The Most Critical Keywords for Your Career: Your Full Name

critical keywordsWhen creating a unique personal brand and building a great career, what are your most critical keywords?

A recent experience reminded me how important our names are as keywords for both our job searching and our careers. Working with a client, I needed to find her LinkedIn Profile to document her professional qualifications for a short bio.

I had difficulty finding her LinkedIn Profile using her name for my keyword search. That was a very unusual and frustrating experience. If I had been a recruiter or potential employer trying to find her, I would probably have given up.

Once I located her profile, I understood why it was hard to find. This woman is very accomplished and visible on the Internet, yet her use of this most critical set of keywords — her full name — was very inconsistent (actual name changed, of course):

  • Suzie Davis (LinkedIn profile)
  • Dr. Suzanne Davis (her faculty profile at the university where she works)
  • Dr. S. J. Davis (her profile in a national professional association for her field)
  • Suzanne Davis, PhD (her email signature)

All are legitimate versions of her name. But, if she were in a job search, connecting those identities should be easy so that employers could be sure they were evaluating and communicating with the “right” person!

Use ONE Version of Your Name for Your Professional Life

For your job search and career, the most critical keywords you will ever use are the words in your full name. When you apply for a job, most (more than 90%) of employers will Google your name to see what they can find.

They are not necessarily trying to find “bad stuff.” They are usually trying to confirm the contents of your application and the “facts” on your resume and gain a sense of your professionalism, communications style, and personality.

If they can’t find you when they search using the name on your resume or job application, they will assume you are either not “current” in your understanding of using the Internet for business. Or, you’re hiding something. Neither assumption is helpful to you.

Claim Your Professional Name on LinkedIn

Today, LinkedIn is the best place to establish your professional name. In any name search, LinkedIn is usually very near the top page of Google search results. This means your profile will probably be found even if 20 other people on LinkedIn have exactly the same name.

Your LinkedIn profile is visible to your family, friends, co-workers, and other business associates. So most employers assume that what you publish on LinkedIn is the truth because you wouldn’t lie publicly in front of those people. So grab your full name on LinkedIn and get on page one of Google search results.

Use Your Professional Name Consistently in Your Professional Activities

Then, use that version of your name for everything connected with your work:

  • Domain names, if possible (, for example)
  • Business email address (we all know to avoid, but few recognize how important it is to use your professional name in your email address)
  • Email signature information at the bottom of every email
  • Business/networking cards exchanged at in-person events like networking and conferences
  • Name tags for professional in-person (and virtual) networking and business meetings
  • Other online and off-line visibility

And… don’t forget to Google your name on a weekly or monthly basis to see what is associated with it. This process is appropriately named “Defensive Googling” — after all, you can’t fix a problem you don’t know you have.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Work Coach Cafe!




Susan-P-Joyce-AuthorOnline job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoachCafe.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan also edits and publishes, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPostAOL Jobs, and LinkedIn. Follow Susan on Twitter.



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