This post originally appeared on January 6, 2009.
…then we need to talk.
There are many ways that otherwise good candidates make fools of themselves via email. See if any of these sound familiar:
- Failing to check your email. I can’t even count how many times I’ve emailed someone to set up an interview, and received no response. Invariably, a week or two later, after we’ve finished interviewing and are about to make an offer, I get an email back. It usually says something, “I don’t check this email address that often, so I didn’t see this. Can I still come in for an interview?” 99% of the time, the answer is no. The email address that you use on your resume should be the same as the one you use to apply, and it should be one that you check DAILY. At least. Don’t think they’ll call you to follow up. When you have 100 candidates, it is faster to email then to call and play phone tag…and they’re not going to hunt you down if you don’t respond. Check your email.
- Using some cute signature line in your email. If you have a free email service like Yahoo that puts ads or links in automatically, that’s fine. People understand. But if you have Bible quotes, song lyrics, political statements, links to your MySpace page, or anything else, remove it until you have a job. Even if the recipient agrees with your quote, likes your song, or whatever, it just doesn’t show best judgment or most professional image when your nice cover letter is capped off by personal fluff.
- Using a shared email. If your email is “TheSmithFamily@domain.com,” or “JoeandDebbie@isp.com,” it’s time to get your own email. For one thing, addresses like this make it look like you use the computer so infrequently that you don’t even need your own email address, which does not project the image of computer literacy and competence you want. For another, I’m going to be emailing you about interviews, offer details, salary information, and other stuff I don’t necessarily want to discuss with your spouse and/or kids. It’s fine if you want to share that stuff with them, but it makes me and most of my colleagues uncomfortable to negotiate salary or send a rejection letter to “TheSmithFamily.” You wouldn’t invite them to the interview, so don’t invite them to our correspondence before or after the interview. Even if you know you’re the only one who actually logs on and reads the email, get yourself an address that shows you’re a professional who takes this process seriously. You can get free email on Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail, or (usually) through your ISP.
- Using the same login name for your extracurricular activities. Let’s say your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, if I Google “email@example.com,” I’m going to find pretty much everything you ever publicly posted under that email. If you’ve been careful not to post anything too goofy, that’s not a big deal. If I Google “coolchick1971,” though (without the @domain.com part), I might find all kinds of additional stuff that you wouldn’t have expected. I had this happen in an investigation I conducted once: a guy was accused of doing something pretty serious via a computer at work. In conducting the investigation, one of the things I had to do was Google his username from his email address. A lot of stuff came up, including his “favorites” on a porn site, his personal ad for anonymous hookups, and a bunch more. The guy was a great employee (and was cleared of any wrongdoing in the investigation), but it was still WAY too much information. Some employers Google pre-hire, and I know for sure there are employers who wouldn’t have hired based on all of that (I’m not advocating that point of view, but you should know it’s out there).
- Using your work email. This is a tricky one. Personally, I don’t care all that much if people use their work email. After all, there are plenty of circumstances in which someone knows well in advance that their job is being eliminated, and they’re job hunting with the company’s blessing. At my last company, we had several hundred people in that category, and we had no problem at all if they were using our email to communicate with other employers. We wanted them to find work. However, I know a fair number of corporate recruiters, HR people, and hiring managers who have a fit whenever they see a company email address from a candidate. I think they’re being a little unreasonable, but there are enough of them that you should know about it. As a result, it’s probably safer to get yourself a free Gmail or Yahoo account and use that instead.
- Using a dumb email address. Honestly, I wish I could share some of the email addresses I’ve seen, but I fear they’d set off the porn filters for those of you reading this from work. Willworkforbeer@xxx.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com…these are not good email addresses to use to find work. If you have a real-life email address that’s clever or cute or reflects your favorite sex act, well, it’s a free country. When you need a job, though, get yourself a real email with your real name, and use it exclusively for your job hunting efforts. One of the favorite conversation topics of HR people at networking events is the dumb email addresses we see from candidates. Don’t be one of them, please.
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