When a longtime friend told me a week ago that she had me listed as a reference for a particular job, I had mixed feelings. I have known her for twenty years and have a good sense of her character and beliefs. I feared having that much knowledge about her was going to bite my friend in the rear end. But I vowed to try being a good reference.
Thus, when a nice woman called me last week, I tried to lie, but it was proving difficult. There was no nice way to spin what I knew. The questions were direct and I sensed that this woman was not a fool.
The flaws could not be glossed over. My friend is admittedly never on time for anything. But true friends have their flaws and work around them. After twenty years, I would fall over if she was on time. I lovingly accept this person as she is, as she accepts my many flaws.
I believe my friend had to know what to expect from me, which is why I was surprised she used me as a reference. When it comes to employers, I know how costly it is to hire someone. If the employer was seriously questioning values such as punctuality and organization, they were clearly looking for someone with that strength of character. My honesty partially resulted in her not getting the job. I was the only reference who honestly admitted she had flaws.
Do I feel bad? Yes. I hate knowing that my brutal honesty did someone in. However, I did for her what many people could have done for me in the past. I’ve had more than one job where a brutally honest reference might have knocked me out of the running, thus avoiding some embarrassing moments where the employer and I realized we weren’t compatible. That is one break up I wouldn’t wish on anyone, especially my good friend.
I still count her a friend as dearly as I did before the reference fiasco. She still has a kind heart and has been a rock for me in very tough times. However, I am gracefully bowing out of the reference department. My skills as a number cruncher, relationship sympathizer and dependable friend are better used in friendship. Everyone needs their sideline cheerleaders.