Does your full name have to be on your resume?

application tips career tips Jul 14, 2022
Women sitting at desk and looking at a computer monitor


When you’re searching for a new job online, your resume is your first impression. 

Your school, work experience, and even the resume design speaks to a company before you get the chance. 

But there is one more piece of your resume that creates an image of you – your name. 

Resume templates will give you great layouts. Resume creators will put your information in chronological order. You’ll get advice on the do’s and don'ts of what to include and what to leave out.

But what’s the rule of thumb about your given name?

Typically, your full name goes on your resume. But a “first name-last name” situation is not the same for everyone. 

If you have an ethnic name, a gendered name, or if you go by nicknames, you can have trouble figuring out how to identify yourself. 

To make a long story short, you do not need to put your full name on your resume. 

Your resume is not a legal document or government-issued ID, so it is perfectly legal to use a nickname. 

It makes sense to introduce yourself to your potential employer by the name you want to be called at work if you get the job.  

It gets complicated when you want to use your given name, but you think it could get you screened out of the hiring process. 

So what keeps people from using their full name at work?


When you have an ethnic name

There have been countless stories and studies about racialized people with non-English names receiving fewer calls for job interviews

A long name that doesn’t sound traditionally “Canadian” can be difficult to remember. It can come with misconceptions. It can come with racial bias. 

This racism – conscious or unconscious – is keeping people like immigrants, international students, or other members of marginalized communities out of job pools they deserve to be in. 

People may assume the applicant’s English won’t be strong enough. Companies may prefer people with Canadian experience.

Whatever the reason, it excludes someone who could be the best for the job. 

That’s why changing your name on your resume could ensure you’re only being judged on your work history. 

Deciding to be identified by your full name is a personal and professional choice you need to make as you begin to launch your career and build your brand in an industry. 

You could reason that in a Canadian context, a simpler name could help your chances in a room full of clients or management. 

A name like Abhishek can become Shake. In some cases, a person named Xiang can adopt a totally different name like Ryan. 

It is common for people to do this. Many have seen a change in their application success when they do.

The 3Skills co-founder Tobi Oluwole shared how changing his given name to his nickname on his resume led to more callbacks.


Source: Tobi Oluwole LinkedIn


Your name is an especially personal part of you. Deciding how you want to be addressed is a big decision for some people. 

It is not fair that choosing your given name can put you at a disadvantage in your job search. 

Luckily, more workforces are opting for inclusive practices, such as blind hiring

In this practice, applicants’ names are removed from resumes to limit any implicit bias from the hiring team choosing the best candidate for the job. 

In Canada, there have been plans for the federal public service to adopt blind recruiting. This way, the people working within the government can reflect the demographics of the people they serve.   

Change is slow but attitudes and policies are shifting. 

This also depends on the company you’re trying to work for. If you luck out, putting your name on your resume and introducing yourself by your given name won’t need strategy. 


 Source: Tobi Oluwole LinkedIn


When you have a gendered name

For other people, their gender could stand in the way of getting a job they are perfect for. 

Looking for a job in male-dominated industries could result in people with typically female names being taken out of the race. 

Not every female name has a gender-neutral or masculine nickname, but it is still okay to use a different name on your resume if you think it will help your chances. 

Some people use the initials of their first and middle name to avoid gender bias during the screening process. If you have a name like Claire Julie McAllister, and you’re applying for a software engineering position, there’s nothing wrong with creating a resume for C.J. McAllister. 

For non-binary or transgender people with a different name than the one given to them at birth, the same rules can apply. 

It is the name you will be called in your daily life and the name you will be called while you are on the job. There is no reason why you cannot use it on your resume.   

If you have changed your name legally, there should be no problem with this when it comes time to accept your offer.

If you have not changed your name legally, things can become more difficult, depending on your employers’ standards. 

You have the option of using your given name on your resume and changing the way you want to be identified when you make it to the interview process and eventually, the job offer. 


When you have a nickname

Like we said before, nicknames are acceptable – even if you are not from a racialized group. Going from “Michael” to “Mike”, or “Robert” to “Bob” is perfectly fine. 

Think of how you introduce yourself to people you work with. Think of the name you have on your business cards. Think of your social media.

Our digital footprints say as much about us as we do when we meet in person. 

It is okay to do the same on your resume. 

As long as you reveal your legal name when you are accepting an offer and signing papers for tax and company purposes, you are good to go. 

At the end of the day, choosing to go with your full name comes down to who you are and how you choose to present yourself to the world. 

If your name is dear to you, take the time to figure out what that means for you as you navigate the working world. 

It is okay if you don’t want to surrender parts of yourself for a chance to work at a company. 

Seek companies that let employees express themselves the way they want, regardless of how customers or clients may react. 

What does that job mean to you? What does working for a company with different values mean to you? What does showing up as yourself mean to you?

Just as companies enforce policies about how they want employees to present themselves, you can create standards about the companies you decide to share your talents with. 

Professionalism is subjective. And right now, ideas of what makes a person or place professional is changing. 

You can determine which side of the fence you want to sit on.


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