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"Have you ever been known by another name?"

Started by tvc15, October 08, 2011, 04:04:52 PM

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If you have never been previously employed under your old name, do you have to answer yes to this question on job applications? I assumed it was so they could access your previous work history, but if I don't have any then I fail to see how it'd be relevant. Then I thought maybe when they do the background check it would show any old names you went under, regardless of whether or not you worked during that time. If this is the case then it would indeed be best to say yes and list the old name, but is this really the reason they ask? I mean, I changed my name for a reason; I'd like it not to be associated with me, not to mention I always feel a little downhearted when I realize they're going to see a male name and a female name together on the same application, and worry it might hurt my chances.



I don't have an answer for you I'm afraid I just wanted to say I have always wondered the same thing.

Every time that question comes up on a form or a job application I cringe and hesitate. I go through a lot of effort to pass only to blow it wide open before I even get to interview stage  So far I have always listed it - as I fear getting found out anyway once they run checks


The former names are used for background/credit checks. If they find you had a former name and did not list it, they can fire you for false info or simply not hire you.


Call HR. Some of these "previous name" queries only want recent names or names that you've used in the same profession, or a similar restriction.

Sometimes the name field specifies "within the last ten years" or something like that. When it doesn't, ask. And when it asks for a maiden name, you apparently don't need to fill in that field unless you changed your name through a marriage. I always leave that field blank.

The bottom line is that HR is not supposed to share any of this information with anyone else, so the people who interview you should be none the wiser.


Some of use have ambiguous birth names, at least the first name, or we can "put a spin" on our names to make them seem less feminine. Do you have this capability? I feel a lot better knowing that I can do this if I feel the need.

Fortunately, my old name is sufficiently exotic that if I am questioned about it, I can pronounce it in a traditionally German way. If anyone is curious, I can honestly say that my mother came from a German family (her parents emigrated from Germany before she was born) or that in childhood my mother spoke German at home (she did, till she started school). If pressed for details, I can also point out that my original first name closely resembles the name of a fairly prominent German city and suggest that perhaps some of my relatives came from that part of the country (they very well might have; Germany isn't all that big). My old middle name, if anyone asks, is unisex, more so among people my age and older.

Without lying, I can remove most of the gendered association from my old name. So far, I haven't had to. But if my name were Cynthia or Virginia or Deborah, I would really have my work cut out for me. But if my name were Ashley, I could laugh and say, "I think my mother watched Gone with the Wind a few times too many."

I guess what I'm driving at is that you should find out exactly what HR wants and, if you have to put the name down and someone ask you about it (it's unlikely that they will), you might be able to work with it anyway.
"The hammer is my penis." --Captain Hammer

"When all you have is a hammer . . ." --Anonymous carpenter


Unfortunately my birth name is exclusively feminine, so I'm reluctant to have to associate it with my current presentation. Thanks for the info and advice. I already completed an application today and filled out that particular question, but in the future I will contact HR before I make a move.



As a non-TG lurker (but not a lawyer, so don't take this as advice; I am writing this from a U.S. perspective), the legality of the question being asked appears to be a gray area. If you Google the terms "illegal questions" "legally changed" together, you'll see numerous sources that say the question shouldn't be asked. Most of them do not describe the situation as it would apply to the TG population though (they focus on other ways one's previous name could be used in a discriminatory way, such as an immigrant adopting a more culturally-appropriate name or a woman's marital status). Those sources recommend tailoring the question to a "need to know" basis (such as whether you have records they need to check under your old name or references who only know you by that name). I'm not going to give any advice on how to handle your personal situation, but you might anonymously mention that the question could be discriminatory in several ways (also you probably won't have any legal defense in your case unless you live in an area where TGs are legally protected). The analogy I often use is that asking the question on previous names is IMO like asking for your birthdate; prior to hire it is recommended that the question of age be asked in a way to only screen out those who have legal restrictions on working, such as whether you're 18+ or not and if you aren't then to specify your birthdate (but nonentheless some do ask for DOB or indirectly obtain one's age by asking questions like when you graduated high school).

Also, you mentioned that you've never worked under your previous name. Since that apparently means that you had your name changed at a fairly young age, you might ask how those whose names were changed in their youth for whatever reason (examples of common reasons are adoptees or disputed paternity) should handle the question. (If you've ever obtained credit or anything like that under the old name that would appear on a report, or have academic records that they may check under the previous name, this tactic probably won't work though.)