I’ll admit it – sometimes, I hyphenate my last name. I know… this sounds like an absurd concept, doesn’t it?! My last name isn’t legally hyphenated, why would I want to use my maiden name in addition to my married name? Well… the answer is pretty simple, but complex.
I hyphenate my name on occasion to target specific groups.
At the age of 20, fresh out of college and fresh in the workforce, I sat in a recruiter’s office interviewing for my dream job. I wasn’t married yet – I still had my Jewish last name. The job and the office were located in the City of Buckhead, right outside of Atlanta. I don’t remember too much about the interview questions, but I will NEVER forget the advice the recruiter gave me. I was both appalled and intrigued…
Her exact words were,
“Sometimes Tiffany, you need to use your last name to play your cards right.”
Um… what?! It seemed totally obscene, but it makes total sense.
Play to your audience.
I’ve seen my husband do it in meetings and on calls. If he is in the South, you better believe that his natural Southern accent comes out more. If he is speaking with customers in the Northern states of his territory, I’ve heard his voice shift to include a little less of that thick Southern accent he usually has. In fact, I’ve heard his voice change depending on the gender of the person he is speaking to.
Find a commonality.
It was a very poor way to put it, but what the recruiter was trying to tell me is that I already had a common connection to the potential employer and it may help me to get my foot in the door. People want to work with people that they identify with. I’m certainly not racist, sexist or have opposition to any people groups – don’t take that the wrong way! Pure human nature dictates that we gravitate to those we have a connection with. Religion, gender, and even alma maters are common factors that contribute to business relationships. HR Directors are not immune to this human instinct.
Know your market.
There’s a good chance that hyphenating your last name will pay off if you live in a more accepting, progressive city. However, if you are doing business in a small town with a predominately older crowd, hyphenating your last name may raise a few eyebrows. Knowing your target audience and target market will be crucial to helping you decide when to do so.
It’s confession time… again! I have to work hard not to get intimidated often. If I am working with a group of men or older individuals, I may choose to hyphenate my last name in correspondence with them. In some instances, it can projectsa strong sense of self-awareness and an “I am woman, hear me roar,” mentality.
These are merely suggestions. Own whatever your name may be. Don’t change it just because I wrote this article, but be aware that situations may present when this knowledge may come in handy.
Have you ever hyphenated your last name? Is your name legally hyphenated – if so, have you ever addressed yourself as only your maiden name or married name, without hyphenating?