Name Dropping In A Job Interview

Published: Feb 27, 2017

Name-dropping. Even the phrase sounds arrogant. Not only arrogant—lazy too. I might be naïve to want to cling to the idealistic thought that hard work and grit are what land a job, not having cocktails with the who’s who of corporate America. That said, I do see the value in networking, and if you’re going to go the name dropping route to get a job, here are some tips from career experts.

Be discreet

In an article in the Washington Post, Jeffrey Kudisch, managing director of the Office of Career Services at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, said dropping names without any tact can come across as egotistical and pretentious. Candidates who excessively name-drop may also be perceived as insecure.

“Wait to share names until you’ve created sufficient rapport and you can name-drop in response to a question,” Kudisch said. “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.”

Elizabeth Malatestinic, senior lecturer in Human Resources Management at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, agrees.

“It's normal to be excited when you realize you have a connection in a company you want to work for, but you need to be cautious in simply ‘dropping names’ in an interview—it may be perceived as being presumptuous,” she said.

Demonstrate forethought

Kudisch says if you plan to name drop, you should contact the person before your interview in case the employer decides to contact them for a reference. (Hopefully, this conversation would focus on your actual skills and experience rather than on your mastery of small talk).

“Do your homework first by contacting the individual you know and ask if mentioning him or her is OK,” Malatestinic said. “It never looks good when a recruiter checks with someone and that person is surprised by being mentioned. With forewarning, that person may put in a good word for you and the recruiter may actually ask you​ about your connection.”

Kudisch also reminds applicants they have no idea how an interviewer will perceive the 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,” he said.

Do your homework

Experts agree that demonstrating knowledge about a company’s history, performance or key strategic initiatives will do more for your chances at landing the job than bragging about who you know. Referencing an important contact needs to be communicated within the context of business, particularly as an example of how you would add value to a company. That’s what a hiring manger wants to hear.

“The most important thing to do when considering ‘name dropping’ is to be honest with yourself: do you really know that person well enough for him or her to offer positive comments on you,” Malatestinic said. “If not, you may do more harm than good to your chances for the job.”

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