Mine's longer than yours.
October 28, 2007 9:05 PM   Subscribe

I have a very foreign-sounding name. Should I mention I'm a US citizen on my resume?

I have a long, foreign sounding name that is difficult for most Americans to pronounce. I'm applying to some extremely competitive master's programs where the ratio of foreign to domestic applicants is something like 5:1 or even higher. Most of the foreign applicants are very qualified, but suffer from poor English skills. I'd prefer for my application not to be lumped in the "foreigners" pile.

Given that my name is so foreign-sounding, should I mention I'm a US citizen on my resume? All of the online grad school applications ask if you're a US citizen, but I figured I might want to put it on my resume, too.

The problem is I don't know how to work it in without making it look silly. I tried putting it on one line below my contact info, but it looks a bit lonely - usually, I've only seen that paired with some high-level security clearance.

Any suggestions on how I should work it in, or if I should simply leave it off?

Side note: If your name is very difficult to pronounce, would you consider adopting a pseudonym for employment purposes? Both my first and last names are "foreign" and I don't go by any "American" nickname.
posted by pravit to Work & Money (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think it makes sense in the contact information. I have something like:

Name: pravit
Address: xxxx
Email address: yyyy
Phone number: zzzz
Citizenship: USA

However you put it in though, there's absolutely no reason to leave it off. Every graduate program I've seen is dying for American applicants. You might as well take advantage of nationalism. Moreover, you're less of a burden to the school (less paperwork, more potential funding).

I would not, however, consider adopting a pseudonym. If you did, the moment you were asked to fill out an application form, there would be questions why your names differed. It'd only be suspicious.
posted by saeculorum at 9:10 PM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

You say it looks lonely below the contact info- maybe you could combine that will your personal info to make it a bit more innocuous.

Date of birth:
Contact phone number:
posted by twirlypen at 9:12 PM on October 28, 2007

On preview- what saeculorum said.
posted by twirlypen at 9:12 PM on October 28, 2007

Thanks for the quick answers! My resume is more of this type, with the contact info heading the resume:

Pravit (long last name here)
123 Anystreet, Anytown, USA
Tel:(111) 123-4567 E-mail:(in profile)
US Citizen

Because of everything being centered, it looks really awkward to stick "US Citizen" on the bottom. Not to mention eating a line of resume space.
posted by pravit at 9:19 PM on October 28, 2007

If you speak more than one language, you could create a "Languages" section on your resume and list English (Native fluency) and [Other language] (Very good).
posted by mlis at 9:26 PM on October 28, 2007 [5 favorites]

Just put it on there below your contact info, leaving looking a little lonely and weird. A little lonely and weird is fine, as you want them to *notice* it. They'll read your name, immediately think "foreignian", skip the contact info, see the line saying "Citizenship: USA" ('cause that ain't part of the address), think "weird name then", and continue reading your resume.

This is what you want.
posted by Netzapper at 9:27 PM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm in academia and I've been on admissions committees in the past. Applications get sorted based on the information you provide in the online application so if you checked the Citizen? box, that should be sufficient. All of this info gets summarized on a coversheet so the reviewers in the program will know that you are not a foreign applicant.
Also, about 80% of the CVs I see do mention citizenship. And the format is pretty much what saeculorum wrote. So to answer your question, it will not stand out. Good luck with your applications.
posted by special-k at 9:27 PM on October 28, 2007

Also, un-center your contact info. Left or right-justify it, and suddenly this doesn't look quite as weird. Centering looks weird in and of itself.
posted by Netzapper at 9:28 PM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Maybe use a big, flowing American flag and an eagle's head in profile as a background image?

Seriously, perhaps it is better to simply work that information into your cover letter or application essay. A bullet point stating that you are a citizen does not necessarily equate to English mastery to me, but if you letter/essay is well written and maybe you mention growing up in rural Illinois/uptown Manhattan/East LA you get the point across better.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:31 PM on October 28, 2007

Maybe you can put as the last line of your resume. I used to put "References available on request" as the last line until I was advised that was passe.

The short phrase "US Citizen" does look lonely on one line, but if it was prefixed by "Nationality" like an above replier suggested, then that makes it more worthy of its own line. Also, as an employer I'd be interested to know if it was naturalized or by birth.

At least your first name is short enough to be reasable for Americans to learn to pronounce. Anything more than 2 syllables is probably a good candidate for shortening.
posted by markhu at 9:33 PM on October 28, 2007

Examples 1, 2
posted by special-k at 9:36 PM on October 28, 2007

in my opinion, saeculorum nailed it.
posted by puritycontrol at 9:43 PM on October 28, 2007

In CVs used in academic job searches, it is standard practice to include one's citizenship. (The term used is "citizenship" rather than "nationality". Citizenship is a formal administrative matter, which can have impact on funding options and so on. Nationality might be a blurrier area.)

I have normally seen it lumped with the date of birth.

I'm in the humanities, so I don't know if it's customary in applying to professional master's programs, but I don't think it will strike anyone as being unprecedented.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:52 PM on October 28, 2007

This should matter less and less in years to come. Don't change your name or adopt an "American"-sounding name. The suggestions above should be more than enough.
posted by Locative at 10:42 PM on October 28, 2007

This should go without saying but DO make sure you have 100% triple-spellchecked your entire resume. I don't mind a foreign name, but the first misused idiom or screwed up grammatical phrase and you're tossed. (That's true no matter what your name is, though, since my mind there should be 0 errors on a resume, ever.)
posted by disillusioned at 11:03 PM on October 28, 2007

The suggestions above are good, but there are other possibilities. One thing you could do is create an "Additional Information" section at the end of your resume and throw that in there, along with anything else you think they might find interesting. For instance, "I won a violin competition in college," or "I am a member of XYZ professional organization". (Stuff like that makes you seem like a more interesting individual and might actually help your chances.) The advantage of putting the citizenship at the end is that it looks less out of place, but the cost is that it's less noticeable.
posted by epimorph at 11:09 PM on October 28, 2007

Centering definitely does not look good. And when you have "U.S. citizen" under your name, it looks like a bit like something that belongson a business card, i.e.:

Larry H. Parker
Attorney at law
posted by HotPatatta at 11:10 PM on October 28, 2007

I don't know if it's good advice or not, but I have definitely done what MILS suggested for your exact reason, and my second language skills are not actually worth mentioning. It just seemed like the best pretext to work it in. Personally, I'll be taking special-k's advice next time.

Also, not to hijack pravit's question, but what if you're a US permanent resident, special-k? Same thing?
posted by BinGregory at 11:38 PM on October 28, 2007

A normal way to format for an academic CV would be to put your name at the top, centered. Then below that, left-justify your contact info, DOB, citizenship. Or put this info into two columns under your name, i.e., home address slightly to the left of your name and below it; work address slightly to the right and below. Then you can put cell, email, DOB and citizenship in some combination in those columns. (I can't figure out how to do this with HTML)

(centered): Firstname Lastname

Home: 123 Street St.
Anytown USA 12345

Office: 456 Road Rd.
Anytown USA 12345

Cell: 098-123-4567
Email: flastname@com.com

Date of Birth: 1-1-1900
Citizenship: USA

2001-2005 BA University of Anytown.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:47 PM on October 28, 2007

If you were actually born in the US, then maybe "Born: 12/12/1979 Milwaukee" would be even better, since you answer the citizenship and language issue all at once, without mentioning either.

(Maybe it's just me, but when I see "citizen" I assume it's recent (since who else thinks about it?), which could mean you immigrated last year. That is, it may be protesting too much.)
posted by rokusan at 12:00 AM on October 29, 2007

If you were born in the US:
Date of Birth: 1-1-1980
Place of Birth: Innsmouth, New England

or alternatively, if you emigrated as a child:
Date of Birth: 1-1-1980
Citizenship: USA (resident since 1990)

or alternatively, if you emigrated as an adult:
Date of Birth: 1-1-1980
Citizenship: USA (resident since 2000)

or alternatively, if you were a permanent resident:
Date of Birth: 1-1-1980
Citizenship: India (USA permanent resident since 1990)

Unless specifically asked, put your date of residence, rather than your date of citizenship, as it will be earlier. Take a notarized photocopy of your citizenship certificate with you to interviews, along with the rest of your "interview folder" contents (examples of your work, references, academic results, etc). A CV is not the only document you can supply to get a job, but it and a covering letter are all you should send before getting an interview, unless specifically asked.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:11 AM on October 29, 2007

I'm a US citizen with a strange name (to Americans) too, but English isn't my native language. So I don't know why simply stating you citizenship would mean much. I speak excellent English, but I know plenty of people my age, who've been here as long as me and are US citizens as well, who *can't* speak much English at all. So what does citizenship mean re: language knowledge? Not much.

The idea from MLIS is great - just notate that English is your native language and add whatever other bits and pieces of others you might know.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:11 AM on October 29, 2007

The way to impress them with your grammar is with the personal interview, not with you US citizenship. Frankly, that says little about your English grammar skills.

All of the online grad school applications ask if you're a US citizen

What, you think they don't read the applications?

You are over thinking this plate of beans. Everything will be fine. Your attention to detail will likely help you get the position you seek. Good luck.
posted by caddis at 1:04 AM on October 29, 2007

yeah, i wouldn't worry about it. a) you probably had to check that box on your application anyway, and b) they'll tell by your accent. also, in the interview, they'll probably ask you about yourself, so you can say, "well, i was born in cleveland, etc."
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:20 AM on October 29, 2007

Well ...

Actually, I have a foreign sounding last name, and I am (by birth) a US citizen. Two graduate programs wrote me back telling me I hadn't sent them TOEFL scores, and I _had_ checked the 'US Citizen' box.

posted by Comrade_robot at 5:31 AM on October 29, 2007

Don't use a pseudonym, but you may want to consider a nickname for CV purposes:

Reallyreallylongfirstname "Ed" Extremelylonglastnamepravit.
posted by GarageWine at 6:55 AM on October 29, 2007

If you want to emphasize you're a native speaker of English, I suggest putting that on the resume. Saying that you're a citizen says something different. Perhaps the same in some people's minds, but I know first-gen immigrant citizens whose English is not great.
posted by smackfu at 7:00 AM on October 29, 2007

You could give your verbal GRE score a place of prominence (assuming that it's very good!)
posted by footnote at 7:03 AM on October 29, 2007

As LobsterMitten says, it's a key piece of information on an academic resume. It would certainly affect you as a Master's student (foreign students usually pay higher fees, the grants you can apply for are different, etc...). It is entirely appropriate, desirable even, to include.

As a data point, when I look at CVs, I'm required by law to separate them by citizenship. It's very important information.
posted by bonehead at 8:04 AM on October 29, 2007

You could go with Firstinitial Middleinitial Longname. Or you could use a nickname. If you do either, be sure to let all your references know, so that they aren't caught off guard. "P. X. Lastname?" or "Ed Lastname?" -- "Uh, I know a Pravit Lastname."
posted by acoutu at 9:33 AM on October 29, 2007

Thanks for all the great responses!

I put a line "Citizenship: United States (birth)" below my contact info, and have English (native) on the list of languages I speak. Hopefully that'll get the point across.

Comrade_robot: Actually, I have a foreign sounding last name, and I am (by birth) a US citizen. Two graduate programs wrote me back telling me I hadn't sent them TOEFL scores, and I _had_ checked the 'US Citizen' box.

Ouch! That's exactly what I was afraid of. Did you mention your citizenship in the resume?

you may want to consider a nickname for CV purposes
Yeah, I've been thinking of adopting one of those short Chinese-American names, like Mark Hu or Alan Tam, since I'm of Chinese descent but go by an extremely long last name of another Asian country. But I figure the other stuff will be enough. Maybe my long name will help me stand out to adcoms!
posted by pravit at 11:15 AM on October 29, 2007

BTW, does anyone actually put their GRE score on their resume? We have to send the official report to the school anyway, and everyone applying has a similar score (high quantitative, middling verbal and analytical)
posted by pravit at 11:16 AM on October 29, 2007

When it's a CV for an academic application there are some items that are not required but that won't stand out as weird. Judgment calls. I think of GRE scores as being in this category; include if you like, but if the information is elsewhere in your application don't worry about it too much. (Clearly you would not put them on your CV/resume for any purpose other than application to grad school though.)

About the pseudonym question - I think adopting a full pseudonym, first and last names, would be weird. I think selecting a very short easy-to-pronounce nickname is the way to go if you're really worried about it, and it's fine to put that on your CV. This is what most academics I know with difficult-to-pronounce names have done. The nickname can be just a plain Anglo name, or can be a memorable abbreviation of your long name.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:13 PM on October 29, 2007

I do not recall submitting a resume -- I submitted the application, and a statement of purpose. I think it was just a lazy reader or something. Usually the requirements were TOEFL scores for people who were not American citizens and had not graduated from an American university. As I was both an American citizen and a graduate of a very well known American university, I cannot say that clearly stating my citizenship would have helped.

I sent back a polite letter reminding them, and it never came up again.
posted by Comrade_robot at 3:24 PM on October 29, 2007

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