What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name? A lot by the look of things! Whether you believe your name is holding you back from career progression, or your name has influenced your career choice, either way, it appears that a person’s name can actually determine their career success.

Names can work against you...

You may have read about a case filed against Sir Richard Branson’s airline - Virgin Atlantic – by a disgruntled job applicant called Max Kpakio who believed he was refused a job because of his name. Upon submitting a second CV (similar to the first but with a common Welsh name), he found that the CV was shortlisted. This led to the assumption that employers could actually be discriminating against candidates because of their names!

James Caan (born Nazim Khan) is a well-known British-Pakistani entrepreneur and T.V personality (best known on Dragon’s Den). Mr Caan believed his name was not recognisable enough and by changing it to James Caan, he could excel even further in the business world. Let’s face it, if the likes of multi-millionaire James Caan believe that a name can influence success, then there must be some truth in it.

According to research carried out by the University of Chicago’s Marianne Vertrand and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sendhil Mullaina, candidates submitting CVs with typically white sounding names such as David and Emily, have a 50% higher chance of receiving a call back compared to candidates with typical African American names. This is astonishing and proves that the supposedly ’fair’ recruitment process and avoidance of unfair hiring is not as it seems.

Data obtained from an Australian employment survey found that candidates who have a name that is easy to pronounce do better in the job application process than those who have unique and difficult to pronounce names.

When wacky names are ’in’, how can we succeed?

Nominative Determinism – a term describing the theory that a person’s name can influence their character, job and career choices, helps us to identify the real truth behind a person’s name and their career choices. The psychological theory known as the “name-letter effect” also maintains that a person’s attitude and actions can be a result of his or her name.

But is this fair? After all, it’s not like we get to pick our own names (James Caan excluded). Parents these days are giving up on naming their children traditional names, and moving with new trends of choosing names based on their favourite actor/actress or singer etc. The names Kirsten, Bella, Jacob and Cullen have become popular since 2011 because they are names associated with the hit series - Twilight.

What’s more, celebrities are increasingly favouring wacky and unique names for their children. This in turn encourages the public to opt for unique names for their children. Gwyneth Paltrow called her baby Apple, Victoria Beckham called her son Romeo, and Jay-z and Beyonce called their daughter Blue Ivy. With such crazy names becoming ’the norm’, it is likely that many children these days will grow up with names that could affect their chances of securing important jobs and being taken seriously.

Names can influence your career choices

Scientists are currently exploring the theory that people are drawn to specific professions based on their name, surname, or initials. There have been many cases where such a theory can be assumed true; popular book “The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet” was written by Daniel Snowman (a coincidence? I think not.)

People with the surname farmer are more likely to become farmers or hold positions within the agricultural industries than those with surnames like Brown or Smith. Men with the first or surname Lawrence typically work in law i.e. as a lawyer or in the police force.

Another interesting fact is that children with the names Ryan, Jessica or Matt are more likely to grow up to be Athletes. So, parents, be aware that the name you choose for your child may actually determine how successful they are in life!

Popular names of the top dogs

LinkedIn carried out a survey to determine whether there was a link between the names of people and their professions, with surprising results. One of the biggest finds was that male CEO’s tend to have short names, and if their names were long, they opted to shorten them (usually down to 3 or 4 letters). Bob (Robert), Andy (Andrew), Bill (William), Mike (Michael), and Pete (Peter) typically appear to hold top positions of authority. Women in high positions on the other hand tend to have longer names such as “Deborah”. Women who usually have a shorter name such as” Steph”, commonly decide to revert back to their longer name i.e. “Stephanie” when it comes to applying for executive level jobs.

This is backed up by LinkedIn’s research, which found that the top 5 names of global male CEOs are: Peter, Bob, Jack, Bruce, Fred and Bill. The top 5 names for global female CEOs are: Deborah, Sally, Debra, Cynthia and Carolyn.

So there you have it. A name can tell you a lot about someone, and it can truly influence your career path – so pick your child’s name carefully!


Photo - www.bbc.co.uk