What'S In A Name: LinkedIn Identifies Top CEO Names

April 28, 2011

Blank name tag Have you ever wondered if your name is holding you back in your career? According to a recent analysis by professional networking site LinkedIn, that may be the case.

With access to over 100 million career profiles, which includes people's names and occupation titles, LinkedIn examined whether there was a correlation between first names and career titles. The findings were reported in a recent LinkedIn blog post.

LinkedIn first looked at CEO names across the globe to find the most common names. According to the data, CEO names tend to be short or are shortened versions of common first names. For example, Forbes listed the most common male CEO names around the globe. The top five include Peter, Bob, Jack, Bruce and Fred. Female CEOs, on the other hand, prefer using their full name. The top five female CEO names include Deborah, Sally, Debra, Cynthia and Carolyn.

LinkedIn also noted that four-letter names, such as Chip, Todd and Trey, are popular in sales. However, within engineering, names tend to have six-letters (Rajesh, Jeremy, Andrew) and in the restaurant industry names are even longer (Thierry, Philippe, Laurent).

Frank Nuessel, a professor of language at the University of Louisville and editor of Names: A Journal of Onomastics, tried to explain the phenomenon: "It's possible that sales professionals and male CEOs use these shortened versions of their name as a way to be more approachable and accessible to potential clients," he said to Forbes. "Interestingly, female CEOs appear to prefer to use their full names and not nicknames, which could signify that they want to be taken more seriously and want co-workers to think of them in a more professional light."

Furthermore, LinkedIn senior data scientist pointed out to Fast Company that the top CEO names seem to reflect the demographics of today's society. Nuessel noted that LinkedIn has tons of information that could be important when studying trends and significant changes at the top, saying it would be interesting to see if in 10 years from now whether more distinctive ethnic names will be at the top.

"I think that would tell us a lot about success of different groups," he said.

LiveScience reported that past research has revealed that names associated with low socioeconomic status or race can influence how people evaluate a person's qualifications. In a 2003 experiment, resumes with common white names such as "Emily" and "Greg" were 30 percent more likely to get a callback than identical resumes that used names typically associated with African Americans, such as "Lakisha" and "Jamal".

So what if your name didn't make the list? Nuessel said there's no need to worry.

"I think everybody can be successful," he said to Fast Company. "I think a lot of it has to with individual desire to succeed and a lot of other factors--guidance, parental support, good education, and to a certain extent just luck."

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"'Peter' and 'Deborah' Are Top CEO Names," livescience.com, April 27, 2011, Stephanie Pappas

"Is Your Name Keeping You From The Top Job?" blogs.forbes.com, April 27, 2011, Jenna Goudreau

"LinkedIn Wants To Help You Name Your New Baby/CEO," fastcompany.com, April 27, 2011, David Zax

"Top CEO Names across the globe: Brad, Bland or Brand?" April 27, 2011, Monica Rogati

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