I love reading your Name Nerd column! I find it fascinating how names have certain connotations/perceptions and how this spills over to personality formation, career developments, etc...
In my situation, my legal name first name is Tri, middle name is Duc, last name is Luong. My full legal name makes it obvious that I am of Asian heritage.
I am very proud of my ethnic heritage and have never felt the pressure to adopt a Western name. As a I grew up, I did shorten my name to Tri Luong since it made introductions and the like quicker. Dropping the other parts of my name was purely for convenience.
During my job search over the past couple of years, I have found little success in securing an interview. I have seen studies like this one and this one that have demonstrated that when hiring managers have two equally qualified candidates - the first, a westernized name and the second, an ethnic name - the candidate with the westernized name was more likely to be successful. They even labelled this phenomenon the "call back gap".
After applying to hundreds of jobs (not an exaggeration), I couldn't help but wonder if I would be more successful if I had a different name. I know there are people who have their legal name and have given themselves a professional name, similarly to actors that have stage names.
I have given this a lot of thought and would like my professional name to be Tristan Duc. While the name has French connotations it does flow well.
Duana, I'd really like to hear you opinion on renaming yourself as an adult. Maybe there are existing schools of thoughts on this issue and I'm not aware of it. Is it a practice looked down upon? Are there risks associated with doing this eg does it come across as misleading?
Secondly, I'd really like to hear what you think of my chosen professional name.
Thank you so much for writing this! I LOVED reading this letter. I suspect there are many more people than just you who have this problem.
Although I think it's deeply problematic that we have this resumé problem, or 'call back gap', we don't fix all the problems just by being outraged. It shouldn’t be the case that you have to guard against your name being a problem – but this is a situation where you may be better able to fix perceptions of a ‘foreign’ name from inside, once you already have the job. It’s easy for people to say you should be proud of the name you’re given (and I think you are) but you want to get your career moving and so this may be a step you have to take, at least temporarily.
Yes, I think you should choose Tristan (or Tricia or even Teresa) as your 'Anglicized' first name on your resume. Many people do this, and it doesn't take away from your real name as far as I'm concerned. You seemed to wonder whether it would be 'looked down upon' and there's nothing here that I can think of that would be a problem. The problem I have with the concept as a whole is the idea that people are more comfortable hiring someone with an ‘English’ first name, which is short-sighted and unfortunate. Still, I know your priority is getting hired, so I don’t think there’s any reason not to do it.
However, I'd caution you against leaning too hard into the 'this will seem French' scenario. I was really pleased to read that you enjoy your Asian heritage, so I wouldn't try too hard to obfuscate it. Use 'Duc' but maybe with the language-appropriate accents, if they apply? Or even 'Tristan Luong Duc' if that doesn't feel too strange?
Something else to consider – Tristan is used much more for girls than it used to be, but there may be some people who think it’s a man’s name, so there’s a different case of mistaken identity to deal with. Regardless, using a name that is full, and not a nickname, will promote the idea that you are a professional, and yes, to get people's eyes on your accomplishments below the name.
Lastly, if you do this, make sure you practice answering to Tristan! Start telling people in Starbucks or in dressing rooms this is your name, just to get used to hearing people say it, so you’re able to respond to it in job interviews and beyond!
Let me know how it goes!