Skip to main content
ask a career coach

The Question:

What does your e-mail address say about you to an employer? I've got a creative e-mail address that I've had for years (it starts with "dndgeek"). Of course I'm including my e-mail address on my résumé and on all my cover letters. Do I need a more sterilized one for job seeking? And will an employer think better of me if I have a Google or Yahoo or Hotmail account?

The Answer:

You always have to be aware of what type of impression – especially first impression – that you are making with others.

Put yourself in the position of the hiring managers at the prospective employer and think about how they will react to a different or unique e-mail address. Will it make you stand out, or will it cause them to drop your e-mail and any attached cover letters or résumés to the bottom of the pile, or even into the trash bin? You want to set yourself up for success, not for questioning or possible rejection.

The use and acceptability of a unique e-mail address also depends on what type of field or sector to which you are applying. Information technology, engineering, research, or academic fields might find the term acceptable or unacceptable depending on their comfort level with the word "geek."

The level of the position for which you are applying will also make a difference; in an entry level position the term "geek" might be more acceptable, but in a management or executive level position it might not be so amusing. Think about how you want to present yourself – as a professional, or as a quirky tech type.

Ask for a copy of the job advertisement and the position description. Check out the company website to get an idea of what type of culture it has – formal or informal. Telephone and talk to human resource staff or other company officials about the culture and atmosphere.

Think seriously about prospective employers and hiring managers. What do you think that they are looking for in the ideal candidate? How do you think they would react to funny or offbeat e-mail addresses? Err on the side of being more professional, formal and conservative in your initial presentations to a prospective employer.

It does not matter if you have a Google, Yahoo or Hotmail account. Employers are not concerned about which Internet service provider you are using (unless they are competitors of the providers).

In a related vein, make sure that you have a professional presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo and other networking sites. Make sure there are no inappropriate photos or videos of you on Facebook, You Tube and other social media sites. Ensure there are no inappropriate comments, articles, or other representations of you on any social media or personal websites or blogs that a prospective employer might access. If you don't, they might find them and decide you are not the mature, professional, respectful, intelligent and discerning individual they envisioned from your résumé or met during in an interview.

If your personal e-mail address is the one that takes you to social media sites where you are not able to expunge all the inappropriate materials and photos, then you should consider setting up a professional e-mail address to use solely for business and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo.

Use your common sense and discretion in your connections with a prospective employer. You only get one chance to make a good first impression..

Bruce Sandy is principal of and Pathfinder Coaching & Consulting in Vancouver.

Have a question about careers, labour law or management? Send it to our panel of experts: Your name and address will be kept confidential.