You can find tons of job interview advice on the world wide web — including a wealth of tips on how to do your homework for interviews, from researching the company to researching your interviewers.
But in an appearance on LinkedIn's #GetHired live, SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. said that while doing some background hunting on the people interviewing you is important, revealing too much of what you've dug up can actually backfire.
Sure, if you discover that you went to the same college as the interviewer or have shared interests outside of work, it can certainly help you establish rapport with them and create a memorable connection. But getting too chummy too quickly might do more harm than good. Instead of coming across as sincere, saying something too personal could go too far.
"Do not become so familiar so soon with interviewers," he said. "I know that, because of technology online, you can go out and learn so much about the person who is interviewing you. [But] there's nothing creepier to an HR person ... than for you to start your interview saying 'Hey, how is your daughter, Jack?' Or, 'your son, Mary?' Like what?"
Waltzing into an interview making too-personal remarks is more than just "creepy," he added. He also said that it shows that you don't have good judgment. Because someone with good judgment would know where the line is drawn.
"There's a way to kind of subtly let people know, 'We went to the same school,' but don't get so familiar that you make the hiring manager or the interviewer, if they're in HR, feel uncomfortable.," he explained. "That's a really big mistake. People are over-prepared, and they do too much... You kill your candidacy, I promise."
So how do you casually slip that you have shared interests? For one, you can weave them into your resume or cover letter. If, for example, you know that the interviewer is a big fan of a sport you love, you can use an experience with the sport as an example of a relevant lesson you learned or skill you developed. You can write it in your cover letter or talk about it if it comes up in conversation.
The key is to not force it. Work your shared interests or backgrounds into conversation naturally, without making it obvious that you've stalked their social media to find out. Just make sure that whatever you say actually adds value, too. Maybe you love fitness because it's taught you a lot about discipline and dedication, for example. Not only will an interviewer who is also big into fitness appreciate your appreciation, but they'll also respect these qualities about you that can translate in the workplace.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.