Does Your Email Provider Affect Your Job Hunt?


In Ye Olden Days of the 1990s, America Online ruled the consumer Web. Millions used AOL to get online; not a mailbox in the United States was spared from those colorful CDs that contained the service’s install program. (The CDs made excellent drink coasters, by the way.)

By the dawn of the 21st century, however, AOL found itself in decline. The bursting of the dot-com bubble, competition from upstarts such as Google, and a disastrous merger with Time Warner all corroded its audience and net worth. Nonetheless, the company managed to limp along on a combination of ad revenue and a dwindling number of dial-up subscribers, until Verizon announced on May 12 that it would acquire AOL’s assets for $4.4 billion.

Had tech history taken a few different turns, AOL might have remained a dominant platform and more people would still use its email on a personal and professional basis. But among people who registered with Dice over the past two years, some 55 percent used Gmail, followed by 17 percent who relied on Yahoo, and 7 percent who preferred Hotmail.

Comcast came in fourth in the rankings, with 1.9 percent of registrations, just ahead of AOL at 1.8 percent.

Does your choice of email provider make a difference when applying for jobs? Numerous websites have tackled that delicate question; as far back as 2010, Lifehacker suggested that using an AOL address in a tech-industry context was the equivalent of saying, “’Hi, I’m from 1996. What is this Internet you speak of?’”

Or as Gizmodo once put it: “Job hunting with an AOL address? Leave that back in 1998.”

Whether or not employers prefer one email provider over another, even subconsciously, a lot of people don’t like switching email addresses. If you started an account with a particular email provider 10 or 15 years ago, you’re likely to still own it, if only because transferring a decade-plus of messages to a new service is a considerable chore. Factor in a reluctance to update dozens of forms and contacts with a new address, and you have a whole lot of people unwilling to budge from the platform they joined when Clinton or Bush was president, no matter how it might affect perceptions.

In the end, the name you choose for your professional email is arguably more important than whether you opt for Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, or a custom address. When in doubt, simply use a variation of your name (many prefer to use the first letter of their first name, for example, followed by the entirety of their last); some people whose names pop up frequently (Jane Done, we’re looking at you) may need to throw in a few digits or characters as a differentiator (i.e., Jane_Done).

Choosing an email name that reflects your political or religious leanings, or implies too much personal information, should be avoided. And whatever you do, don’t go for a “funny” name like “WildPartyBill@.” That likely won’t gain you much traction with potential employers.

4 Responses to “Does Your Email Provider Affect Your Job Hunt?”

  1. Mike gideon

    That old address might just get your foot in the door. If you can backup the inquiry as to why you are using AOL, you might even have an edge. Someone who used, and still uses an old account might also shows they have been involved in the technology for some time.

    What every you use…be able to support why you use it.

  2. Brian Henchey

    SO INTERESTING! (…well..kind of.)

    This got on my radar about six months ago when at local adult ed class for starting an online business, the instructor said that if you’re not using a modern email provider (specifically gmail; or an email addy at your own domain name), then you’re likely to be not taken seriously online. As a longtime Yahoo! user, I was SHOCKED!!! I had heard maybe a year prior that Yahoo, despite its height being a half-decade or more ago, is still the #2 free email provider in the USA. …so how could using the #2 free email provider be “a sin”?!

    I do have to admit, however, that do have a bias against hotmail users: many years ago, upon _creation_ of my hotmail account, I had about 30 or 40 spam messages! — the account had only EXISTED for thirty seconds!!! …that was everything I needed to know about hotmail. And every time I checked it, I’d have a few real messages and hundreds of spam (and NOT in my spam folder..grrr..). So, I have thought that for anyone who uses hotmail in the 2010s, they’re probably completely unaware of what a modern email account has (like effective spam filters).

    So yes, I have bias against users of hotmail, specifically.

    As for users of AOL, I DO wonder why they continue to pay (presumably..) for AOL email when they could easily get free email. Hmm.

    Yahoo, however, has continued to allow me view emails individually, which the main reason why I’ve stuck with them over the years. With gmail some years ago, I had wanted a setting to unthread conversations but after investigating it, I found that that setting didn’t exist! Since, I’ve been told that that setting has been added; I just now investigated it and it’s called “Conversation View” — so it’s there now! So I might now complete the switch to gmail but I want to think about it. And I had to jettison Yahoo! Calendar some years ago when, out of nowhere, they stopped doing text reminders for calendar reminders. Why didn’t they communicate this SIGNIFICANT change?! (…grrr…)

    Anyway, thanks for the article, stats on new Dice accounts’ email providers, and the thoughts.

  3. Wendy E.N. Thomas

    I absolutely agree with everything in this article. I teach an online marketing class (in fact I teach the class that was referenced above) and one of the first things I tell the participants is to upgrade your email provider if you are on aol or yahoo. (Disclaimer, my geek son continues to use yahoo because he says it’s “cool.”) Aol is laughable (you are allowed to use it only if you are over 70) and yahoo, although #2, just never seemed to gain the traction that gmail did.

    It’s the same advice I give my writing students when we cover resumes. Use a current provider and please, for the love of God, get rid of user names like Kittylover23 – if you want to be taken professionally, you have to start looking like a professional.