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Middle Names: Do They Muddle the Job Search?

Posted on the 29 April 2011 by Candacemoody @candacemoody

 “A person could have but one Christian name, or that if he had [more], but one would be regarded by the law” (Burroughs v. State of Florida, 1880).

Speaking recently to the WorkSource Professional Network, I was asked about how using a middle name as your name might muddle recruiters. Since my topic was about being sure you can be found online by recruiters, it was a fair question, although one I’d never considered before. The audience member(s) were concerned that online application forms, which asked for their first names, would confuse decision makers. “Gladys L. Smith” would apply (or send a resume) and “Lynn” would call to follow up.

Middle names are common in the U.S., but not commonly used as part of your identity, since the use of both names makes the name seem rather quaint or old fashioned (Mary Jane, Betty Sue, Billy Bob, et al.) The exception is when a boy is named after his father, then initials or use of the middle name instead of the first helps keep everyone straight (George W. Bush, for example, or my uncle, called J.C., instead of Jerry.)

Sometimes, people choose to use their middle names because they connect more with that name. Without a formal name change, though, they carry around that first name everywhere they go. (The same goes for nicknames.) I’ve been in interviews or meetings where I addressed someone by the long or the unused version of a name, and felt awkward when corrected, so I support using a first initial and full middle name (F. Scott Fitzgerald style) to avoid confusion. Someone in the audience suggested using quotation marks around the middle name on applications, as you would in print when referring to a nickname or commonly used name (Sanford “Sandy” Coufax.)

There is no law against using whatever name you want to identify yourself, as long as you don’t do it to perpetrate fraud. But American laws still recognize only your first given name as your legal identity, so when you travel, close on your house, or open a bank account, you’re stuck with Gladys. Do you use your middle name as your given name? Has it created any confusion in your job search? Leave a comment and let me know how you handle it.

Sincerely, Candace Lynn Moody

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