Name Dropping in Interviews

I wanted to write a quick post about name dropping during interviews.  While it might seem common sense for most, I just wanted to recap for those who might be committing these interviewing no-no's. 

For the last couple months, my start-up has been looking for a high-level VP of Business Development. Many of the candidates that we've talked to are very well established with successful careers in the industry.  Of course, when you work in a niche industry and market for a number of years, there will be some overlap.  Anyway, one of the candidates that we interviewed was looking pretty good - up until the point where he volunteered a few mutual connections during the interviews.  Naturally, the co-founder decided to ask his friends if they knew the guy, but the response was "we don't really know him." Big no-no. Result: no job offer. 

Overall, while it might seem impressive to drop big names of people you know to woo your interviewer or client, my advice is to steer away unless you REALLY know the person and you know that this person would back you up 100% if ever asked.  Same thing with companies; don't just name drop (partner) companies without knowing first exactly what that company does or without actually using their product. We ended up turning down several Business Development and Marketing candidates because of those two reasons.  Steer on the side of precaution. In my opinion, throwing in names and companies makes the conversation hard to follow along and sounds very buzzy and fluffy (not to mention disrupts the flow), especially if it follows with "do you know who/what X is?"  I'd rather hear generics like "I worked with the board of directors at company X" and if asked more specifically, volunteer that information. Keep it general, then go into more specifics when prompted.