Putting a name that you go by other than your birth name on your resume is totally acceptable, so long as it’s formatted correctly. Though you should include your legal name on your resume for official reasons, including the name you wish to be called is customary in the hiring process. So long as you use appropriate and preferred methods for doing so, putting a nickname on your resume is an easy edit to make!
Displaying Your Nickname Appropriately
1. Provide your preferred nickname in place of your legal name. If you always go by your nickname, it’s perfectly acceptable to list it rather than the name you were given at birth. For instance, you can put down “Brad” instead of “Bradley,” or use “Lucy” instead of “Lucinda.”
- Using the shorter version of your name could even make it stand out more to reviewers—“John Jennings” has a better ring to it than “Jonathan F.W. Jennings IV.” The same can be done if you go by your middle name, although it may be helpful to omit your first name in this case in order to avoid confusion.
2. Put casual nicknames in quotation marks between your first and last names. In situations where people use your nickname and given name variably, it can be helpful to include your nickname within the formatting of your legal name. If your name is “Joseph” but you answer to “Joe,” you’d write it out as “Joseph ‘Joe’ Rollins.”
- This format works best for monikers that are abbreviations of or common nicknames for longer names, such as “Matt,” “Jeff,” “Liz,” and “Alex.” You can also put your nickname in quotation marks when it’s something unrelated to your legal name (as in “Margaret ‘Carol’ Atkinson”).
3. Use a nickname as an alternative to a name difficult to pronounce locally. A birth name may be very difficult for people in your current location to pronounce correctly. However, when a human resources worker tries to background check “Molly” when your name is officially something else entirely, this can be problematic. Your resume is the perfect place to record your new pseudonym, as it commits it to record and makes it feel more official.
- “Adam” may roll off the tongue easier than “Ata-ur-Rahman” for someone who isn’t used to pronouncing Arabic names, while “Julie” will probably be easier to manage than “Xiuying.” Some common names in English speaking countries may be difficult to pronounce in other countries, and it is entirely possible to have a nickname that you go by in other countries; having this recorded may help clarify confusion. The decision to use a nickname in place of your birth name is entirely up to you. It is entirely your right to be called by your name, even if it is not easy to pronounce.
4. Shorten your name to initials as a strategy to prevent hiring biases. Unfortunately, workplace discrimination is a reality and the biggest hurdle is often just getting into the door to interview. Even though it is illegal in most places, screening based on name (intentional or not) happens. As a woman, minority, or senior citizen, or other discriminated class, providing an abbreviated form of your legal name can be used to avoid this. The idea is that an employer will not be able to tell your sex, nationality, or age just by looking at your resume.
- If you’re worried about being passed over because you’re a woman, for example, simplifying your name from “Rhonda Jeanette Schmidt” to “R.J. Schmidt” will help conceal your sex until you’re selected to interview. The same can be done for names that can indicate ethnicity. With a little tweaking, “Ángel Castaneda Martín” becomes “A.C. Martin.”
5. Give your preferred name if you’re transitioning genders. As a transgender person, you’ll usually have the freedom to use your preferred name in place of your legal first name, the way you would any other nickname. Some trans professionals opt to list their legal name first, followed by their preferred name in parentheses (i.e. “Greg ‘Shannon’ Collins”).
- In some cases, it may be necessary to provide your legal name when completing job applications, registration forms, and other legal documents.
6. Tell your potential employer your nickname in person. Provide your legal name on your resume, then mention that you prefer to be called by another name when you meet with the interviewer or hiring coordinator. This may be the most practical option if you want to keep the information on your resume strictly professional.
- One downside of this approach is that it may be hard for a coworker to get in the habit of addressing you by your preferred name after committing the name listed on your resume to memory.
Maintaining a Professional Air
1. Determine whether your nickname is appropriate for the job. Before you include your nickname on your resume, consider how it might be viewed by the employer who will be reading it. By presenting the wrong image up front, you could end up taking yourself out of the running for a job you might otherwise have landed.
- Certain nicknames may be more suitable for some types of workplaces than others. It may be okay to go by “Venus” at a holistic therapy center, but not so much at a high-profile financial advisory firm.
2. Avoid listing offensive or overly casual nicknames. If your nickname isn’t related to your given name in some way, your resume probably isn’t the best place to display it. This applies to any handle that’s not actually a name. Many professional employers might be understandably reluctant to hire someone who calls themself “Lefty” or “T-Bone.”
- If you’re attached to a particular nickname, it may be wise to ask your coworkers to use it privately in order to keep from hurting your chances of being hired. The rare exception is when you’re known for your nickname, as may be the case for entertainment personalities, sports figures, and performers with unique stage names.
3. Stick with the same name throughout your resume. No matter what name you go with, the most important thing is that you use it consistently. Listing your name as “Robert” in one section and “Bob” in another could be confusing to the person reviewing your information. Even worse, it could make your resume look disorganized.
- Generally, your safest bet is to put down whatever name you respond to most often.
4. Use your legal name on formal employment paperwork. Your resume is not a legal document, but job applications, contracts, and employee information forms are. Anytime you’re filling out any kind of hiring paperwork, always provide your first, middle, and last names the way they appear on your birth certificate. That way, there will be no question as to who you are.
- Many hiring forms offer prospective employees a place to include a preferred name or nickname. Having the wrong name on file with your employer could result in other unintended consequences, like having important files sent to the wrong person.