81

My name is A but I go by B. The relation of A and B is like that of William and Bill, although non-obvious because the name comes from a non-English-language environment. A is formal and used for all official stuff (e.g. Passport, certificates of all sorts, state business) but I never would use it as a name to be addressed by when interacting with people on a daily basis. In my home country B would be probably unprofessional but it's now been almost a decade since I haven't lived there and so everyone knows me as B.

Would it be unprofessional to move to using that name full-time (but without changing my legal name)? Applying for a job with A and then having to clarify I go by B is confusing to many people involved. Likewise, I'd prefer to develop my professional online presence using a single name, one that most people know me by, i.e. B.

190

This is fine.

If your informal name is considered childish or goofy, that could be a reason not use that particular name, but there's nothing inherently unprofessional about going by a name that's not your legal name. Plenty of people do this--William goes by Bill, Aleksander goes by Sasha, Katherine Anne goes by Anne, Xu goes by Sarah, Jane Married goes by Jane Maiden, whatever.

Here's how you do it:

Continue to go by B. Sign your emails as B, introduce yourself as B, put B on your business cards. This is all totally normal and not a cause for concern.

You're worried about "[a]pplying for a job with A and then having to clarify [you] go by B." It might be awkward if you go through the whole hiring process as A and then announce on your first day that you go by B, but there's no rule that you have to apply to jobs with your legal name! It's better to just start with the name you go by professionally.

You can put B on your resume and cover letter. Introduce yourself as B at the interview. If you accept an offer, then when you get to the new-hire paperwork stage, say, "Just so you know, my legal name is A, so that's what I'll need to put on my I-9 [or whatever your country's equivalent is]." Keep introducing yourself as B. Relax. There's nothing weird about this.

  • 51
    Like that you added HOW, even though wasn't specifically asked for. – Mister Positive Mar 6 '17 at 17:45
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    You could put your name on your resume as A "B" LastName. For example, James "Buddy" Ryan (an American football coach). – FreeMan Mar 6 '17 at 21:04
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    Be aware that a lot of companies will do automated searches for information (arrest records, etc) based upon your listed name, which is indexed via your legal name. Also, a number of online application portals have options for Nickname, where you could list "B". – FundThmCalculus Mar 6 '17 at 23:13
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    I always go by "Chris." My resume has Christopher on it, as it's my legal name. No big deal. Clarifying has never been an issue. – Chris Schneider Mar 7 '17 at 17:47
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    I don't have this problem personally, but I've conducted several interviews where I come in and say, "Hi, Candidate?" and they respond, "Yes, call me Candy." I've never thought anything of it. – Kevin Mar 7 '17 at 18:59
61

You're not in your home country any more. If presidents (William "Bill" Clinton) and astronauts (Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin Jr.) can use nicknames, you're probably in the clear.

None of these people you're worried about pay any of the bills in your house. Moving right along!

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    James "Jimmy" Carter, John Ellis "Jeb" Bush, Edmund "Jerry" Brown, Nimrata "Nikki" Haley, The list goes on and on. – Chris E Mar 6 '17 at 17:34
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    Great answer, and perfectly shows how to put your nickname on your resume. – David K Mar 6 '17 at 17:45
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    Be careful with this kind of implications. It's not because famous/rich people get away with it, that everyone can just do it. There is no universal "if one person is allowed, everyone is allowed" rule... au contraire. – Konerak Mar 7 '17 at 8:41
  • Indeed! Some folks get away with stuff precisely because they're not concerned about paying bills and such. – employee-X Mar 8 '17 at 15:00
  • I especially appreciate Moving right along! Cheers!! – closetnoc Mar 8 '17 at 16:38
44

I was born for this question.

No, really, you try going by a french name in English-speaking territory. Since I've been 5, the majority of people I encounter cannot pronounce my name. So I have considerable experience dealing with this. But wait, there's more! My birth certificate has both of my parent's last names. That's right, Jean-Bernard Pellerin is a dirty alias, my legal name is Jean-Bernard Landry-Pellerin. And it's not even that simple! As far as my SIN and the Canadian health care system are concerned, my name is simply Jean-Bernard Pellerin.
You try sorting that out at tax time...

As early as elementary school, I went by JB. Once I started University in a larger town far away, I tried going by Jean-Bernard, since like you I was concerned with the need for professional appearances. In the end, after the first few mispronunciations I just reverted to the abbreviated moniker and have not heard a single peep about it. I even met someone who goes by TJ and his name doesn't have a single T in it.

The actual solution to this problem:

When applying to jobs, use your preferred name. The top line of my resume is

Jean-Bernard Pellerin (JB)

I sign my emails as JB, and it's how I introduce myself. Upon meeting new people, sometimes they have seen my name written and are expecting me, so they'll say "hello Gene Burn-herd" which is a perfect time to interject and just say "I go by JB, it's easier for everyone". In your case, you can simply politely mention that you go by Bill and nobody will mind.

You'll find many employers already have systems in place for "nicknames". They deal with employees changing their names for marriage or whatever reason, so the ERP software can handle it quite easily. HR or payroll is also well-versed in aliases and will usually have forms you fill out that are separate from the other systems. So When I started at my current job, I applied as Jean-Bernard Pellerin, corresponded as JB, and finally filled out some paperwork as Jean-Bernard Landry-Pellerin. When I showed up on my first day, the chat clients were set up for me with JB, my email was some form of jPellerin, and my tax forms were filled out correctly. Like magic.

Smaller companies:

When applying somewhere smaller, I wouldn't automatically expect HR to have it's act together. In such a case, when accepting the job, I would reach out to the hiring manager and notify them of the challenges surrounding my name. They'll make sure it's handled differently with payroll and IT.

Professionalism:

William Clinton goes by Bill, so for your case to be unprofessional would need significant divergence. I would avoid names which derive from inside-jokes, tribalism, counter-culture, or anything you wouldn't want associated with your professional life. When referring to tribalism I don't mean racial background, but avoid gang-names, sport nicknames, xXx_reefer_420_xXx, or going by maverick, goose, or ice-man.
Any derivation of your name, whether it be a shortening or a shift for language, should be just fine.

I hope this answer adds to the others and isn't just repetition, but I felt I could phrase it from experience and I hope it helps.

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    Amen to JB, but in complimentary circumstances: you try going by an English name in a French speaking country like Quebec. French Canadians simply cannot say my name "Andrew"; they come closer with "Andy", but I practically have to beg them to use the French "André". The provincial government keeps trying to use my mother's maiden name, and often decides she is male because English female name "Jean" is a male name in French. Let alone that my American wife and I chose a non-hyphenated female male surname. – Krazy Glew Mar 6 '17 at 22:34
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    "I went by JB" -- which presumably we anglophones still can't pronounce correctly, "dzhay-bee" vs "zhee-beh" ;-) – Steve Jessop Mar 7 '17 at 9:17
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    @KrazyGlew Try "Graham" for an even better one. In French, Spanish and Italian I'm "Graarm", because they merge the two vowels into one long one, and half of that vowel is rolled R in French so it sounds more like a dog warning you off. In German I'm "Grar-harm", because there's only one way to say "a" in German. When I did beginner's Japanese, I couldn't even begin to transliterate how my teacher pronounced it - I just had to learn how it sounded, on the basis that everyone else Japanese would mangle it the same way. – Graham Mar 7 '17 at 14:15
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    upvoted for xXx_reefer_420_xXx – colsw Mar 7 '17 at 14:20
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    @SteveJessop Zhee-beh throws me off every time I hear it. Around here bilingualism is usually something people are proud of, so if they can, they will say my name in full. My brothers sometimes use zhee-beh when they're being cheeky. – Jean-Bernard Pellerin Mar 7 '17 at 16:16
7

I have exactly this problem and I regret my choice of not having enforced the shorter form as well as a "bare" last name.

Imagine a name like

Benavrovitch Eméràçïée

Many people would change the first name to Ben in any non-official context (like other answers mention). Go for it, do not worry, it will be easier for everyone.

I did this but for some reason which escapes me, went on with the equivalent of Eméràçïée. That until the moment when I received author prints for a key publication of mine, where my name was mentioned as Emerrorràçïée (true story, though with a less complicated name).
The horror. I contacted the publisher who said that he would issue an erratum, but it was over, my dream article was detached from me for ever.

From that time I go as Ben Emeraciee and life is easier.

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    Hello Emèàçïée nice to meet you – ecc Mar 7 '17 at 10:31
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    @ecc Oh, do you mean Mr. Emérà çïée? – duskwuff Mar 7 '17 at 22:55
3

I can only speak from a English speaking are of the world, but it is a common thing to have one name but go by another one. In my current work environment for example, we have 'Deborah' who goes by 'Deb' that is how we call her, and that is how she signs her name and the name that appears in her email signature block. The more extreme example we have is 'Francis' who goes by 'Bob'. The only time this is a issue is trying to remember to look up the correct name in Outlook.

One of the common conventions I have seen where there is a extreme name difference rather than obvious diminutive is a email signature block showing your name as Firstname 'nickname' Lastname. This has the added benefit of both names are there if someone is searching and they can only remember one.

Either way it should not present a issue to say "Hi, call me B"

Good Luck!

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    +1 for Outlook id issues, we have a bilingual team in which some members have names in two languages. One team member goes by "Name Lang. 1" + "Married", but in Outlook she's "Name Lang. 2" + "Maiden". – sq33G Mar 8 '17 at 8:05
3

I would recommend the opposite of some of the advice above. All your correspondence, your resume, your job application, everything, should be in the name you want to go by. Buzz Aldrin, J R Ewing, whatever.

When you get hired and sit down with HR, they'll get your official ID and put in the right name for tax purposes. If your nickname is a short form of your full name, they won't bat an eye. Likewise if you're going by an anglicized version of (or alternative to) your documented name.

I go by a name which is a common-enough nickname but which in my case is a short form of my (rare) full given name (think...Chuckbert, or Johnnyford). Once, at a large US financial employer, they used my full first name as the display name for my computer account (and thus e-mail etc.) So yeah, there are outfits who think they can decide what their employees' names are. But they never acted like anyone was trying to hide something, they just looked up your full name and used it.

Big exception: if you've ever been known before to this organization, you should probably be consistent with how they knew you before. Otherwise they could suspect you of trying to sneak past their records.

1

Applying for a job with A and then having to clarify I go by B is confusing to many people involved.

I would not submit everything under your non-legal name. The name you submit for paperwork is likely to end up in somebody's database, and then it would propagate to official documents like tax forms. Once it's stored somewhere, it can be very difficult (or at least unduly time consuming) to get those systems corrected. Depending on how many different places it gets copied to, you could be straightening it out for years, and you could find the wrong name ending up back in a place you already got it corrected. (I'm lucky enough that I like my given name and use it, but I've had experiences like this with my address when I didn't take my mail at my physical address.)

So,

  • For all official paperwork, use your legal name.
  • For all personal interactions (including e-mails and such), use your preferred name.

You will have to explain to people that you don't go by your legal name, and this is both normal and acceptable. If you find this awkward because you fear that people won't make the connection between the names, then I would work on finding a concise way of presenting the name and the explanation. Something like,

Bob: Hello, A. I'm Bob. Good to meet you. You: Hi, Bob. I go by B. It's a shorter version of my name from my native language/country.

You might leave off the explanation unless they look confused or otherwise phased by it, but being ready with a very brief way of clearing things up should keep it from becoming awkward. This way, you can just mention it and move on without making a big deal out of it. If you do this with the first person/group you meet, they will probably inform other people that you will end up working with.

0

I have a two-part first name. It's on my nameplate, it's on my W-2, it's on my email...and I haven't ever heard anyone on my team or any other call me by that. Instead of A-B they call me A. I call folks and say "This is A-B over in IT" and they end up calling me "A". In America, this sort of thing is very, very common. Don't fret about it, to be honest.

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