What does your email address say about you when you apply for jobs?

Your email address is an important part of your personal brand.  Before you begin your job search you should consider whether your current email address matches your career aspirations. It also needs to be sufficiently reliable and secure to support the hard work you are going to put into job applications. Using an inappropriate, inaccurate, or unreliable email address during a job search can undermine your efforts very quickly, so this question is important.

Job applications are now mostly submitted online, and your email address may well be your identifier in the application process. Newer HR systems, focussed on avoiding bias, should use other candidate identifiers but your email address will also be used and may be visible to a selection panel.   

Check your email address for these issues

If you still have a student email address, consider whether it includes your name or is just numbers – no-one wants to be a number for a job application. These addresses can also be risky because they tend to disappear after you graduate. If your student email address can be forwarded check how long this service will last. Academic recruitment processes can be very slow and you need your email address to be available for many months ahead.

Alumni ‘forever’ email addresses offered by some universities are usually forwarding services. You must keep them up-to-date and forwarded to an account you check regularly.  Most do not allow you to send email from that same address so, while they are useful on a CV, they don’t help much for job applications.

Using the email address provided by your current employer shows a lack of consideration for security and privacy. Recruiters will not appreciate this and we really do not recommend it.

If you are still using the platform email address you set up when you were first old enough to use Yahoo or Hotmail please check whether this is still appropriate and professional. BobbyBabyBoots@hotmail.com may make your nearest and dearest smile, but it is unlikely to get you remembered for the right reasons in the working world. It’s time to find yourself a new address.

Other options

Gmail and Outlook are the two most popular free webmail platforms. If you’re looking for other options, check out this list of viable alternatives.

Your internet service provider (ISP) may also supply email addresses. These can be very useful for as long as you remain with that provider, so this can be a worthwhile approach.

Getting your name right

Firstname.secondname@webmail.com is the gold standard for professional email addresses and if your name is unusual you may be lucky with this. If not, you can try another email provider, or think about variations that can work just as well.

Some people prefer to avoid numbers in email addresses, but this can be difficult to fix if your name is popular. Middle names or initials can be useful here and remember that dots, underscores, and hyphens are allowed by some, but not all webmail providers. Shorter is still better, particularly when filling in forms. If you really want to use numbers consider adding them at the start or between your names rather than at the end. 

A creative solution can be to add something about your academic discipline or work to your email address. Jane.Smith.researcher@webmail.com could work well and something like Optics.Mo.Suleiman@webmail.com could also make you easier to find, as long as your address does not become too long.

Another strong option is to make a surprisingly small investment to buy your own email domain. A sensible domain name shared by family members can be very useful and offers many security and privacy benefits. Domains do not have to be expensive and they can be mapped to other email services to keep costs low.   

An email address that is both easy to remember, pronounce, and spell will be useful for many, many years, so it is worth spending some time getting this right at the start of your job search.

There is a useful list of options to use your name in your email address at the end of this article. And some guidance by Google for acceptable usernames.

This is the second in our series of articles about tools for your job search. You can read the first article, about passwords, here.

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