Is Your e-Mail Address Hurting Your Job Search?

Overwhelmed Employers Look for Reasons to Eliminate Resumes - Don't Make it Easy!

The first task of an employer sifting through hundreds of resumes/applications is to eliminate all but the most promising.  They look for obvious qualifications like experience, education, critical skills but they also look for clues to cultural fit, maturity, professionalism, and social awareness.  

While most of us understand  that email addresses like "hot_babe," studly_guy,"  "hard_drinkin_redneck" etc., do not belong on a resume or job application. , in my work with job-seeking Veterans, I have come to believe that there are more subtle email addresses that can hurt the job hunt.  Here are specific recommendations for professional email addresses. These are emails addresses that are 

Professional email addresses are "adult," civilian, personal, neutral, and "safe."  Avoid email addresses in these categories:

  • 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 as I do, 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, KenandBarbieSmith@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. They 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 some 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.



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Reflection by Paulette Risher (MG, US Army, retired), Chief Programs Officer at Still Serving Veterans,