I have a great friend named Woody who was laid off from his job after 25 years with the same company. He landed an interview and asked if I would be a character reference for him. I assured him that I would love to. Shortly thereafter I got a call from a lady in California who was the character reference checker for a large national company. She asked me, “Mr. Black, do you know Woody?”
“Heck yeah, I know him!”
She proceeded to ask me a bunch of questions about my friend that I answered honestly and forthrightly. Woody is a great guy and would be an awesome asset for any company. I would hire him if I could.
At the end of the conversation she told me, “This is all wonderful information. He sounds like a great guy. Is there anything that he isn’t good at?”
“Well, actually, yes.”
This caught her off guard.
“Last summer when Woody wasn’t working he agreed to help our friend Curly build a play house for his five-year old daughter. Woody is pretty handy, you see. Well anyway, he was framing up the walls for this playhouse and he was holding the wall up with his left hand while shooting it with a nail gun in his right hand. The trigger to his nail gun is very sensitive, so while he was performing this ingenious operation, he accidentally pulled the trigger and shot a nail through his left index and middle fingers. Can you believe that? He nailed his fingers together!”
I could hear the interviewer take in a deep breath.
“Curly screamed like a little girl, which is ironic because he is a firefighter and he sees accidents all the time. Curly wanted to go the emergency room and get it looked at. Woody, calm as can be, grabbed the nail with his right hand, yanked it out of the fingers on his left hand, wrapped it up in duct tape, and continued working on the playhouse. Fortunately, the nail penetrated the meat of his two fingers but none of the bones.”
The interviewer was speechless.
“So Woody is a hard-working, thoughtful guy. He’d give you the shirt off his back. He is a fantastic manager of people, but his nail gun skills suck. So if I were you, I would hire him, but I wouldn’t let him operate a nail gun.”
Woody landed the job and is doing quite well. I didn’t tell him about the interview until he had been with the company for almost six months. I suppose the moral of the story is to be careful when you ask a character to give you a reference…