FGBer Stepha1969 took to the Fairygodboss community board recently to share the story of a time a hiring manager refused to hire her unless she changed her name. She'd been interviewing for quite some time, but this interview didn't go as expected.
"Having been let go after a 20-year career at the same firm, I found myself interviewing for the first time in decades," she says. "I was sending out resumes, contacting friends and colleagues, and signing up with recruiters. Reading all advice online, when any opportunity arose to interview, I took it."
She says that the interview was for an opening at a fintech firm of about 70 people.
"The job description was vague but having been in fintech sales for most of my career, I knew it was in my wheelhouse," she says. "The first interviewer was great, very easy to talk to and professional. After about 40 minutes, he told me he was going to call in the director of HR to speak to me who shared my first name. Strangely he mentioned that she hadn’t wanted to even meet me, but he would ask her to come in. He also mentioned to be sure to give her a strong handshake. When I met her, she was professional and pleasant; we spoke for about a half hour about the position, my work history and the market in general."
Things seemed to be going well, she says. Until she HR manager asked, “So, what does the M. stand for?” She told her it stood for Mary, but that she doesn't go by Mary.
"Well, if you come to work here, you’ll have to change your name; I can’t have another Stephanie working here," she said. "I started to chuckle and realized she was completely serious. She was scanning my resume and kept talking, telling me they had a previous employee named Stephanie, and it caused her a lot of issues with phone calls, messages, etc. I said I would go by Steph and she refused, saying that wouldn’t work. 'Think about it,' she said, getting up from the conference table and giving me another strong grip. But I was already lost in thought, wondering how I could possibly not be called by my own name."
The following week, she says she heard back from the recruiter saying that they wanted her to come back. She had told him about the name change issue and that she wasn’t really interested in returning, but he persisted. The CEO wanted to speak to her.
"All those advice columns I had read arose in my mind, an interview with a CEO was good practice at the very least so, after a little back and forth, I relented," she says. "Upon return, I met with my initial contact who was again professional and polite. We moved to another conference room and he said the CEO would be in shortly. As I waited, I thought, is this really where I want to work? What would my name be? How could I spend my entire day being called something else when I’ve spent 50 years being called Stephanie?"
Ultimately, the CEO came in, but it turns out that he was looking for someone with a completely different background than her background.
"As he slammed his hand down on the table, he said, 'What are you doing here?' almost shouting," she says. "I said I was asked to come meet him and again, slamming his hand down, he shouted, 'What are you doing here?' I responded, 'Wasting my time apparently,' and I left."
Stephanie didn't end up being a match for the job, anyway, but she spent so much time deliberating about the name situation.
Of course, FGBers are chiming in to share their thoughts on the story.
"My first thought in reading your post was, well, using an initial or slightly different name was no big deal if it's the perfect job," says an anonymous FGBer. "And I was hoping you'd pursue it and get an offer. But your gut was telling you to be wary. and dang girl, you were right! Way to go on spotting a red flag and walking out. You WILL find the right job. Good Luck and thanks for sharing."
"How bizarre — firstly, asking you to change your name in exchange for the job I believe is illegal," says sm12897. "And the behavior of the CEO is unprofessional and unhinged. His issue is with recruiter and HR Stephanie. Seems like it would be an abusive situation anyway so good thing you left there."
Others agreed that following her gut was the right move.
"Wow, that's all I can say right now, but WOW," another anonymous FGBer writes. "Sorry you had to waste your time with all that, but talk about dodging a bullet. At the least, it gives you a great story. Best of luck to you in your search. You'll know the right place. Continue to trust your gut. Good luck!"
Many FGBers say that Stephanie dodged a bullet.
"Holy mackerel, I can’t even imagine," BansheeBailey says. "You may have dodged a bullet."
"Yikes, this is such a painful situation, but it's worth holding on to to use for future interviews and stories about wanting to be a part of a company who values you for who you are, and what you bring to the table already, as well as a company that communicates effectively," says HannahRP. "Dodged a bullet here, head up and onward!"
"Definitely sounds like you dodged a bullet — sorry about your time and effort that they wasted," says Jen Stephens.
"Yikes — the culture at that company sounds toxic and abusive," says AllisonArthur. "It stinks that you wasted your time, but I agree with a few of the other commenters — you dodged a bullet. If you feel up to it, I recommend leaving them an interview review on Glassdoor. This would help others avoid this nightmare. Stay positive about your job hunt! I'm sure something great is right around the corner."
In fact, many FGBers agreed that Stephanie should leave company reviews online.
"Be sure to provide the recruiter with the full story as they should question whether the want to place people at that company until management changes," says Gillianne H. "I second the suggestion of a Glassdoor review. Then put it in the past and move on to find your next job with a good fit, where you can use your name, and in a positive environment!"
"Please copy and paste this into Glassdoor of course editing it to refer to your name but not putting Stephanie/Steph/Mary in the post," writes Flossy.
"I wholeheartedly agree with the assessment of that work place being abusive and toxic," says an anonymous FGBer. "Definitely post on Glassdoor (and anywhere else that's appropriate) because NO ONE deserves to suffer in that kind of environment."
"I've heard some bizarre interview situations, but that's so outlandish it has to be in the top few!" says LadyPele. "I'm glad you walked away. I hope you do give them feedback on Glassdoor."
FGBers can also use Fairygodboss' company reviews to find crowdsourced information on how companies treat their employees and candidates, as well as to leave comments on your own experiences with companies.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.