags (the big ones from Sam’s Club for cold stuff and an assortment of regular ones I try to keep stored in the big bags).

  50. CommanderBanana*

    My car is always full of boxes of dog food, dog toys, donated clothing/bedding, and household goods because I volunteer at both a human shelter and a dog shelter and am constantly ferrying boxes/bags of donations to one location or another or doing donation pickups.

    If that makes me a bad person, so be it. That manager can go pound sand.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Cynthia Heimel wrote about moving to LA from New York and getting into car culture: “A car is just a giant, moving handbag! You can have ten pairs of shoes with you at all times!”

  51. Jennifer C.*

    I live in a high-crime area and also work in a high-crime area. The outside of my car is filthy, and the inside looks like a homeless person with a hoarding disorder has been living in it. When I have to leave a laptop or something valuable in my car, I bury it under a carefully curated pile of empty Starbucks cups, junk mail, and shoes. I’ve never had a break-in. :-)

  52. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    My car is relatively clean. If you go to my apartment, however, it pretty consistently looks like a bomb went off. I have a bit too much stuff and just cannot mentally figure out how to organize some areas.

    1. BellyButton*

      Ask a friend or family for help. If you have a friend who is really organized they probably love doing it. I love to organize and purge stuff. One of my friends was feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed about a big cross country move. I had her sit on the couch and brought her a manageable quantity of things to deal with (pack, trash, donate) We got her entire house done in 4 days- it was so fun for me. I love a good labor maker and clean bins! LOL

      1. BellyButton*

        Uhh autocorrect fail- label maker. LOL I don’t want to make anyone go into labor.

        1. not nice, don't care*

          My mom swears by gorging on italian plums/prunes for making labor.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I’m quite good at this and back when I was short of cash friends would hire me to come over and sort their piles.

    2. Filosofickle*

      Right. My house is a mess, but my car is generally clutter-free (though not exactly “clean”). If only because where I live, literally anything visible in a car, even a hoodie or empty bag, seems to attract break-ins.

      But it’s also influenced by a childhood with my dad, who would totally be hired by this manager. When I was a kid, I would have loved to have all of you as parents! Food or drink were never allowed in the car, under any circumstances, and everything had to stay clean. It was like visiting a national park — pack it in, pack it out!

      1. JustaTech*

        My mom wasn’t super strict about food in the car when we were kids, but we lived in an area with virtually no drive-throughs, so anything we ate in the car was very limited and contained. (And who knows, maybe she went out in the garage after we went to bed and vacuumed the car.)

        So my car is usually relatively free of stuff, although it is currently rather muddy/dirty from winter/baby/coffee.

  53. tabloidtained*

    I think it’s difficult to trust the judgement of managers like this, who rely on silly or irrelevant “tests,” or give weight to personality tests or zodiac signs for hiring.

  54. Justin D*

    I don’t 100% agree with the messy car test but I sort of get it. Even if you have a good reason for having a messy car sometimes, at least square it away for a job interview.

    1. Ms. Murchison*

      In this case, the LW is already working, not interviewing. The employees have no reason to expect that whether they get kept on permanently depends on the condition of their car instead of the quality of their work thus far.

  55. pally*

    Car windows – heavily tinted. All of them.
    Car alarm is super sensitive. And ear splittingly loud.

    Go ahead – peek inside.
    /sarcasm off

    Why not just flip a coin to decide on hiring someone?

    For me, finding a new job has been very difficult. Years long search yielded a whole lot ‘no thanks’. If I truly lacked skills/experience, okay. Not getting the job because of some idiotic ‘test’ that has no relation to the job description is, frankly, infuriating. Demeaning too.

    Over the long run, I hope folks who practice this sort of thing end up with a whole bunch of deeply problematic hires.

  56. Pumpkin215*

    I’m reading these comments and laughing. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad (because not all of this is funny).

    I almost feel ashamed to admit that my car is clean! I take care of the inside and outside on a regular basis, a habit developed because my old man was the same way.

    Now, if someone at work were to peek in my car, they might find a bag of clothes for the gym. Is that messy? I doubt it.

    That doesn’t make valid hiring or promoting metric. I’ve always been this way with vehicles and I have never been promoted. So there goes that theory.

    1. Gretta Swathmore*

      My car is pretty much always really clean. I have allergies so regularly dusting and vacuuming it helps a lot. Plus it’s just so wonderful to drive in an uncluttered, undusty car. It feels really luxurious, that’s why I do it.

  57. kupo*

    I would argue that she’s not setting clear or realistic expectations if she expects your car to be clean and doesn’t inform you of it. Also, as a neurodivergent person whose car and desk are perpetually cluttered it’s a clear sign she won’t treat me fairly. It’d be a hard pass for me.

    1. Dinwar*

      Far as I know I’m neurotypical, but my job requires research and my method is to have whatever papers and books are most relevant sitting around me so I can quickly chase down ideas. My roommate once came in while I was doing that–I’d run out of room on the table, and was sitting on the floor with three books and a dozen papers sitting around. Haven’t quite gotten to the point where I’m thumbtacking things to walls with colored string connecting them, but only because I don’t have string!

      My guess is that this hiring manager and I would very much not get along well.

  58. Anna*

    I wonder what her definition of “messy” is.. One wrapper? An empty can in the door? A backseat covered in stuff? What if there is no litter but the car interior is dusty? What if the inside is spotless but they drove through mud on the way to work?

  59. Allonge*

    Eh, if this is true, it’s a very stupid rule.

    On the other hand, I would rather have a boss who has one stupid rule about hiring than one who has stupid rules about things that come up every work day, so… it could be worse?

  60. Jasmi*

    I’ll just say two thing:

    1. Crazy as this is, it arguably gives you a way to improve your chances of being kept on

    2. I initially misread this ‘Manager won’t hire people with messy CATS’ and I was intrigued….does she ask you if you have a cat and do you tell the truth or lie? and is it cats that shed lots of hair that she doesn’t like? Are shorthaired cats ok? Or does she mean something different – is it cats that do things like shredding your toilet rolls that upsets her?

  61. it’s gonna be bye bye bye*

    That car thing is ridiculous. I often have old parking garage stubs or church bulletins on the floor of the car. I would make sure to clean them out if I knew in advance I was taking someone on a trip, and I don’t have like, moldy, food containers or anything, but if she’s expecting people having the vacuum detailing done inside their cars to mean they’re generally organized or competent, that is way out to sea. Unless it gets to the point where a friend would be discomfited, buy it, I think that’s kind of ridiculous thing to care about in general. And if you don’t have other people who ride in your car regularly, there’s absolutely no reason to clean it out that regularly, either!

  62. RLC*

    Have never had boss comment about messy car, but instead criticize the age of my car. “We pay you enough to buy a new car! Employees who earn less than you have a new car! It looks bad!” on and on. (Employer was a government agency, car was periodically exhibited at car shows and was detailed to showroom clean condition, which makes it all the stranger)

  63. Person from the Resume*

    Is this a sign I don’t want to work here?

    I don’t think so. You already work there. Judge if you want to work there based on how your experience is working there. Finding out from the permanent employees if there’s any other hidden thing to worry about.

    It is a dumb hiring test, but if this manager not causing you any issues day to day working for her, you have no reason to expect her to change how she treats you once you’re permanent.

  64. Jake*

    I had a boss who seriously considered penmanship (in 2017) to be a high level indication of whether you should hire or promote somebody. We work on the white collar side of construction, where I go months at a time without hand writing a single thing for my job.

    He told me this before seeing my awful penmanship, and after we’d worked together for a month or two, and I responded, “you should just go ahead and start interviewing my replacement now then.”

    He was a nice enough guy, but one of the least competent workers or managers I’ve ever been around.

  65. Daria grace*

    Weird hiring tests make me so angry. Someone doing hiring is making decisions that will change the course of people’s lives, careers and finances. They owe their candidates the bare minimum of respect in the form of using the most appropriate, fair selection criteria possible

    1. BellyButton*

      They are also doing themselves, their teams, and their companies a disservices. Their bias is likely keeping a diverse pool of candidates from being hired. Look at all the parents on here who have said they have messy cars because they are transporting their kids all over– so this person is potentially limiting herself to never hiring a parent (and most likely a mom). These types of bias are so limiting.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Unfortunately I think that’s a feature, not a bug, behind many of these “zany” tests.

  66. Good Enough For Government Work*

    I’ve never so much as had a driving lesson in my life. I’m in my mid-thirties and have no plans to ever get a car.

    I wonder what she’d make of me.

    1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      I haven’t owned a car in 21 years and haven’t driven one in 10. I’m 54 and people sometimes think of me as “not grown up yet,” even in a major city with a robust transit system.

      1. Catfish Mke*

        Same altho my transit system is not “robust” my actual home and work are well served. It’s a 25 minute bike ride and there’s a direct bus every half hour. I save huge amounts of

    2. Wendy Darling*

      Perhaps the tidiest car of all is in fact the car that does not exist?

    3. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

      “Doesn’t have a car” means “Can’t afford a car” means “Will steal from the company.”

  67. Angstrom*

    My knee-jerk response is clean car = boring person, but that’s just as unfair.

    Our car gets used for dogs, bikes, canoes, and all their related gear. Hauling stuff to the dump. Bringing building supplies home, including sod. Gets driven on dirt roads. There’s no decaying food or accumulated trash but it certainly isn’t pristine. It is well maintained.

    My desk is clean and neat.

    It’s a silly “test”.

  68. Bastet11181867*

    Since I sometimes take my cats to the vet, and sometimes take stuff to the junkyard, this employer would have had issues with me, since I have old blankets in my car too. This manager sounds too petty for me.

  69. Jackie Daytona, Regular Human Bartender*

    Has the manager considered consulting with a Magic 8 Ball instead? Wouldn’t even need to go to the parking lot for equally valid results.

  70. Mesquito*

    I think that people who use this “life hack” litmus test approach to decision-making think it makes them seem perceptive or discerning. But to me it comes off as someone who leans on these sort of objective tests of a single trait because they don’t trust their own subjective judgement of a whole person.

    1. Walk a Straight Line*

      I took a seminar from someone who advocated for stopping by a local working people bar after quitting time, and checking the organization and cleanliness of contractor’s trucks as a litmus test before seeking them out to hire them. It didn’t occur too me until this minute that she was also advocating for hiring someone who had probably decided to drink and drive…

  71. Petty Betty*

    I’m ADHD. I drive over 110 miles a day in my commute to and from work. I have two 70lbs dogs that love car rides. I still have a teenager. I also share a vehicle with an equally ADHD computer engineer. We both use the vehicle to haul our garb and gear for ren fair and other assorted events.

    I cleaned the vehicle out on Saturday. I can’t see the floor in the backseat already. This is life. I am still an excellent worker who gets ish done. My job isn’t to work IN my car, so don’t expect me to have my car organized by my office’s standards, unless you want to start paying me extra to KEEP my car cleaner. In that case, I expect double my salary, because it’s gonna take a LOT of work to keep my car clean.

  72. Reality.Bites*

    About the kindest thing I can say about the vehicle inspector is that at least only hiring people with clean cars doesn’t lead to demonstrably worse hiring results than using a sensible method.

    Some of the less kind things I can say is that a lot of people, if they find out about it, will consider it creepy and invasive and think she is, at best, seriously lacking in judgment. It doesn’t matter much what I think of her, but it’s not something I’d want anyone in my office knowing about me – she thinks it’s a smart idea to be proud of. It’s very much not.

  73. Resentful Oreos*

    So what does your manager do when someone takes the bus, or a Lyft/Uber, or has a spouse or friend drop them off?

    I live near a city where most people take public transit to work (train or bus) so Manager would be SOL for most hires. It’s an infamously bad city to drive and to park in.

    Meanwhile, my city of residence has, for the most part, vast parking garages or else metered street parking where people have been known to park a couple blocks away because competition is pretty fierce. Is Manager willing to hoof it in the rain down the street just to check a car? How about trying to figure out where someone parked in a six-story parking garage?

    I’m assuming this is a smaller business with one level parking lot, and most people drive to work, because the scenarios forming in my head are ridiculous.

    1. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

      Employers can ban employees from using public transportation.

      1. Resentful Oreos*

        In my city, nobody did (unless the work genuinely required a car), because they’d cut out like 80% of their applicants. They can require *reliable* transportation and that an employee show up to work on time, but, again, in practical terms, it meant “won’t oversleep and miss the train or bus.” This is not a car-dependent city.

        I’m still curious as to how a personal car inspection would work in a business with one of those giant multi-story garages, or even ones with large parking lots and not many close-by visitor spaces. I’m imagining Interviewer trekking through rows and rows of cars trying to find that needle in the parking haystack, which speaks of either dedication or obsession (or maybe a burning desire to get up from their desk and stretch their legs).

        1. Petty Betty*

          In my city, “reliable transportation” means “have your own running vehicle” because our bus system isn’t great and nobody truly expects catching rides with friends/carpooling to be a viable option year-round unless the ride also works in the same building.

          When I first started working “real” jobs, I was denied a job at a fast food restaurant when I was 15 (we’re allowed to start working at the age of 14 in fast food here) because I didn’t have “reliable transportation”. I was planning on walking the 3 blocks to the location, but that wasn’t acceptable to the hiring manager.

  74. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

    I remember once reading about a hiring manager who escorted applicants back to their cars for the sole purpose of rejecting those who had child seats.

    1. Resentful Oreos*

      “I’m parked way at the far end of the lot. *unfurls umbrella* Oh oh, looks like rain!”

  75. Ms. Murchison*

    The chief difference between the LW’s scenario and Alison’s otherwise lovely friend seems to be whether their silly test is make-or-break. The LW’s boss makes hiring decisions based on the silly test instead of actually work performance, whereas it sounds like Alison’s friend thought the beverage question gave her more information about a candidate but it doesn’t sound like that’s the only factor considered. In the letter scenario, it indicates a boss who thinks they have excellent, crafty judgment in workplace matters when in fact they have extremely poor judgment. People like that can be dangerous to work for, or at the very least react badly to feedback or having their decisions challenged.

  76. Anonychick*

    Aside from anything else, it feels like this is one of those things that might not be purposely discriminatory, but probably ends up being so.

    People who frequently have messy cars:
    – people with children*
    – people with ADHD
    – people with chronic illnesses and/or injuries

    * Depending on location, this may or may not be a protected class; HOWEVER, mothers often drive the “family” car (while Dad has “his” car), leading to messy-because-of-kids cars more often belonging to female workers.

    1. NothappyinNY*

      THIS. Women are far more likely to be the ones chauffeuring kids, elderly parents etc. I am VERY offended by this person. One thing for office to have clean desk policy, attire policies etc. OK even to tell workers if they have clients in their car to keep it clean.

  77. Michelle Smith*

    I wonder how she handles people who don’t own a car and take the bus or carpool or are dropped off by a friend or family member. So weird.

    1. Tiger Snake*

      This was what I was wondering about too.
      How do you know its MY car? What if my was in the shop and I had rented one for a few weeks – so extra clean – or borrowed one for a friend – so extra messy? What if I’m sharing, and I’ve just got the keys because I’m the first one to finish each day and so it’s faster to meet them? How does she judge someone who rides a bike, or a motorbike?

  78. I'd rather not say*

    When you have Northern Breed dogs you give up on your car interior ever being clean.

  79. Alexis ~Something~ Rose*

    If it’s true then it sounds like over reach to me and would be concerning, though I would weigh it against what you have experienced while already working there. However – are you sure this is true? Did you hear this directly from the supervisor? If not, how does the person who told you know this to be true and do you trust them based on your experience with them to date? Sometimes weird rumors or exaggerations can take root and it’s worth considering if that happened here, unless of course the supervisor is the one who told you.

  80. Lady Damascus*

    …Or in the case of my car where she might see my Husband’s disabled placard tucked in the visor. Or his wheelchair in the back.

    If I wasn’t hired on full time, and I found out it was because someone was looking in my car I would be livid. And probably jumping to a conclusion that could cost the company time and money.

    Also around here, I wouldn’t do it. Many people would guess someone is planning to break into the car, wouldn’t matter who was doing the looking.

    Then what if someone is having to live out of their car because they had to leave an abusive spouse and maybe work was the only reprieve where they didn’t have to explain themselves?

    Guess that person doesn’t deserve to work full time. I wouldn’t want to tangle with that either, there are protections in this state.

    Company could use whatever litmus test they want, can’t stop them. This manager would do best to keep it to themselves though. Can see so many ways this could go sideways…

  81. Ink*

    Is this doing anything at all? Even for whatever standards she holds it to? If you haven’t been made permanent yet… and you know now that if you want to be you need to tidy the car up… are your coworkers just telling anyone they like and want made permanent? Is anyone employees want kept on going into this test blind, bc it sounds like they might be gaming the system X’D

  82. PDB*

    I use my small SUV to carry the things that made my mobility restricted self less so. So it’s untidy but not messy. But this sort of boss would see my mobility as a problem.

  83. Knittercubed*

    One time my boss wanted me to cart some supplies to the home office. My reply: “I can’t, my car is filled with yarn”.

  84. Gretta Swathmore*

    I kinda agree with this, though I don’t think I would actually do it because it seems vaguely stalkerish. It’s not that hard to keep a clean and organized car, and it shows you’re on top of things and take good care of your possessions. Seems like good traits for an employee?

  85. Anne*

    I wonder if in this case the correlation works but not the way the manager thinks. The coworkers gave the warning to OP, indicating they want to see the OP covert. I bet they can do not mention anything if they don’t approve. So in this case, the manager has set up an unofficial team veto over candidates.

    So for the question of if this should be a red flag, on its own? Keep an eye open to how things are working in practice. A boss who takes feedback from employees is a good thing. Just would be better if it were a direct channel and not superstitious.

  86. Dek*

    My mom frequently insists that this is not only A Thing (which, I mean, I guess it is), but also a Totally Reasonable Norm.

    It’s one of her any ways to pick at us.

  87. borealpelta*

    I would never get hired anywhere if I was judged on my car. My house is clean, I’m super-organized and on the ball at work, but my car is filled with random detritus (not trash, just stuff). I just do not have the mental health/bandwidth to take care of work/family/myself/everything else plus the car. Bag with my ballet things, horse tack and blankets, riding boots, barn jacket, towels and blankets, first aid kit, car supplies to change a tire or jump a car, snacks for when I don’t have time to pack a lunch for work, water bottles, books… I’m usually out of the house from 6am to 8-9pm so my car is just like a giant tote bag to me. I take any actual trash out every day, but the rest waits until I have a random energy day that happens to line up with nice enough weather to drag everything out onto the driveway, shuttle in into the house and where it needs to go, vacuum and dust my car all out.

    1. Gretta*

      Is it in the trunk though? I don’t think that’s an issue. I keep a lot of emergency items in my car’s trunk (blankets, chair, extra clothes, supplies), plus any returns. I have my exercise item in the backseat at all times. My car looks pretty clean!

  88. El l*

    If a manager says “I’m going to hire or not based on this one rule based on common behavior,” then they have to be prepared for several things to happen:

    1. Miss out on good candidate because rule malfunctioned. e.g. the old school rule of not hiring someone who put salt on their food before tasting…maybe they just like it salty.
    2. Introduce arbitrary chance into their hiring process. Or lack of transparency.

    Generally, doing rules makes more sense when there’s a very particular thing you’re hiring for and theyre tied to those. E.g. You’re in a customer service job and they’re rude to a waiter.

  89. Gretta*

    For ten years, I lived in a neighborhood that had lots of car breakin, so everyone learned to keep their cars clean and free of things. Nothing in sight in the front and back seat! I kept anything I was storing in my car (like blankets, a camp chair), in my closed trunk.

  90. Professor Dog*

    Another population that would be excluded by default: homeless people living in their cars. Setting up yet another barrier to getting a job and the money needed to find a stable place to live sure is awesome and fair.

  91. Christine*

    I have a horse. My car is not only messy but smelly. My work as a teacher, on the other hand, is meticulous.

  92. BubbleTea*

    The boot of my car is full of dog hair (and sometimes dog). The back seat has a child car seat full of mud and crumbs, and a small collection of sticks in the footwell. The other side of the back seat has spare coats and boots, a travel potty, a petrol can, a balance bike, a bike helmet, a picnic blanket, and assorted other items as needed. The front passenger footwell currently has half a dozen cartons of soya milk that I’m bringing in one at a time, because I always have my hands full and couldn’t manage all of them at once.

    For a long time, my car also housed dozens of work-related items, because I worked from home and had nowhere to store them in the house. That’s improved slightly since getting an office but it’s still often a travelling cupboard. If I worked less hard, I’d have more time for cleaning out the car.

  93. Flea*

    This I an old school 1980s thing. The idea being how they took care.of their car.would represent how they would care for your equipment. Dumb then, dumb now.

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