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Should you put your legal or preferred name on your resume? What about the filename, and your email address? The choices you make send a message.

Preferred name vs. legal name on a resume:

The best name to put on your resume may be the name you’re known by and want to continue being known by. Let’s say your co-workers call you “Kat” instead of “Katherine,” and and that works for you. Go with it! If your resume says “Kat Jackson” everybody knows exactly what to call you.

On the other hand, you could go with this–

Katherine “Kat” Jackson

–if you prefer a more formal look. But it’s a bit more complicated, isn’t it? Why bother including “Katherine” if you don’t want to be called that?

Whatever you choose, I recommend using the same name in all your career marketing communications: your resume, LinkedIn profile, email address and so on.  Making your identity crystal clear sends a message: that you’re professional, you want to be understood, and you’re a good communicator. You’re not someone who’s going to keep others guessing.

What about that old email address with your maiden name?

Another confusing situation occurs when Jane Doe marries and becomes Jane Smith–all’s well so far–but then goes on using as her email address. Why make people wonder who this “Jane Doe” is, in their in-box? It’s pretty easy to get a new email address.

Can you use an “Americanized” nickname on your resume to avoid discrimination?

This is a personal choice, and I support whatever decision you make. Unfair as it is, studies and anecdotal evidence have shown that “Mike” may get more interviews than “Mohammed.”

Another reason some job seekers use an Americanized nickname is to avoid having their name mispronounced. For example, Mrunmayi might prefer to go by “May.”

Whatever name you decide to use, it’s probably best to use either the nickname or your given first name, but not both.

Why? If you include two first names–for example, Mrunmayi “May” Deshpande–others may feel obligated to ask you which name to call you by. Even if you answer, “I’m fine with either name,” they may be uncomfortable having to make that choice. It’s best to express a clear preference.

(Note: All of the names in this post are fictional, except that of Ms. Deshpande, who is a famous actress.)

When should I give my legal name?

You don’t need to use your  you fill out the human resources forms during the hiring process. Until then, you can simply use the name you’re known by professionally.

Do resume filenames matter?

The simple answer is “yes.” The filename should include the word “resume” and your name. By using the same version of your name that’s on your resume and your profile, you demonstrate good communication skills.

A filename like this is clear, easily readable and searchable: Kat_ Jackson_Resume.docx. You can also include a keyword, such as “SEO Expert” or “PhD”: Kat_Jackson_SEO Expert_Resume.doc.

Tip: Using a consistent naming format for all of your documents shows attention to detail. You can just replace the word “Resume” with “Cover Letter” or “Writing Sample” or such.

Now you know how to win “the name game.”

Use your preferred name on your documents, profile and email address. It’s fine to use a nickname (well . . . maybe not “Slugger” or “Cutie”. . .). Or be more formal if that’s “you.” What’s important is to be consistent, be clear, and be aware of the message you’re sending to the people you hope to work with.