What’s your name?
Hang on for a minute because the answer might not be as obvious as it seems!
You were anointed with a name when you were born, but that isn’t necessarily the name that you use all the time. For example, you might use a shortened version of your name (Robert = Bob) as a nickname in either social or professional situations. The question “What is your name,” has increased importance when you are writing your resume. Do you put down your nickname or your legal name? Do you tie your name to a degree or use a suffix like Jr.? Do you use a phonetic spelling of your name if it is long or difficult to pronounce?
These are all factors that you must consider when you are creating a “naming strategy”
for your job search. When developing your resume, you must consider every facet that
could impact how potential employers or recruiters receive it. This must include how you
expect others to refer to you.
Common Naming Questions
Let’s cut to the chase. The name on your resume does not necessarily need to be your
There are many occasions where you might want to use a variation of your name on
your professional documents, such as resumes, cover letters, and business cards.
There can be many reasons why you might not want your full name to appear on these
Changing Your Name
Let me tell you a little story. A few years ago, I worked for a man named John Doe III. I asked him if he used the suffix III on his business cards and he said yes, unhappily. I asked him why. He told me that he disliked the suffix ever since he was a child, but could never bring himself to tell his father and grandfather. They may have been insulted. So he made a decision to use John Doe III on every professional document he had throughout his career.
Then he made a personal and powerful realization. He said, “Both of them have died now. I guess I could change it without hurting their feelings.” And so, John Doe III became simply John Doe. That was a huge change in identity for a middle-aged man but, for the first time in his life, he was comfortable with his name.
You too can make this kind of decision if you decide to drop the suffix or other ways that people will recognize your name. It is about how you perceive yourself and how you want other people to perceive you.
Some names are hard to pronounce based on the spelling. Chlopowicz can be
pronounced Clop’-o-wits or Clawp’-o-witch. You want an employer or recruiter to be
able to say your name without a second though. It, therefore, might be a good idea to
include the phonetic spelling of your name on your resume, such as “Nancy Chlopowicz
For some people, their nickname is, for all intents and purposes, their actual name. If
this is how you want others to refer to you, you should use your nickname on your
resume. For example, “Elizabeth Jones” has the option of using “Liz Jones” or
“Elizabeth (Liz) Jones” on the top of her resume.
If you have an unusually long name, you can use a similar strategy. For example,
Afshinamibaka Mohapatra can become “Afshinamibaka (Afshin) Mohapatra.” This makes your name much easier to remember, which is important if you are applying for a job.
You can include degrees such as MBA, Ph.D., M.A., or M.S. after your name if it will
strategically help with your job search. You then become, “Nancy Smith, MBA.” This can
give you a considerable edge if many of your professional peers do not have a
comparable education. It may also be suitable to include licenses and certifications, like
CPA, PMP, CFA, and CIA, so long as the intended reader understands them.
If you were a CPA, but have not kept up with the continuing education, it is not
appropriate to put it after your name. However, you can include it at the end of your
resume as “CPA (Inactive)” because it shows that you met that industry benchmark at
one point. If the CPA is currently active in another state, but you are relocating, the
same strategy can be used: Do not put “CPA” after your name, but do include it at the
bottom of the resume as an active out-of-state license.
Now that you’ve got your basic naming strategy underway, here are a few guidelines to
make sure it stays consistent in the following media:
It is very important that you have your actual name as part of your email address. For
example, mine would be IreneMarshall@example.com. If you aren’t using your actual
name, there is a real chance that your e-correspondence could be sorted into the junk
folder. Here are a few “don’ts”:
Example: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ginny Belle was the name of the dog that belonged
to a senior executive I counseled. I told him the doggy needed to stay home from his job
search and stick to her hunting, rather than send out the emails.
Example: email@example.com. As compared to individual’s email address, a
family email could set off alarm bells about how private and secure your
correspondence will be.
Example: firstname.lastname@example.org. If your name is John Jacob Doe, I can understand where
that e-mail address came from. That said, this combination of letters and numbers could
make it appear like a spam email. I mean, who is “jjd3?” This is a very common mistake.
Example: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. These are fine for friends
and family but very inappropriate for a job search.
It’s important to have a professional email address that includes your name for your job
search. You can easily sign up for personal emails at Google, Outlook, or iCloud (if you
use a Mac).
Your voicemail prompt should always mention your name. Again, this seems obvious,
but many people don’t do it. Personally, I wouldn’t leave a confidential message if I were
not 100% sure that I reached the right person.
If you currently have a work phone, using it for your job search would not be
appropriate. That said, if you are using your home number as your contact number, be
sure that you will present a professional air over the phone (No dogs barking in the
background, for example).
Just like your e-mail address, it is very important to name your resume file clearly. Over
my almost 20 years in the resume business, I have seen hundreds of resumes that
were rather unhelpfully named “My Resume.doc” Keep in mind that recruiters and
employers are often using databases of thousands of candidate resumes. If your name
isn’t a part of the file name, then your resume is going to get lost in the shuffle.
Here are some better examples of resume names:
Doe_Jane_Bank_of_America_Resume_October_2019.docx (Noting the potential
employer in the file name.)
Social Media Profiles
Social media is just as important as your email when it comes to your choice of name. If
it is a professional profile, then the name used needs to match with all of your other
professional documents. If I can’t find James Smith on LinkedIn because your profile
says Jim Smith, that could be a big problem during your job search. You need to be
consistent so people can find you.
Remember, every part of your job search needs to be strategic, even your choice of
name. Think about all the ways you present yourself. What do you want people to call
you? How can you make it easy for people to remember your name? How can you
clearly identify yourself on all documents you send out to people?
It seems basic, but sometimes the most basic parts of a job search can be overlooked.
So, I ask you one more time: What is your name?