Is your email address giving away your age?
The Viscusi Group receives hundreds of resumes a day, thousands a week. As these come in, we review them briefly to divide the deluge into serious candidates and those who we wouldn’t hire for any reason at all. In most cases, we can only spend a few moments per resume on this first pass. Occasionally, we get a resume that stops everything in the office. You don’t want to have the resume that stops everything in the office because not only does it mean you go into the ‘not if you were the last worker on the planet pile,’ but also because we might hang your resume on the wall to laugh at when we feel sad. The resumes that get hung on the wall are resumes that give the most absurd of the absurd email addresses. I know it sounds trivial, but you wouldn’t believe some of the email addresses people come up with. Before we jump into a few examples, let me assure you and the rest of my readers that all of the following email addresses are 99% real (I have changed names very slightly so as not to give out people’s email addresses, but the sum and substance are intact). Just to emphasize how crazy this is, please understand that a flesh and blood human person sat at their computer and from all the possible combinations of letters and numbers available to them, somehow landed on these terrible, terrible email addresses. We receive hundreds of resumes a day, thousands a week, so the crop from which I can pick is quite large, but still.
Before we get into the fun and games, let me just point out why the email address on resumes is so important. When an employer chooses to contact a candidate, chances are they will reach out by email, at least in the first instance. This means that they will need to look at the resume and copy the email into the address field. They will have to look at every letter and make sure that they didn’t make a typing error. All of this means a lot of time spent scrutinizing an email address, and believe me this affects HR people’s decisions because it reflects on your judgement. From our perspective, we also will never give a client a candidate with a ridiculous or vulgar email address because it reflects on our judgment too. Even if a candidate has stellar credentials, we would never open ourselves up to the risk of suggesting that a company hire someone with the email address email@example.com.
Okay, on to the examples. The most common bad email address are those that include birthdays. And while this won’t get you on to the ‘under no circumstances’ wall, it can adversely affect your chances of being hired. HR reps can’t ask for your age, but if you offer it up they will definitely use it. Maybe it isn’t right, but if you’re silly enough to give them the extra information they’d be crazy not to use it. Some people think they are being sly and will only include the last two digits of the year, but if you see enough email addresses like this, it’s always easy to tell. If you’re one of these people, change it! If you must use some form of your birthday because, let’s say, you need to use numbers and you lack the capacity to remember any numbers other than your birthday, why not use the numerical equivalent of the month instead of your birth year? Again, I’d recommend staying away from the birthday altogether, but by all that’s holy why would you want to give a prospective employer your age? The most ridiculous birthday email address I’ve ever seen--and really one of the most absurd addresses I’ve seen in all--was from an older gentleman, who, for whatever reason, was very into his birthday. It was firstname.lastname@example.org, and it has been a source of genuine pleasure for me ever since I saw it. It is the rare birthday related email that did, indeed, make it onto the wall.
Another age signifier that drives me crazy is when people add familial titles to their email addresses. This introduces all the same problems as having your age, but is even less shameless. My favorite of these was a woman who used MaternalGrandmaMarge@hotmail.com. I mean, somehow Marge made being a grandmother neither cute nor funny. It’s a great email address if the only people who email you are your daughter’s children. In every other conceivable context, it is utterly ridiculous. I would not hire MaternalGrandmaMarge, but I do chuckle whenever I think about her.
I often hear a lot of pushback about using addresses with certain domain names. I understand the connotations of an AOL or Hotmail account (and Yahoo is heading in that direction too), but I’m of the belief that they are what they are. I think judging email servers is perhaps a bit too far, especially when there is so much other information to take into account. That being said, I always encourage people applying to get a Gmail account, even if it’s only for this purpose. There really is no harm, and it does matter to some people. I’ll use this opportunity to bring up another one of the anti-All Stars because it’s related. I once received a resume that looked great, and I decided to write the candidate an email. Somehow, this resume had skated through our first review and low and behold, his email address was email@example.com. I actually thought it was fairly clever, but I decided to go with a safer choice, for obvious reasons. The lesson here is that clever email addresses are great for friends, but not always so great for getting hired. HR people want to hire reliable, responsible, smart people; cleverness is rarely requisite.
The last example I’ll mention is, perhaps, indicative of the type of email that gives me most pause. It’s not the funniest, but it is definitely one of the strangest and most revealing. I’m talking about collective family emails like, firstname.lastname@example.org. You would be shocked by how often I see this; I am shocked by how often I see this. I cannot imagine any explanation for using a joint family email for a job search other than ones that reflect horribly on the applicant--either they don’t know how to use a computer at all, or their spouse is worried that they’re hiding a whole lot. I understand how family email addresses can be a nice thing for children that are too young to have their own, but why would someone ever put that address on a resume?
Here is the point: if you are looking for a job and you think your email address is a strange one (if you even wondered whether yours was okay or not, it is not okay), you should simply create a new email address to put on your resume. It is so easy, and it doesn’t cost a dime. And although your own name might be taken, there must be some way to use your last name and keep it simple--throw in your middle name if you need to. The email address you use says a lot about who you are or, if nothing else, how much you know about email etiquette, and that is a story in and of itself. Of course, you then have to remember to check your new email account, but that shouldn’t be too much of a burden for an adult looking for a job. If it is, you have bigger problems than a strange email address. I know this all might seem like common sense, but I am always told that my common sense columns are the best ones. As amazing as it is, people need to hear this stuff.
Also, send me some of the best (worst) email addresses you’ve come across. I’m always looking for a good laugh
Stephen Viscusi is the CEO of The Viscusi Group, a global executive search practice specializing in the interior furnishings industry located in New York City. Viscusi is the author of the HarperCollins book "Bulletproof Your Job". . Viscusi is the author of the HarperCollins book "Bulletproof Your Job". You can visit his website at www.viscusigroup.com or follow him on twitter at @Stephenviscusi, Instagram at Stephenviscusi and Facebook Write him at Stephen@Viscusigroup.com