IT Employment

Be leery of dropping a name in an interview

Do you think mentioning in an interview that you know an existing employee is going to count in your favor? Not if that employee has a bad rep.

I once interviewed this guy for a spot on my team. Everything was going along swimmingly until he mentioned that he was friends with an existing employee. Apparently, the employee felt so secure in his internal reputation that he was telling his friends to mention his name when they interviewed.

The problem with that scenario is that the employee did not have a good reputation in the company. He constantly missed deadlines and exercised behaviors that often put people off.

Now, it does not always follow that we are the company we keep. If I am friends with someone, it doesn't mean I share that person's work ethic. To automatically assume so would be illogical. But you know what? Interviewers often assume such things. Right or wrong, they may jump to a conclusion just because something triggers an emotional response in them. In this case, I automatically and subconsciously associated the negative feelings I had for that employee onto the job candidate. I'm not saying that's fair, but that's what happened.

During the interview process, the job candidate was able to present himself in a favorable light. He had a proven track record of work performance that differentiated him from his friend. We ended up hiring the guy, and it was a great hire.

But every time the right thing happens, there are probably a hundred times when it doesn't. People really believe that old adage "birds of a feather flock together." Just be aware that the name you drop could do you more harm than good.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.


I once got rejected for a job due to the social organization to which I once belonged. Someone else from that organization worked at Company A, and had interviewed, and been hired, by University B. Company A then offered him more money to stay, and he did. From a source at University B, I heard the job was open again, and applied. My source later told me that upon seeing the organization name on my resume the department head stated that as long as he was there, nobody from that group would ever be considered for employment. So, this kind of thing can take you out without any action on your part.


I didn't name drop, but I was hit with a past association. At a previous employer, I did my job, and it highlighted the fact that another manager was not doing their job well. He was fired. As the interviewer ushered me into the conference room, he asked me if I knew the manager from the other place. They apparently were both social and work friends.I kept my response brief and said nothing qualitative. The interview went well, the job was a great fit. I'm sure I was a leading candidate based on the interview. But not only did I not get the job, I couldn't get them to return my calls. Of course I can't prove it, but its pretty certain that I didn't get the job based on the transaction at the other employer. Its a small world after all. James

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