Skip to content Skip to footer

Having Bad Luck with Online Identity Confusion?


A common case of mistaken online identity is when someone else that shares your name has a strong online presence.

No matter who it is that shares your name, it can create problems when you are trying to build a strong online identity. It can be especially damaging if your namesake has a bad reputation. Even if one’s namesake hasn’t done anything particularly embarrassing or scandalous, mistaken identity can still be a significant issue.

If you have a common name or the same name as someone with a strong online presence (good or bad), you will need to get creative in clarifying your true identity.

To clarify any confusions, follow these steps to make sure when people search for you online, they find the right kinds of results.

Try using variations of your name, such as:

  • Adding your middle initial or full middle name.
  • Using your legal name rather than a shortened version (i.e., Caitlin rather than Cate).
  • Including your maiden name as a middle name or hyphenated last name.

If you end up having to use a variation for your professional name, make sure you use it consistently on your résumé, cover letter, email signature, social media accounts, blogging username, website “About Me” page, etc. If you’re not able to differentiate yourself by name alone, you’ll need to make a strong presence for yourself in your industry and consistently use a clearly identifiable photo of yourself across all your online accounts.

Being Mistaken for Others Can Harm Your Online Reputation

The fact of the matter is, you probably won’t get a chance to defend whatever is considered to be ‘discovered’ about you online, so if anything could even be perceived as inappropriate or compromising, your chances of getting the position are at risk. In an effort to get rid of what is inappropriate, you may not have control over your namesakes’ photos, articles they’ve written, comments they’ve made on other blogs or social media, and their affiliations with other people or associations.

Online Identity Confusion
“Meet Your Digital Doppelgänger,” Kelli B. Grant – Wall Street Journal article

Mistaken identity can be especially costly for those seeking a new job. In a survey conducted by ExecuNet, 90% of executive recruiters confirmed that “they type a candidate name into an online search engine to find more information beyond what is on the executive’s résumé.”

“Rather than taking the blame for others’ mistakes, look for ways to differentiate yourself,” writes Chris Forman in a Forbes article, whose specific recommendations include using a distinct professional title like “Caitlin Andrews, CPA” and “a unique URL with your name for your social media accounts.”

Even if you don’t share a name with someone else, distinguishing and fortifying your online reputation is a smart and valuable move.

It’s also important to keep in mind what your online presence is telling employers. It’s important to keep in mind that your online image should match your offline image and it doesn’t try to portray someone you’re not.

With recruiters paying close attention to job seekers’ digital profiles, it is imperative to maintain control of your online social presence. Today, these profiles are an extension of your résumé and should be used to help – not hurt – your chances of landing the next golden job opportunity.