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Name Dropping

January 23, 2012
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One of my pet peeves when it comes to evaluating and interviewing candidates

I have a few pet peeves when it comes to evaluating and interviewing candidates - bad resumes, arriving late for scheduled phone or in-person interviews, poor choices on business attire, nightmare references – I could go on and on and on…. but I won’t. Most of these irritants manifest over the course of weeks or months, and they leave me scratching my head as I try to ponder how and why great people make bad (really) choices while trying to find a new job.

One of my pet peeves gets top billing, sort of the best of the worst: namedropping. Forget about espousing the many great things a candidate accomplished in their career or how they built great teams that really made a difference for their IT organization. Nope. Let’s not talk about that during an interview. Instead why not drop a few names in the first few minutes of the interviewto divert the attention of why you are really there? Name-droppers apparently like to think that rolling off a few names during the interview somehow validates their qualifications and will impress the person on the other side of the table. Let me help you – they're NOT! Name-dropping actually wastes valuable time when the candidate should be talking about their credentials and accomplishments, and why they're the best candidate for the position they're interviewing for.

Name-dropping can also be quite dangerous as (I’ve mentioned this many times over the years) there aren't more than two degrees of separation in the HCIT market, and unless you really know the person who’s name you’ve just dropped, there's a chance that person could be the interviewer's close friend. One of my clients detests name-droppers. When a candidate peppers one of his interviews with names, it can quickly become a slippery slope - this guy knows everyone, and I mean everyone. As soon as a name is dropped, he stops the interview and asks the candidate,  “so how well do you know him/her?” and “If I call him/her right now while we're sitting here, will they know you and what will he/she say about you?" - talk about changing the course of an interview! That'll do it every time. 

I recommend that candidates stay away from name-dropping, and instead use those great names and contacts as references - bringing up a name at this stage of the process will actually give credibility, rather than jeopardizing it. Contact your references and let them know you've interviewed for a new role (make sure they understand to keep it confidential), and tell them why you believe this is a good role for you, and who will be calling them as a reference. Most importantly, verify that they're willing to help you in your search.

Next time you're in an interview, leave the name-dropping to less-qualified candidates.  They'll do a very nice job of exposing their real value when they're spouting of names in their make-believe rolodex.