In job interviews, there is a fine line between self-confidence and arrogance. One behavior that can rub interviewers the wrong way and backfire is name-dropping — the practice of mentioning important people during a conversation as a means of impressing others. In a world of hyper-connectivity thanks to social media, broadening one's social circles seems easier then ever. Although it might seem like a good idea, you want to really think twice before sharing a mutual connection during conversations with recruiters.
According to recruiters, dropping names without any tact can come across as egoistic and pretentious. Candidates who excessively name-drop may also be perceived as insecure. This approach leads to trouble when:
Who you know or met is shared in an impulsive and unsolicited fashion (e.g., "One of my golfing buddies is the VP of strategic sourcing initiatives"; "I know Josh, who leads your sales and trading team . . .").
An interviewer perceives such attempts as a ploy or feels one-upped by sharing such names.
The savvy job seeker recognizes that knowing someone at a hiring company is a good thing. So how do you convey such connections in a positive way? Below are some tips for success:
Be discreet. Wait to share names until you've created sufficient rapport and you can name-drop in response to a question. For instance, if asked how you heard about a job, talk about how you spoke with person X at a recent networking event and his/her willingness to share career advice really made a good impression on you.
Remember that context matters. In my role as assistant dean of corporate relations and managing director of the office of career services at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, I have the opportunity to interview many top business leaders during fireside chats with students or networking events. One of the leaders who I have spoken with on multiple occasions is Al Carey, chief executive of PepsiCo Americas Beverages and a Smith School alumnus. Bringing up his name with students or alumni in reference to alumni engagement or collaborative leadership is appropriate. On the other hand, bragging about Carey with the guy stocking Pepsi products at my local grocery store crosses the line from confidence to arrogance.