"How does my name affect my career search?"​

One of the most common questions I get from my newsletter audience is "How does my name affect my career search?"

Numerous studies (see below) prove that your name plays a big part in getting a callback or interview from a potential employer. 

Like-for-like, Jane Smith or John Smith’s résumé will always be chosen over José Ramirez or Maggie Zhu’s, in the Western world. 

It’s not right. It’s not fair. It’s just the way it is. 


If you think your name is affecting your search negatively, choose an anglicised professional name for your résumé and online presence. This is particularly important in the UK, North America, Australia and New Zealand. For other countries, choose the Jane Smith equivalent.

For the record, I’m not saying change your legal name but what I am saying is consider using a professional name for your résumé and your LinkedIn profile during your search.

Be Joe Ramirez or Joe Ramsay or Maggie Zane or whatever is appropriate or compelling to you. I would, however, recommend that you keep it similar to your actual name.

Heck, I changed my surname from "Sung" to "Struan" during a search (yes, my name was Sam Sung). Take a page from the stars of Hollywood who chose stage names to further their career and probably wouldn't have "made a name for themselves" if it wasn't for the fact they literally made a name for themselves. 

The same can apply to your career. 

Not convinced? Here's some examples: 

The above list is actually a screenshot of the draft I typed up in LinkedIn Publishing. Those red dots you're seeing are not my doing - it's LinkedIn's spellcheck flagging up their surnames. Hilarious, right?

I'm not saying make sure your name passes a spellcheck but the truth is, some hiring managers view your name the same way a spellcheck does - as a red flag.

Using a professional name is about levelling the playing field and getting a fair chance to interview.

Once you’re at the offer stage or in the door of a company you can ask to use your legal name for official purposes or, if you feel that your career would benefit from a new professional name, stick with it.

It’s not that all hiring authorities or HR professionals are ignoramuses; it's often about saving time and unfortunately snap judgements are made about communication skills, leadership abilities and cultural fit when it comes to your name.

Still not convinced? Read the following: 

He Dropped One Letter In His Name While Applying For Jobs, And The Responses Rolled In

'Resume whitening' doubles callbacks for minority job candidates, study finds

New Study Confirms Depressing Truth About Names And Racial Bias

Have a Foreign-Sounding Name? Change it to Get a Job

How an ethnic-sounding name may affect the job hunt

13 surprising ways your name affects your success

55 Celebrities Whose Real Names Will Surprise You

Good luck.

- S