What Does Your E-mail Address Say About You?

Email In Inbox from Bigstockphoto.comImagine for a moment that you’re a hiring manager and you’ve been handed a resume. You have approximately 2 minutes to decide whether to call this individual and conduct a phone screen.

The resume can be a bit misleading. In some cases, it’s a semi-reliable document that presents the candidate in his or her best light—great! When the resume has come from a recruiter, though, it’s often NOT the resume the candidate provided. Many recruiters will format and “clean up” a resume, possibly introducing errors along the way. The same is true for a cover letter, if there is one.

There is one small thing you can look at, though: the candidate’s e-mail address. That’s almost never changed—even when a recruiter has handled the resume—and it can tell you something about how the candidate chooses to present himself or herself. This is a generalization, of course, and you should take it with a grain of salt. However, it is part of the overall picture that the candidate paints in your hiring-manager mind.

Here are some examples:

  • A custom domain (e.g., foo@mycompany.com): Take a look at the website; this is what the candidate is most identifying with. This is also an indicator that the candidate in question has or had other interests. It’s not a requirement—don’t go out and register a domain just for this—but it doesn’t hurt.
  • Gmail (e.g., foo@gmail.com): This is a perfectly fine e-mail address. It’s a current, widely used service. It’s the equivalent of choosing to write standalone CSS instead of saas or less; it’s not the hot new toy, but it’s a perfectly acceptable solution.
  • Hotmail or Yahoo (e.g., foo@hotmail.com): Think back to when these were popular, circa 2001-2007-ish. That’s about when this person last chose to make a change in e-mail. Often, this coincides with the most recent technologies the person has worked with. It’s fine if you’re using some older technologies, but it should be a bit of a flag to look at the candidate’s resume closely. This is equivalent to choosing to write a Web application in PHP. Sure, you can do it, and it can be fine, but that’s definitely not the mainstream solution anymore, and it kind of reeks of choices we all made 15 years ago.
  • AOL (e.g., foo@aol.com): This is downright old school. This is kind of like saying you’d still prefer to use .NET 2.0. Well yes, there are still .NET 2.0 applications out there, but that’s definitely not current anymore.
  • Current employer’s work e-mail (e.g., foo@mycurrentcompany.com): This is just plain unprofessional. The candidate is using company resources to conduct a job search. Thanks, but no thanks.

A single e-mail address should never make or break a candidate. It is part of the overall picture that a candidate presents, though, and so it should reflect some awareness of the current environment. Hiring managers expect candidates who keep up with technology changes and trends—even within a language or tool chain—and the e-mail address is a quick, small indicator for seeing how the candidate is keeping up. Make sure your e-mail address says what you want it to say.

6 Responses to “What Does Your E-mail Address Say About You?”

  1. Great post, and I generally agree with your suggestions. Buying your own domain is inexpensive and easy to set up. And then there are the unintended emails that someone thought was a good idea, such as this woman from Kentucky who had “kygirl@gmail.com” that could leave the wrong impression.


  2. Guy Rich

    Well Catherine..”to each their own” as the saying goes …I’ve been in IT for over 30 years now.
    I’ve been an independent contract systems consultant for 22 years now.
    If one is self-employed an emal address at your business website is a very good idea.
    However if your an individual who’s looking for work, then frankly I don’t think your email address makes that much difference; barring any arcane email addresses such as biteme@gmail.com
    But If you’re just using your name or a numbered variant it really shouldn’t matter.
    I think any manager who chooses to include the email address as a criterium has mental issues.

  3. Like the others, I think I got the wrong idea from the title of your article.
    I thought it would be warnings about the name of the e-mail, not the domain,
    for example, worldsgreatestlover@gmail.com or yousuckmorethanIdo@mydomain.com are much worse than bobama@aol.com

    However, I also disagree with your premise about gmail vs hotmail/yahoo/aol.
    If I acquired my yahoo e-mail 15 years ago, does that really make me less qualified than if I got it today? granted, most people looking for free e-mails today will go for gmail rather than the others, but should I really give up my 15-year old e-mail and change it ever few years just for a job? I’d lose all of my contacts or otherwise have a major inconvenience as I tell all my contacts to give up my old e-mail and start using this new one…every time I have a whim to follow the latest trends in free-e-mail.

    However, if your article included more details about it, that may have been helpful. For example, “to appear more current, you may want to get a new e-mail just for the purposes of job hunting. you can still hold onto your long-standing one for your personal life and give up the new email when the job hunt is over, but newer e-mail domain trends may help you to appear more current with the market and may help sway an employer your way.” that would have been a good comment to add!

  4. Fred Bosick

    I have a yahoo email address. I’ve had it for quite awhile. To me, it’s a phone number and, like a phone number, it’s convenient to have the same one for a long time. It’s also convenient for those who wish to stay in contact. I can understand if the name name part of it could be used to judge one’s professionalism and propriety. But the domain? Who cares as long as it doesn’t expire. Likening the recency of a new email address to willingness to learn new things just doesn’t make sense.

    And having a trailing number only shows that they’re the Nth person to try and reserve the name. Maybe that indicates lack of creativity? I can play too!