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I am transgender. I legally changed my name a couple of years ago. I'm worried prospective employers might try to verify my older experience when I was using my old name, and conclude that I'm lying because those companies have no record of my current name. However, I don't want to mention the name change because it risks exposing me to discrimination. A prospective employer wouldn't otherwise be able to find out that I am transgender.

Several points to clarify

  1. I'm only asking what to do on my resume. I'm not planning to lie or fail to disclose past names on a background check, but that process happens after I can make a first impression in an interview. Anyone who would consciously decide to not hire me because I'm trans it is a lost cause either way, yes, but there are many people who have more subtle biases.
  2. No one can tell I'm trans. They're not going to find out unless I tell them, and I don't need any special accommodation whatsoever.
  3. This is something that I want to avoid being part of public record to whatever extent that I can. From my point of view, this is an ugly part of my past and nothing to do with who I am today. If I put it on a resume, then I have little control over who eventually sees that resume. A background check on the other hand I can reasonably expect to be treated with a certain level of confidentiality: HR probably gets it, but my prospective manager may never see it, and it's unlikely to get forwarded elsewhere.
  4. I don't have the privilege of taking the "I don't want to work for anyone who would discriminate" stand. I need a job.
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    Here's the problem; employers who would discriminate against at the hiring stage would also discriminate against you in the work place - and by not disclosing a name change you potentially (depending on jurisdiction) give them a legal excuse to fire you when they find out about it, which could leave you worse off than if they'd passed you over at the hiring stage. – Jonathon Cowley-Thom Nov 20 '17 at 10:29
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    What country... because this matters. I would say in no way should you admit that in Saudi Arabia, but in many other countries it would not have the same stigma – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 20 '17 at 16:38
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    Would it be possible to put your current name in the resume and to tell your previous employers that you changed your name, so they can correctly answer the potential inquiries ? But this could expose you to the discrimination of your previous employers if they are shocked by the news. – Tim Nov 22 '17 at 10:33
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    @Jonathon Cowley-Thom Are you under the impression that "could potentially" somehow means something different than "could"? – Acccumulation Nov 23 '17 at 21:33
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Background checking rarely happens at the resume shortlisting stage. It usually happens closer to the end of the hiring process. Keep your preferred name in the resume. When a company wants to make you a job offer, they will usually ask you to fill out a form for background checking. You can mention your past names in that form. However, I would personally suggest to let them know of your story at an earlier stage, if you feel comfortable doing so.

People change their names for all sorts of reasons, the most common being married women adopting their husband's surname. Hence, a candidate having a different past name would hardly strike any company as out of the ordinary, and they would most certainly have a process to deal with it.

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    If he/she tells her story, wouldn't that potentially expose her to the discrimination she's trying to avoid? – Brandin Nov 20 '17 at 9:16
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    @Brandin She has to disclose her old name at some point, otherwise she will run into background check problems. If she doesn't disclose her story at all, some companies may just declare the background check as "failed". Others might ask her for an explanation, and if she tells about it after they have found out, it would lead to the question, "Why didn't you tell us earlier?/Why didn't you write that in the form?". Hence, the advice to tell the story whenever she feels comfortable doing so. – Masked Man Nov 20 '17 at 9:26
  • By comfortable, I mean she feels reasonably certain the company won't discriminate against her. If the company would discriminate against her no matter what, that problem is unsolvable. – Masked Man Nov 20 '17 at 9:27
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    Regarding the last paragraph of your answer: it's definitely true that people change their names all the time, but the nature of the name change gives a lot away. Most people will naturally attribute a change in surname to marriage, especially for a woman, and won't give it a second thought, but a change in the given name, especially if it's from a typically-male name to a typically-female name or vice versa, will stand out. – David Z Nov 21 '17 at 23:07
87

I think you should mention your name change in the resume or something like John Doe (Formerly Known as Jane Doe).

I understand the risk of possible discrimination but if your potential employer is discriminating type, they will discriminate at any stage once they find out (and that can happen even AFTER you get that job).

You will save yourself great amount of time by making it clear from the beginning itself and take that risk. In my opinion and I could be wrong, having a transgender employee is a delicate issue for lot of employers and you better interview or work with people who are willing to understand and accommodate.

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    It might actually be even better to state at least the year, and probably even better the year and the month, when the name change became effective. That way any employer will be able to tell which name to refer to the OP by for each employment listed on the résumé that they want to verify. – a CVn Nov 26 '17 at 12:07
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I'm in a very similar position and also work in a management position with responsibility for hiring.

From my experience, the fence sitting of employers is a real thing so what I did:

  1. Inform previous employers by letter including documentary evidence and ask them to update their records allowing them to answer the question of "new name".
  2. CV / Professional network use your preferred name and pronouns only.
  3. At your discretion, inform HR (if it exists or you think you will need special accommodations) after an offer has been made.

I would also emphasise not to underestimate the value your diverse perspectives and experience will bring to an organisation. It isn't something you need to hide but I understand you will want to be selective about how to approach it.

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    You can also contact your university if you have a degree - at the university I went to, they will update your records and issue a new degree certificate in your new name if you ask – LangeHaare Nov 20 '17 at 14:14
  • I had not read this answer when I commented on Masked-Man's answer, using "Sophie" as an example name. I am pretty sure you are not Sophie Wilson (I suspect it is a very long time since she has applied for a job in the normal way). – Martin Bonner Nov 20 '17 at 18:14
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    I like this answer because it leaves the timing of any disclosure, as well as whether or not to disclose, up to the OP. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 21 '17 at 15:17
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    This should be the accepted answer as it directly addresses the OP's concerns by providing an elegant way of making the previous name irrelevant to the hiring process, and reinforcing their identity. Kudos. – Mike Ounsworth Nov 21 '17 at 18:41
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+100

I have several disabilities including autism. I can say that from MY experience, it is better to get any discrimination out of the way BEFORE you get the job. The LAST thing you want is to be working somewhere that doesn't want you there.

On any standard form, there is a space for "Previous names used" or some wording like that. Address it then. If they have a problem with you during the interview process, they WILL have a problem with you once you're hired.

While discrimination is illegal, you'll find that unless you have five to ten thousand dollars for a lawyer's retainer, and means of support to last for the years of litigation it will take to pursue a case, it doesn't matter. I've also seen employers use very dirty tricks to get rid of people just to get them "Fired for cause". When that happens, you've got "fired" on your employment record and can't collect unemployment.

Whether or not you put your previous name on your resume is up to you. It may throw a red flag for other reasons such as "Why did this person put this on their resume?", so I would avoid it.

Finally, I'd say don't worry about discrimination, but use it as a screening method. Would you really want to work for jerks? I wouldn't. There are plenty of companies out there that just want to hire talented people regardless of their backgrounds. You'll find that those companies are just better to work for.

This may require more work on your part. It's not fair, but it's a reality that many of us have to deal with. The rewards, however, are well worth it as you will end up working at a place that truly values you.

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    As a disabled transgender person, I cannot agree more with this answer. This precisely describes my approach. – Stella Biderman Nov 20 '17 at 17:31
  • If a company claims that you were fired for cause, they have the burden of proof showing that for unemployment insurance purposes. – Acccumulation Nov 23 '17 at 2:54
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There are multiple kinds of discrimination, just as many as there are multiple kinds of people.

For some employers, it would be difficult to be a transgendered person regardless of hiring; and if they discovered at any point of the hiring process it would probably be disqualifying (regardless of legality). That kind of discrimination you probably can't do anything about (unless you're willing to sue) and probably will have a hard time with regardless.

However, there are two major kinds of discrimination that you can deal with here, and in both cases they confirm the same suggestion: do not explicitly disclose your name change at first.

  • Unintentional, unconscious discrimination. This is the kind that was confirmed by various name studies (putting the same resumé with "Jamal" and "John", etc.); while it's certainly possible that some of that was more intentional, it's likely that much of it was not, simply people unconsciously associating higher performers with "white" names, or moreover preferring to hire people more like them.

  • Intentional discrimination by HR people intent on avoiding any potential issues down the road. This is the "pick the most boring candidate" type.

In both cases, not disclosing right away means you get past the screening phase at least, and in the door. Getting your foot in the door is a key step: once you're a person, and not just a name, you're much less likely to be discriminated against (assuming the person isn't personally and intentionally biased against you). That should be your goal: to get an interview. Once you get an interview, it's appropriate to disclose your past name at the end of the interview if they indicate they're going to be calling references.

Even better might be to supply references explicitly (by name and email/phone #), such as your former managers or co-workers, who know about your transition and both former and current name. Contact them explicitly, let them know that you're giving them as references (and ask if that's okay), and let them know you're only using your current name/preferred pronoun.

If you're in a more "retail" type of position where it would be more usual to simply talk to the past company's HR for references, or even using something like TheWorkNumber (an automated verification service), you should contact your past company's HR for guidance, in case they can adjust their records; if they can't, you may consider supplying a 'references' sheet separate from the resumé, in person at the interview, with the specific methods of contacting the various companies/managers/etc., with a parenthetical (known as "Jane Doe") inserted for those where it's needed. Many of these services will actually use social security number or similar in the US, and perhaps in other countries as well.

2

1) Use your legal name on applications, resumes, and introductions.

2) Professional references are your choice. Choose wisely.

3) Many companies ask if they can contact former employers/managers to verify employment, termination code and rehire option. Stating "no" does not disqualify you. Limit past employers to 7 years.

4) Not all companies do background checks (criminal, driving, etc.), but if they do, you'll need to provide prior aliases and a.k.a. names. This is at the HR level and sometime in your career you'll need to address this.

5) You are not required to answer gender (gender identity), race, religion, nationality, marital status, dependents, proclivities, or other questions not pertinent to the position for which you are applying.

You may want to look into a professionally written resume. This will highlight the knowledge, skills, and abilities which makes you the ideal candidate. Then polish your answers for interview questions about your KSAs and reason for leaving past jobs. Be able to confidently demonstrate your knowledge and experience so there is no question about the value you will provide. Make a brand for yourself and sell it.

I'm indifferent as to the gender (now or what is used to be) of my pilot, doctor, teacher, manager, or other professional. It doesn't affect the performance of their duties. If you can do the job, sell it, sell it, sell it.

1

Everyone else's advice is making a lot of assumptions.

  1. Depending on the country/region your in, this could make a huge difference in both laws and immediate perception; so to give an honest, accurate answer we would have to know the country/region you reside in.
  2. This depends on the work you're applying for, and the amount of experience you have, and credentialing and under what names those are. If for instance you're interviewing for a Master Electrician position, but your electrical work and experience, and guild/union membership is all under your previous name, you pretty much have to list your previous name, or start over, or risk explaining in the middle of the interview. if they corner you into asking for a membership card or something; which if you're afraid of initial discrimination/impression, could come off far worst. If you're applying for a software position, then experience is usually checked beforehand. If you're applying for a sales experience, in some industries, its very rarely if ever checked; the interview is your chance to make or break it.
  3. Is this a small or large company? If its a small company, your manager might/will probably already know even if that information is provided to HR later. HR's primary job is not to protect the people, its to protect the company by managing the people. The best way for HR to protect the company in this case, is to inform your manager and let your manager know, in case anyone under your manager finds out, or in case someone else is legitimately discriminating against you, so that your manager can report the incident and address it quickly without being caught off guard. If this is a really large company, then HR might decide to keep it private, especially if you're not interviewing for a management/executive position. Most of the entry-line managers are kept in the dark about a lot of things, they're more project leads/shift leads, that also happen to have the ability to hire/fire, by pushing everything through HR, and since everything will go through HR anyways, HR just keeps them in the dark.

My advice?

  1. If this is US/Canada/UK or somewhere else that treats transgenders generally more favorable than the rest of the world (none of them are perfect mind you, but generally more favorable); I would combine best practices of interviewing to get around your situation. On the resume I give to them/hand in before the interview, use only your new name, as even for women who get married, etc.; that is not uncommon. However...bring a modified version of the same resume, that contains BOTH names to the interview. Don't put this one online if you have fear of the online world discriminating against you/exposing your previous life. Just make the modification, saying "Formerly known as Jane/John Doe", don't even save it, and print it. I don't personally care which order it happened, but I'm just going to use Jane to John as an example; if most of your former experience was as Jane and only a tiny bit as John, I would put the "Formerly known as Jane Doe" at the top of the resume. If most of your experience is under your new name, and not your old, I would put "previously known as Jane Doe" next to just the individual items, if they're important. This calls less attention to them, but still discloses everything to your manager.

  2. If you're in an environment that is less permissive/more discriminatory: keep your current resume intact, leave no contact information on there for any of the companies. Then, have a separate reference sheet, that you bring to the interview with you, and only give to them after the interview is over, that lists the "Formerly known as John/Jane Doe" on it.

  3. If it is absolutely imperative that your manager simply not know your previous name/your transgender (or if your previous experience is likely to be verified pre-interview): provide resume and reference with just the new name, and then make a note at the bottom of the resume in italics or something that says something to the following: "Note: Due to a change in life circumstances, previous experience is under a different name. Details on how to verify this experience, for my own protection, will be provided to appropriate HR personnel." That discloses the name change, without actually disclosing the previous name, people's names can be changed for a variety of reasons: marriage, divorce, adoption, transgender, witness protection, immigration, etc. Some of those could be just as sensitive, and the manager then knows there's a reason for the name change, that you had a name change, but does not know why, and knows it must be kept private. At that point if verifying your experience is important, the manager will call/bring in the HR department to contact you and verify your experience.

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I'm amazed no one else has mentioned this, but... a persons name doesn't actually say anything about their gender, anymore. Ashley used to be a female name; now it seems to mostly be used by men. So was Lindsey. George used to be a distinctly male name - now it's a common woman's name.

Go ahead and put your name change down, and if anyone asks you about it (and you don't feel like going into details), just shrug it off with a joke - maybe reference the song "a boy named sue", or comment on the number of kids with the misfortune to be named after Frodo.

If it's not obvious that you're transgender and you don't want to talk about it, having an odd name is nothing more than a conversation piece. As long as you don't get defensive about it, people will likely just assume your parents have a strange sense of humor.

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    It is not quite that easy in this situation. Depending on language, a reference, or even just a confirmation of prior employment, may use gendered pronouns and/or adjectives. If the OP is going to contact prior employers to prevent that, why not tell them about the name change? – Patricia Shanahan Nov 21 '17 at 16:36
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    There is not much to be amazed about. People haven't mentioned it in the previous answers because unisex names are the exception rather than the rule. How many female Donalds, Johns, Bruce's, or male Alices, Claras, Susies exist in the world, can we take a guess? Can you tell what is the most likely religion and gender of my coworkers named Mohammad, Lakshmi and Maria? (and I am not even including their full names here) The point is people's names do reveal a lot about them, you cannot just brush it off because some names are less "revealing" than the others. – Masked Man Nov 21 '17 at 17:01
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    @Benubird English uses gendered pronouns, especially when referring to a specific person whose gender you think you know - the likely case for a former employee. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 21 '17 at 17:14
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    @Benubird A reference saying something like "Jane Smith worked for us as a widget make from data x to date y. She was always punctual, and her widgets were well made." might suggest the former employer thought Jane Smith was a woman. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 21 '17 at 20:45
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    For this question, the OP has already done a legal name change. That indicates that continuing with the old name was not an acceptable option in this case. The question now is how to either deal with two names, or make the OP's legal name the only name that matters. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 22 '17 at 1:06

protected by David K Nov 21 '17 at 20:39

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