Middle Names: Do They Muddle the Job Search?

 “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

3 thoughts on “Middle Names: Do They Muddle the Job Search?

  1. Wyman Stewart

    Wonder if Sandford “Sandy” Koufax had people tell him his name had to be Coufax or worse, Cowfax?

    I prefer to not reveal my middle name. It’s easier to pronounce than my first name. My concern is people may prefer to use my middle name, rather than respect my wish to use my first name. This is especially true in interviews, where the interviewer may decide the easier name is the preferred name. Correcting an interviewer is risking a job opportunity. Some job applications still require your “full” name, first, middle, and last, though a few ask for a preferred name too (rare).

    Besides having an uncle who uses his middle name, because his first name is mistaken for a girl’s name, another uncle has initials for his name.

    (An example from baseball: A little known Sixties baseball player’s name was J.C. Martin (one-time catcher for the Chicago White Sox). Let’s say J.C. is the only name your parents gave you. One family solution gives you a normal nickname like Bill, Bob, or Sue (thank you Johnny Cash), while another family nickname can never be used, like Juicy Candy (J.C.). Despite a wonderful life filled with adventure, I’m sure initials for a first and middle name caused no shortage of confusion and headaches for my uncle, his whole life. Not sure about J.C. “Hod-Hodder” Martin, though.)

    Addressing one’s own name can be a major impediment to finding work. You, Candace Lynn Moody, have been blessed by life, for any number of employers seeing the name Moody might conjure up the idea of a moody woman or the once famous Reverand Moody, deciding your fate with their company, based on the mental picture chosen, even before meeting you. Also once heard, if your name is Candace, use Candace, never Candy, even if that is the name you prefer, for Candy or Candy Lynn, puts people in mind of anything but a diligent worker. For whatever reason, overall, Candace usually has a positive vibe attached to the name. (Think I read this in a Career Adviser column years ago.)

    Perhaps one’s name should be a more deeply explored employment topic, both for employers and potential employees. Politcians are known to change their names to enhance or improve their public image. Corporations pay big bucks to find or change their name and image. Exxon and BP might be two examples. To pretend our name, and how it is used, means little in the hiring process, may be to ignore one key to our economic livelihood. How to project correct, positive images of our names to employers might benefit us in finding employment.

    Who can explain why both the “Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffett and the “Parrotheads” of his nephew-singer, Jimmy Buffet, came to have odd titles associated with each? Dumb-luck or is it something subconsciously associated with the name of each?

    WorkSource, didn’t we call that the Employment Office once? Delve deeper, hope you supplied that person with the right answer.


  2. I have used my middle name to identify myself since the moment I was born. No one in my life ever said it unless they were mad or joking and often when stranger or new acquaintances use it because they saw it on a license, paperwork, etc. I am 25 and have acknowledged the issue but never felt it was overly significant. Now that I am joining the online world of business and marketing, I realize this confusion is actually a major setback and will have an affect on most of my career and development because it complicates networking. From an SEO approach =, if i use two different names for the same thing (me) than i am decreasing my visibility drastically. The question now is should i make a legal name change, use my foreign and inappropriate real name, or be inconsistent knowing it will severely decrease my networking abilities?
    (I chose to use “M.AlexSheriff” as if it would not fog the issue more)


    1. I think the simplest solution is to use your first initial and then spell out your middle name, as you did here. There’s a long history of people doing this, and it eliminates the use of your first name. Using this rule, I would be C. Lynn Moody. No one will mistakenly call me “C”, so Lynn becomes my name. There’s no requirement for you to legally change your name – you’re entitled to use any version of your name you like.


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