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What’s in a name?

Recently a job seeker shared this story with me:

She’d successfully completed a telephone interview and did the “proper thing” sending a thank you email after the phone interview. (BRAVO!!)  A few days later, she checked her email and found not only did the email bounce back as undeliverable; the message about it bouncing went to spam. (Horrors). She called the company and found out the person with whom she interviewed spelled her name Alyson (with a “y”), not Alison, with an “i”, as she had “assumed.”  The story turned out well. She corrected the spelling and resent the thank you. Alyson responded with a thank you of her own. (See how that works? … but that’s a soapbox for another day.)

This was not a client, so I took a moment to give her a tip about names I share with my own clients. Be sure to get the interviewer’s name and the correct spelling of it – gather business cards or come right out and ask if you have to, but get it right. You “should” have a notepad with you during the interview, so take a moment to focus on your interviewer and get their name. (Nothing is more melodious than the sound of one’s own name.)

While name gathering, take the time to get the correct spelling. Never, ever assume just because it’s a common name, it’s spelled the way you think. (Alyson/Alison/Allison). There’s a caveat here; you don’t want to come across as someone without a clue if the name is common.

I hear you: “OK, Dawn. So how do you THAT?” Don’t come out and ask, “How do you spell Allison?” (See, there’s a third spelling ….) Say something like is that Alyson a “y” or an “i”? Or is that with one or two ll’s? That’ll trigger the person to spell it for you. You come across as intelligent enough to know there is more than one way to spell a name and you’re thoughtful enough to confirm how this person does it. (And look at the message it sends. You’re considering options, presenting solutions, solving problems and you’re not even on the payroll … yet!)

A few more examples:

  • Is Brown, with or without an “e”? (Browne)
  • Is it Greene, with an “e”? (Green)
  • Is that Tom with or without the “h”? I’ve known people who spell it both ways.
  • Carol? Do you spell it with or without the “e” at the end? (Carole)
  • Scott? I know this is crazy, but I know someone who spells Scot with one “t”. Are you a one or a two “t” Scott?

See. There are a number of different ways to ask for correct spelling without coming out and saying, “How do you spell Brown?” which, can leave the interviewer thinking, “Duh.”

The positive of a well-written thank-you letter (or cover letter) can be negated by leaving the “e” off Carole or the “h” out of Thom. Or an email can end up bouncing back as undeliverable and all that effort and positive after the fact marketing is for naught. Never assume the spelling of anyone’s name. Names are important, and spelling them correctly equally so!!

(Melissa, this one’s for you. Thanks!!)

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  1. Donna Svei says:

    Hi Dawn,

    I will never forget recruiting the perfect candidate for a dream job (senior management, growth company, amazing comp package, etc.). She lost the offer when she misspelled the hiring manager’s name in her thank you letter. Ouch! He wouldn’t have anything to do with her after that.

    It’s an easy thing to take the time to spell someone’s name correctly and the downside of not doing so is huge.



  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dawn Bugni, Glynne's Soaps. Glynne's Soaps said: What’s in a name? via @dawnbugni […]

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dawn Bugni and Julie Walraven, Donna Svei. Donna Svei said: RT @DawnBugni | What's In a Name? | | #JobSearch <—An offer, that's what! […]

  4. Jennifer Baty says:

    Common spelling errors are forgivable. But please be careful how you pronounce a name — if it comes out sounding like an insult, it’s probably wrong.

    • Dawn says:

      Hi Jennifer –

      With a last name like Bugni (Bug-Knee) I can relate to mispronunciations. (Sometimes it’s pretty entertaining … heh.) I’m sure Baty (Bay-tee) frequently comes out wrong too.

      Guess the remedy is, we all stop a moment to help each other spell (yes, spelling IS important … see Donna’s comment above) AND pronounce names correctly.

      Thanks for the reminder the spoken word is important too. Communication and consideration are both beautiful things!

  5. With a name like Maureen, I have had to demonstrate patience and restraint when it comes to the correct spelling of my name. When I worked as a hiring manager for a small business, I once received a letter:

    “Dear Moron”

    Now I am not sure whether the person had intended to call my character into question 🙂 but the staff and I had a good laugh about it.

    For various other reasons, the letter writer was not called in for the interview.

    Dawn, you are right; people love to see their name in print. It is vital that we get the spelling correct.

    • Dawn says:

      Maureen –

      Oh my. The “Dear Moron” story is hilarious. THANKS for sharing it and reminding about the importance of double checking things before hitting send or sealing the envelope. Great add. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to share a smile, wrapped up in a wonderful lesson. 🙂

  6. Great points re: a ‘detail’ that many people overlook – name spelling!

    Many assumptions are made, and I’m enjoying reading all of the comments you’ve generated with your story. I must say, Maureen’s story is my favorite and made me laugh out loud ; )

    Though my legal name is Jacqueline, there are clearly many offshoots, and I’m ‘guilty’ of having used several, a couple of which I use concurrently: Jackie (up until my senior year in high school); Jacqui when I decided to spread my wings and re-‘brand’ myself with a French twist in that transitional senior year); and Jac as many on Twitter refer to me. So, though I am not too picky about how people address me (within certain boundaries, of course!), I do expect that when someone may be trying to ‘woo’ me for a business or personal relationship that they take time to know the way I prefer being addressed.

    This name-spelling lesson definitely applies to the job search process, and your example of the job seeker showing the hiring manager that s/he is already ‘considering options, presenting solutions and solving problems’ is a superb way to show value, up front!

    Another well written and thought out post, Dawn!

    ~Jacqui (Jac, Jackie, Jacqueline)

    • Dawn says:

      Jacqui –

      Maureen had me laughing at my desk early this morning too.

      I love your story about the genesis of your name. You’re right. If people are sincere in their attempt to pronounce my name, I’m happy to assist. However, as you said, if they’re trying to woo me for business, they better get it right in black and white.

      I get a mailing from a local charity soliciting donations quarterly. It’s always addressed to “Dawn Oliver”. That WAS my name … before my divorce … in 1996. I’ve told them, yet next mailing, there it is: “Dawn Oliver”. You can bet I’m always ready to whip out my checkbook when I get that letter. 🙂

      Great add my dear! Thanks!!

  7. Tanya says:

    People also need to be careful about names and gender! For example, people with names such as Alex, Jesse, Casey, etc. Someone looking for a job sent my dad an email saying “Dear Mrs. Camille…” assuming that he was a woman because of the way he spelt his name!

  8. Gina says:

    Oh I see this a lot. I get candidates that have names that I fear of pronouncing wrong. I know how that can be on the receiving end- my kids have names that people THINK they know how to pronounce or spell- but they don’t. I think people generally assume that a name will sound a certain way- but in this day where parents have named their kids in ways to make them stand out from the crowd- we have to throw all assumptions out the window. My son’s name is Niklas- people think it’s just another way to spell Nicholas and in turn pronounce it that way. No- we do in fact pronounce it exactly the way it is spelled. I would rather be mindful to ask the question about spelling or pronunciation than to go along doing it wrong. That shows lack of caring.

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