Keep it believable. If you go too far, people may think that you're a narcissist — excessively preoccupied with power or prestige.
Use sparingly. Dropping too many names may convey that you're a network fanatic. You also really risk coming off as arrogant.
Demonstrate forethought. If you plan on mentioning a mutual connection, let him or her know ahead of time in case the interviewer decides to contact the individual. Any name that you mention becomes an easy reference check. Also, keep in mind that you have no clue how an interviewer will perceive your mutual connection. If the interviewer thinks favorably of the name you dropped, it could increase your chances of making a good impression. Conversely, the interviewer might be put off by your contact. Ask yourself if broadcasting the name is worth the risk.
Do your homework. Remember that demonstrating knowledge about a company's latest earning reports or key strategic initiatives will do more for your image than broadcasting who you know in the firm.
We've all heard the saying, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Name-dropping, if carefully deployed can lead to positive results. On the other hand, too much bravado can cross the fine line between confidence and arrogance and derail career aspirations. Whether you're participating in a job interview or professional networking event, remember the formula for success includes keeping your ego in check, being conservative, and maneuvering delicately.
Kudisch is managing director of the Office of Career Services at the Robert H. Smith School of Business and a faculty expert in leadership, negotiations and human capital management.