My name is a very common one, and I'm not just talking about my first name. My first name + last name combination is so popular that there were three people with exactly the same name in my high school. In my professional career, this has caused problems in communication. Many of my emails have been mistakenly sent to others, and I've received just as many of my colleagues with the same name. This is especially problematic when one of us goes on vacation (and thus cannot forward on time-sensitive communications).

I've just moved to a new area with my family, and I'm applying to jobs. Let's say my name is John Smith. I'm considering appending my mother's maiden name, say Abigail to my name as follows: John Smith-Abigail.

If I apply to jobs using this name and continue to use it at work, will there be any issues in my application or in the job itself? I ask because "-Abigail" will not appear on my driver's license and other IDs. Things like having to pick up packages under my name but the name on my ID does not exactly match.

  • you could always ask for a name change to include your mothers maiden name at your government. Or use a "Call" name instead of your first name Jun 2, 2016 at 7:30
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    @RaoulMensink Asking the government to legally change your name is probably troublesome to say the least. And to do it at all you may need special circumstances depending on the jurisdiction.
    – Brandin
    Jun 2, 2016 at 13:00
  • You could also use your middle name for company communication to help differentiate if your middle name is something you're comfortable with. One of my friends did that because he had at least four other people in high school with his same name.
    – MK2000
    Jun 2, 2016 at 20:08
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    @Brandin - most governments have a mechanism for official name changes that cost a bit, but this is far from "troublesome". After all, a significant number of people legally change their names after getting married.
    – HorusKol
    Jun 3, 2016 at 0:14
  • @HorusKol Yes, but OP is not getting married. So it will not be so easy in this case. Depending on the jurisdiction the name change may not even be allowed for the reason being proposed here.
    – Brandin
    Jun 3, 2016 at 7:14

2 Answers 2


Doing something to differentiate your name from the pack shouldn't raise eyebrows (based on US experience), but altering your family name in particular could cause some confusion. Think HR and government paperwork (taxes, verification of work authorization, etc). I suggest instead altering your given name in some fashion.

At my current company there is a very common first-name/last-name pair -- there are 12 of them in the corporate Exchange directory. (Granted, it's a large company.) Being [email protected] to the email system is no fun at all. Approaches I have seen include:

  • Use a nickname. I once worked with a Bear who was really a John. Make sure your nickname is workplace-appropriate, including customer-appropriate.

  • Add a middle name. There might be bunches of John Smiths, but if you're the only John Xavier Smith, you can use that. That probably doesn't really have to be your middle name.

  • Use a first initial plus middle name, or just use a middle name as a first name. I once worked with a J. Mark Lastname, and I've worked with more than one person whose "first" name was really a middle name.

For any alteration, make sure official paperwork has your real name, and don't forget travel profiles if somebody else will be booking plane tickets for you. (Airport security might require that the name on the ticket match the name on your government-issued ID.)

  • +1 for addressing the root question, how to distinguish yourself when you have a common name.
    – David K
    Jun 2, 2016 at 19:52
  • I know and have worked with a ton of people who use their middle names as their first names. Oftentimes, you never even know what their first name is. If you are already at a place, this could be a little odd, but going forward no problem. (I know a woman who tried to get folks to call her a different first name after working with them for a decade and she was treated as a whack job). If you are a guy, changing your last name might be looked at as odd since typically it's women who do that, and you might take some ribbing, also confusion if you have no reason. Jun 4, 2016 at 22:08
  • "Use a first initial plus middle name, " - my second uncle Tim did this professionally and went by "T. Addison LastName", but because he thought it sounded better. His last name is somewhat common but there was no risk of name collission.
    – StingyJack
    Nov 8, 2022 at 21:19

Will there be any issues in my application or in the job itself

No, unless you end up in a crazy company changing your name like this is perfectly normal. You're not even changing your last name entirely but merely expanding it to a double name, which is something that married women already do routinely.

In the US there is no need for your legally registered name to match the name you commonly go by, whether that's a first or last name. Name change laws vary by state but in general your assumed name can sometimes be considered a legally assumed name even without following the necessary paperwork for an "official" name change. Note that a pseudonym that has no relation to your family generally doesn't have this benefit.

All hiring paperwork should probably list your official name associated with your SSN to avoid payroll or benefits issues. You should also make sure that your resume and online profiles make a reference to your previous name. You'll want to make sure that you make it exceedingly clear in the hiring process that you're currently going by your new name, to avoid email accounts or other things being created based on your official name.

For further reading and things to consider before going through with your name change you should have a look at these questions:

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    color me impressed by your knowledge of US law. Jun 2, 2016 at 16:31

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