Is your email address killing your job search?

The job market is competitive and employers are simply inundated with applications. Richard Bolles, , author of What Color is Your Parachute, says that employers receive an average of 118 to 250 applications per advertised position. Out of necessity, the first task facing employers is to eliminate as many applicants as possible in order to get the stack of resumes down to a manageable number and then look deeper. One of the easy discriminators is email address. Really? Email address? Yes!

Professional. Adult. Civilian. Personal. Neutral. "Safe." These are the criteria for an acceptable job-hunting email address. Here are some examples of what is not acceptable:

  • Anything that could be interpreted as "off-color" or business-inappropriate. What "handle" was once, in a different life-situation, funny or cute may now be seen as juvenile. Keep the email address straight-forward and professional.
  • Anything that might alienate those who cheer for another team or hold a different political view. (Note: If you live in Alabama, you'll get this one. You may have to "declare," but not on a resume.)
  • A school ".edu" address. This might be OK for a student internship, but beyond that don't box yourself into a "student" identity.
  • A .mil or clearly work address. You should not be using your employer's computer to hunt for a job (even if you are transitioning military). This makes prospective employers wonder about your work habits and ethics. Use a personal email.
  • A shared family email. No, BobandSuzySmith@xxx or SmithFamily@xxx-style emails. Employers want to ensure that correspondence is going to the intended person and you want to be seen as having an independent professional identity.
  • Anything which dates you. Recommend not using any email address with your year of birth or year of graduation. There is enough age discrimination in the job market, without making it easy for an employer to casually categorize you as too young or too old.

All of the recommendations listed above are pretty common sense, but there are two that can touch upon cherished beliefs.

  • Nothing military. I recognize that many of us who are Veterans are attached to the military image and role. However, one of the assurances that civilian employers need, is that you recognize that you are a part of the civilian workplace. The want to see that you are "transitioned" and that you are not holding onto your previous military life. Eliminate any reference to rank or position. Emails such as SFCSmith@xxx, MAJJones@xxx, or Sniper6@xxx do not help you in the job search. You may be inadvertently categorizing yourself out of consideration or peg yourself out at a lower salary.
  • Nothing religious. While approximately 87% of Americans identify with a faith community, most employers are leery of anyone who might be a "religious fanatic" and who might create tension in the workplace. It is easier to just set aside the resume and move on to the next candidate.

The final recommendation is based on a technical consideration. Large servers, including at least some of those of the Department of Defense, categorize Hotmail as spam. Unfortunately, it is not just emails with Hotmail in the email address, but other Microsoft products such as .MSN or .Outlook. It took some detective work to figure out why my long-time .MSN email was being bounced by the local military installation. However, a little digging showed that beneath the surface, the .MSN was being changed to .Hotmail. This is clearly an unnecessary barrier to communication.

Most of us have email addresses that we have used for years and are reluctant to give them up. However for job hunting, our suggestion is to get yourself a Google Gmail account and name it something professional and related to your name. The account is free and available from: If you choose, you can auto-forward the Gmail emails to your preferred personal email account. However, if you are corresponding with the employer or those engaged in your job search, be sure to do so within Gmail.

Not everyone will agree with these recommendations, but they are based on best practices from our efforts to help Veterans and their families, transitioning military, and members of the Guard and Reserve to find good jobs and careers.