I am in the process of designing my first batch of business cards and considering putting the phonetic spelling of my surname beside it, in a faded font. My surname is foreign (much like me).

What I want to accomplish by doing so is giving new acquaintances the confidence to pronounce my name without worrying about getting it wrong. It's also a novel thing to do and I believe it could enhance first impressions by showing me to be thoughtful. Yet there are several problems I can see after thinking about it for a bit:

  • I don't mind people mispronouncing my name. I'm a foreigner in the UK, I learned to live with it.
  • Putting the phonetic spelling in might give the impression that I do care about how they pronounce it, which could derail the "confidence" objective.
  • Most people get it right anyway, with some minor intonation mistakes.
  • Despite my name being easy to spell in the PhA, I suspect many people trust their skill of reading that even less than their ability to pronounce foreign words correctly.

With the above points in mind I don't think I should proceed with the plan, but I'm not sure if my fears are justified. Of course I could do the same in my CV, which has a completely different character as a document.

Have you ever seen this done? Would it help first impressions at all? And finally, what would a hiring manager's reaction be if this were on a CV?

  • 5
    I am fairly sure that more people can't read phonetic spellings than can. – HLGEM Feb 20 '15 at 20:02
  • Phonetically to whom? I pronounce things very differently than someone from London or Miami. Considerably more different than someone from Madrid or Prague. – Joel Etherton Feb 20 '15 at 20:15
  • I wouldn't bother learning the so-called phonetic script just to be able to read your business card (unless you are Warren Buffet or someone like that). Who is to tell how many more things I will have to learn in future, just to continue working with you? I would rather prefer to end the contact right then. – Masked Man Feb 21 '15 at 6:59
  • Would the "PhA" be the "phonetic alphabet"? – o0'. Feb 24 '15 at 9:05
  • 1
    A good place to put this is in your personal site, if you have one. – o0'. Feb 24 '15 at 9:07

Have you ever seen this done?

No, I have never seen this done.

Would it help first impressions at all?

It probably wouldn't matter, but I would be worried that some folks would view you as "the sensitive type", and concerned about people mispronouncing your name. Yet you have indicated that this mispronunciation doesn't bother you.

And finally, what would a hiring manager's reaction be if this were on a CV?

As a hiring manager, I always ask people to pronounce their name for me when I first talk with them, if they have any sort of not-obvious name.

If you added the phonetic pronunciation, I'd probably worry that you might be overly-sensitive. But for me at least, it wouldn't be a huge worry. I'd be looking for other signs that you might be high maintenance. If I didn't see any, I wouldn't be concerned.

Overall, I'm not sure there's much value here. I never add this to my resume, and few folks pronounce my name correctly the first time.

Your mileage may vary.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Also, a lot of folks aren't familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet, so the "how do you pronounce your name?" conversation is likely to happen even with the phonetic spelling. My surname looks more intimidating than it actually is, so over the years I have developed an explanation for how to pronounce it. Most folks seem to appreciate a quick mnemonic device to remember how it should sound. – ColleenV Feb 20 '15 at 20:01

What I want to accomplish by doing so is giving new acquaintances the confidence to pronounce my name without worrying about getting it wrong.

Why do you care about whether someone can pronounce your last name right or wrong? My real last name—which is fairly Eastern European in origin—is complex by U.S./Western basic pronunciation standards. At no point in my life or career have I felt the need to phonetically “spell out” my name to make anyone’s life easier. It’s your name. It’s your personal identity. It’s not your problem if someone can’t pronounce it right.

And in my case, I have found the relative complexity to be a bonus when interviewing or meeting new people: Their reaction as to how to pronounce or deal with the name is a good leading indicator to me of how the rest of the conversation/relationship will go.

For example, my first name is quite easy… So if someone calls me, says my first name and then either spells my last name or politely says, “Sorry I am having trouble pronouncing this…” I know I will have a fairly casual interaction with them. Usually I will pronounce my name for them, they will repeat what I said and then we move onto business.

On the other hand, if their railroad their way through my name without any sign of humility or trouble on their part, I know I am dealing with a fairly cocksure/arrogant person and this might not go well.

In general, if I came across any resume or correspondence that had a phonetic spelling of someone’s name on it, I would treat that correspondence as weird and odd. Like what is the person trying to prove? What makes them feel so special they need to do this?

Like I said, you should not have to apologize for your name and identity and generally in any society your name will be respected as-is since it is your name and personal identity.

| improve this answer | |
  • [+1] On the other hand [...] not go well – rath Feb 20 '15 at 20:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .