When it comes to true friendship, there is almost no truer or closer friend than my cousin Steve. We’re virtually the same age, and we have been more like brothers since, well, since either of us can remember. We played together when we were very little, we had countless sleepovers in elementary school, we went to high school together, and we even shared an apartment when we got out of school. There are many things I admire about my “brother from another mother” as he puts it, but I want to focus on just two of them for now. One of the things I greatly admire about Steve is that he can tell a story, and he told me a whopper over lunch.
Steve is not one to jump from job to job, but after fifteen years with his current employer, he is in the exploratory stage of job hunting. During this search, Steve came upon one specific company that looked like a good fit. He did almost everything right:
- Steve researched both the company and the position to make sure this was a good fit.
- Steve’s not an email guy, so he picked up the phone and called this company, and he called multiple times until he got the right person on the phone.
- He worked hard on his resume and his supporting materials, and he sent out materials that made the prospective employer want to meet with him face-to-face.
Each interview went better than the previous one, and the hiring process moved to one of the final phases; a request for the all-important recommendations. Steve provided three. The first recommendation was from another manager he has worked with for over a decade. This manager was someone that he knew well, and he trusted. The second recommendation was from one of Steve’s co-workers; Steve also knew him well, respected him, and trusted him.
The third recommendation was the jewel of the bunch. It was from a man who had been very high up in Steve’s current company, but he had left the company some years ago. Although this man had only worked for the company for less than two years and Steve didn’t know him very well, his accomplishments and credentials were impressive. Steve reached out through LinkedIn, and he asked the individual if he would be so kind as to provide a recommendation, and the individual gladly agreed.
A week later, Steve was asked to come in for an interview yet again. During the interview, he asked if his references had been called. The president of the company told him they had called only one of his recommendations. When Steve asked about how that call went, he was shocked with the response. “It was an interesting call; very impressive individual. He wanted to send me his resume, but I really don’t think he’s quite right for the job.”
Steve was fuming. When he called his “friend” and asked him about the call, he received a vague response. When he confronted this “friend” and told him that he had learned about the attempt to send in his own resume, the response was priceless. “Wow. He said that, did he?” The “friend” quickly changed the topic, and Steve let him, but Steve learned a valuable lesson.
We all know how vital a good recommendation is. The people we ask to write our recommendations are paramount to our success. How often do we find ourselves chasing a person’s title, rather than a person’s character? The people we choose should be people we know well, and we trust. Yet we put our professional lives in the hands of those we often barely know, because we think an impressive title or position will help us.
I mentioned I wanted to talk about two things I admire about my cousin Steve. The first was his amazing way of telling a story. The second thing is this: You would think that, after an episode like this, Steve would be playing the role of a victim. Clearly he had been wronged by someone of such questionable ethics. Instead, Steve shot me a wry smile at the end of the story, and spent the final few minutes telling me about the mistakes he had made, and the lessons he had learned from this experience.
That’s my brother from another mother for you.