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Does your name affect your job search?

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,

I'm currently in the job market and am wondering about how professional I'm coming across when I apply for jobs and go on interviews. My given name is, no kidding, Davey Jones (My parents apparently had an "ill" sense of humor when I was born in 1970 -- plus my mom was infatuated with Davy Jones -- and yes I've heard all the jokes about my locker and The Monkees... *sigh*.) I'm in my forties and I am wondering about how professional my name comes across on my resume and correspondence. I obviously can change my name but, I actually really like it and all my friends and family call me by "Davey." Should I just go with "David," and when/if any legal paperwork/issues come and tell them that my real name is 'Davey'? Just curious about this all. Thank you for any advice you can give.

All my best,


P.S., Feel free to use my real name if you post this online. Doesn't matter to me as it is my name and I totally embrace it!

I wish I could say, "No worries! Everyone is judged solely by their knowledge, skills and abilities. Names don't matter!" But I'm too busy singing, "Hey, hey, we're the Monkees..." and wondering if I should see if Spotify has any of their songs. (Answer: Yes! Listening now.)

Names do matter. A 2003 study showed that when job interviewers had nothing to go on except resumes, people with "white"-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to get interviews than people with names associated with African-Americans. Interestingly enough, they also found that people with addresses in better neighborhoods were more likely to get calls, regardless of name. So it seems to me like "I want someone like me" syndrome.

In other words, your name alone can influence how someone evaluates your resume. Does calling yourself "Davey" rather than "David" diminish your chances of getting a job interview? I suspect the latter might improve your odds slightly, but let's get real. This is 2012, and chances are that if you just send in a resume it's going directly into that great black hole in cyberspace, regardless of what your name is.

So the name "problem" is less of a problem than the much larger problem of high unemployment. (See, this is why people write me -- I take their problems and make them even bigger! You're welcome.)

The name problem and the unemployment problem have the same solution, though. You have to get yourself in front of a hiring manager, rather than get your resume in front of a recruiter. (And when I use the term recruiter, I'm speaking about in-house recruiters rather than headhunters, who tend to be a bit more motivated.) Because when you can pitch yourself to the hiring manager, having a unique and memorable name will likely be a help rather than a hindrance. 

You can also use it to your advantage in your cover letters, depending on your field. For instance, if a job has a creative aspect to it, you can incorporate your name into that, again making it possible that you will be remembered. I tend to favor cover letters that show some personality. It helps me determine if this person is a fit, rather than just if their qualifications are a fit. 

And while computers don't care about names -- they simply care if your key words match -- humans remember stuff like that. You want them to remember you, so my vote is to stick with Davey. It's more memorable than David or Dave Jones. Hold your head high. Joke about it if necessary, and above all, be a believer.

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