The shorter your first name, the bigger your paycheck

May 6, 2013
May 6, 2013

Shorten it to Bill, Bob, Marc or a Cindy, if you want to work in the executive suite.

That’s the messages from a new study by TheLadders, an online job matching site, which says every extra letter in a person’s first name may reduce her annual salary by $3,600.

Since short and sweet may equal a bigger salary, the Christophers of the world who want to raise their net worths may want to change their professional designation to Chris, TheLadders’ Amanda Augustine said. That may work well for those who go from Michelle to Michele.

TheLadders tested 24 pairs of names—Steve and Stephen, Bill and William, and Sara and Sarah, and in all but one case those with shorter names earned higher pay.  (The exception: Larry and Lawrence, where the longer moniker made more money.) Its research is based on finding a linear trend in data from 6 million members, with 3.4% of them in CEO or other C-level jobs.

It found that eight of the 10 top names for male C-suite jobs had five letters or fewer, and that that group earned on average 10% more than others in similar jobs. The most popular names: Bob, Lawrence and Bill.

For a CEO, going with a nickname may make you more approachable and “more human,” said John L. Cotton, a professor of management at Marquette University who has studied the perception of names in hiring. “They can be overly impressive, overly intimidating” and a nickname may reduce that.

Though Cotton said he’s somewhat suspicious of TheLadders findings since it’s not a “typical sample.”

“I don’t think you can pick a name to get more money, but you can pick a name to get less money,” he said. Unusual names such as Apple or Moonbeam and names that sound African American such as Tyronne, Jamal and Latoya were not viewed as positively in the Marquette professors research compared to more common names like John and Susan.

In 2011, LinkedIn reported that  American CEOs do often have short names, or nicknames like Peter, Jack or Tony. Elsewhere longer names landed the power position and paychecks: in Europe Wolfgang, Xavier and Charles were among top CEO names and Roberto and Rajiv made the final decisions in Brazil and India. TheLadders’ research is based on US members, though many of them come from all over the world, a spokeswoman said.

Follow Vickie Elmer on Twitter @WorkingKind. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

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