Would you hire a scorpion?



In all my years of working in the staffing industry, the impact of something seemingly so simple as a nickname never really slapped me across the face so hard as when I glanced at the ‘nickname’ box on the completed application of an otherwise unassuming, skinny, barely-out-of-high-school kid sitting across my desk at a job fair.


I glanced at the nickname again, then looked at him… again… Scorpion… I couldn’t help but wonder. If his parents (horror of horrors) gave him the nickname, what horrible thing did he do to earn it? Was this a name his friends gave him in middle school for, what, dissecting a… scorpion? Beating some poor hapless kid up in a particularly… scorpion-like way? Getting bitten by a scorpion somewhere where scorpions live? (Does this area have scorpions? I didn’t think so. I have four kids and I don’t want them nicknamed ‘Scorpion’ for any reason, especially for getting bitten by one!) Maybe he ‘earned’ the name playing online video games where ginormous scorpions roam the countryside preying on humans until they are dispatched by players named ‘Scorpion.’ Maybe he was some kind of superhero. On the other hand, maybe he looks younger than he actually is and earned the nickname ‘serving time.’ (My quick search for visible signs of ‘prison tats’ I may or may not have seen on MSNBC’s Lockup ended on a fairly positive note. The butterfly on his shoulder seemed relatively benign.)

Instead of plunging into the interview, my mind kept wandering (it’s your own fault, Scorpion!). I imagined some related movie-based nicknames he could have used – The Scorpion King (images of this skinny dude replacing ‘The Rock’ in the movie almost made me chuckle… fortunately, I was able to hold my composure, bite my lip, and keep ‘studying’ his application), Lord of the Scorpions, 12 Angry Scorpions (run!), and The Dark Scorpion (is he a ‘good’ scorpion or an ‘evil one? Are there even ‘good’ scorpions?), before finally settling on The Scorpion’s Apprentice as the best fit because, given his age and lack of work experience, Mickey Mouse as apprentice seemed a worthy character comparison.

Regardless, one thing was patently clear – I wasn’t about to call him by his nickname.

Not now, not ever.

During the slightly awkward interview, I called him by his given name a couple of times in passing, but generally avoided that as well. All in all, he turned out to be a pretty decent dude, possibly even somebody we could use for the right job, but after my experience with him I couldn’t help but wonder about the power of something as simple as a nickname. A quick, cursory office survey revealed several other funny ones we’ve had here at Luttrell Staffing…

Goober, Possum (hey, it’s the South!!), Tinker, Cotton (again, the South…), Calf, Butter, Cannon, Donald Duck, Cowboy (not a bad nickname, but this guy called himself that when he called in available and made it clear to us that he didn’t go by his given name), Raging Wolf, Pimpin’ Sugar Daddy (OK that one isn’t real but it’d be funny if it was)…

Not that all of these (even Scorpion) are necessarily bad, but they do beg the question – do applicants THINK when they put odd nicknames on their job applications? Do they expect us to call them by those nicknames? It’s one thing when friends or family members give you a nickname. I mean, my wife calls me ‘Honey’ and sometimes even ‘Sweetie Pie,’ but I don’t put those on my job application or LinkedIn profile. But is someone who blatantly puts the nickname ‘Scorpion’ on his job application, ostensibly expecting us to call him that (hey, we did ask, right?!), someone we should send to a job assignment over a candidate with similar experience but no odd nickname?