3 Ways Stop ‘Butchering’ Names in Interviews and Empower Your Applicants Instead

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April 17, 2024 at 7:47PM UTC

Have you ever heard someone say — or have you said — “I’m just going to butcher this, but…” and then read someone’s name, most likely incorrectly?

For those with untraditional or uncommon names, it’s a widespread occurrence to hear the person they’re talking to start the conversation like this. Usually, the “butcherer” doesn’t think much of their introductory phrase, but their words can minimalize and negatively affect the other person. 

Getting someone’s name right, especially when it’s unfamiliar to you, is invaluable for showing that you see them, recognize them and value them. Here’s how to get it right — without the promise of “butchering.”

1. Do your research.

Before speaking to a candidate with an unfamiliar name, do your due diligence. Even a quick Google search can help you hear how their name is pronounced and give you a chance to practice saying it out loud. Write it down phonetically if you need to so you can reference it later. Sometimes, people with unfamiliar names will add their name pronunciation to their email signature or social media bios. If your candidate has this, practice using the pronunciation they’ve written out. They’ve prepared for this interview, and it’s only right that you do, too.

2. Introduce yourself first, then listen carefully.

Introducing yourself with your name can pave the way for your candidate to go ahead and introduce themselves by saying their name out loud. This doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. When they introduce themselves, make a note of how they pronounced their name. When they’re finished, include their name in your response (it’s so nice to meet you, X!).

3. Ask them directly.

If you’ve tried steps one and two and still don’t know how to pronounce their name, ask them how they pronounce their name and make sure you’ve got it down before moving on. Ask from a place of learning and understanding, not frustration — you don’t want them to feel like your attempt to pronounce their name is a burden.

4. Don’t dwell on it.

Getting someone’s name pronunciation right matters, but that doesn’t mean you should focus so much on it that you make them uncomfortable. Don’t over apologize for not knowing how to pronounce it or messing up the pronunciation if you do. Correct yourself quickly and shift your focus to the interview.

5. Address them.

Once you’ve learned how to pronounce their name, use it! While you don’t (and probably shouldn’t) use their name in every sentence, using their name at the end of the interview or when you’re thanking them for their time is a great way to show you care.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for learning unfamiliar names at work? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

This article reflects the views of the author and not those of Fairygodboss.

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