We all have a million stories about things candidates or employers said during an interview that  ended with a terminal case of  "the dismals" on both sides.  The one thing i haven't seen much about is the art , or lack of same, of "name dropping" in interviews.


In an attempt to gain some sort of intel or credibility, many candidates will try to connect quickly or network with people inside a company prior to an interview.  Then they roll into the interview armed with a list of names they "know" who work there.   Sometimes the candidate may really have some connection with a current employee.   Here's the rub, Katz and Jammers:


A.  You have no clue how that person is perceived by HR, the hiring manager or if they are on the way out the door or where just terminated last week and didn't mention that when you connected with them on LinkedIn or Facebook.


B.  Be careful that you get the right first name with the right last name if you are going to throw names around.  Nothing says "stupid" like referring to Steve Jones and Mike Smith as Steve Smith and Mike Jones as people you know within the company.


C.  If they don't really know you or anything about you it becomes abundantly clear when HR or a hiring manager asks that person about you only to discover that you contacted them yesterday in an attempt to "connect" before the interview.  A rookie mistake at best.  It might not be a bad thing to connect with a current employee to see if they might share something about the company prior to an interview but  that info is probably best not shared during the initial interview.


I've had three terminal cases of Hoof N'mouth ,due to name dropping, in the past month that cost candidates a job.  One managed to mention that he knew one of the SVP's in another department who had recommended him.  Little did he know (and i couldn't tell him) that the person he referrred to was on the way out due to being problematic to the department head with whom he was interviewing.


My question here is, as a recruiter, should i have mentioned to him that it would be a mistake to drop that name?  How does one do that without revealing priviledged communication if the candidate asks "Why?"  I considered several options, even suggested that it was always a good idea to just focus on the specific questions of the interviewer but as the worm turned, he was asked what he knew about the company and sure enough he dropped the name as his source of information and recommendation.  Boom! it was over and worse yet , now i can't tell him why it was over.


What would you have done?  From this date forth my mantra to candidates about people they know within a company is going to be to tell them the smart money says , "Don't drop names at all." 


What is your experience with the use of names of current employees by candidates during the interview process?



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In today's job market, candidates are desperate for any perceived "edge" that they can gain. I do not recommend name dropping to them. What I do recommend is a thorough review of the website with particular attention being paid to the "Company News" tab. In the same way, annual reports are an excellent source of information; financial and otherwise. It is always a better bet to talk about what the company has determined, via published information, to be important to them than what the candidate thinks might be important and/or clever.
Yes this can be very scary!
I dropped a name in an interview once and right as the name came out of my nouth I wished I could have pulled it back in! I vaguely remembered her telling me a 'not so nice' story about who I was interviewing with. I had a sick feeling in my stomache and tried to down play the mention right away with a subject change. Not sure how well the went but they ended up not hiring for the position. Going forward I will never drop name again and advise candidates of the same with a great personal story :)
Hello Sandra,
It's nice to read your post above; I always enjoy reading your comments & interactions with others herein.

Although I do not recall how many years that it has been my policy to incorporate during our candidate interview preparations, I actually do prep candidates NOT to name drop at all due to possible 'negative associations' (which you touch on above). However, I do agree with Tom's reply on name discovery, where I advise candidates to gain public or published intel on an organization and its people, which is a required part of their due diligence (if they're anything but serious about securing the position).

Additionally, I let our candidates know that it is by far more satisfying, and wiser, to advance in the interviewing process (or better yet, to get hired), on their own merit and accord, rather than to rely on the unknown variables (positive or negative) associated with someone else's name. It is, in fact, a rather huge gamble in name dropping, because who one interviewer may like, another interviewer may not. My advice to all of our candidates is to position themselves in a professional and ethical manner, and to earn their way similarly to how students earn grades in school (which is, for those who do not cheat, and for the most part done on an individual basis, with criterion used for evaluation on work submitted or earned).

As a final note, I would also share that we stress how it is quite often more important what a candidate does NOT say (i.e., the non-verbal body language, eye contact, handshake, genuine responses, etc. ~shown by statistics found in many places) rather than what the candidate DOES say; As such, any name-dropping really does become a second rate method to use right from the start.

Hope this helps....All the best to you, Sandra :D
Tom - Great to always hear your common sense and solid business advice. I agree that going through the client web site is the best way for a candidate to be prepared. It makes sense to me that if a client puts it out there in terms of a news release, that news is important to them and should be to any candidate.

Charron - Thanks for sharing that horrific moment. We have all done it at sometime or another. I was once asked by a client i had not worked for in several years if i had ever placed with their company before. Oh yes, sez i, i placed John Doe in your accounting department five years ago. Hiring manager: "Well, we fired ole John last year, he managed to make everyone who worked for him miserable." The only thing i could think of to say was, "Well, at least that should make me an expert on what you DON"T want in the future." A simple Yes would have better served as an answer.

Dina - Great to hear from you. Your professionalism is a great example for everyone in our industry. Very good comment about it being more important what a candidate does "NOT" say. Overtalking is a deal killer more often than perhaps any interview mistake.

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