Does My Email Service Provider Make Me Look Old

Avatar of Kathleen Smith
Kathleen Smith

I recently asked a defense contracting recruiter if a job applicant with an AOL, Hotmail or Yahoo email address pegged them as out-of-date.

Her immediate response was, “No not at all,” and she walked away.

But then this 30-something recruiter turned around and said, “But when I was looking for a job last year I got a gmail account so I wouldn’t have to use my AOL account. I wanted to look more current.”

I received similar responses from many recruiters. Their first answer was usually, “No I wouldn’t think anything of it.” Then they processed it a bit more and realized that subconsciously they did immediately brand that person as old school. And not necessarily in a good way.

What’s the Big Deal

An “older” email service provider may brand you as behind the times or resistant to change. It’s not just an age thing. It’s the perception of clinging to old technology.

It may signal that you are out of touch with today’s technology or not in tune with change. And employers want to hire people who are open to change.

We make instant judgments about others we first meet, whether that interaction is online, on paper or in person. Judgments we don’t necessarily realize we’re making. Recruiters are making those judgments about you too. Whether they fully realize it or not.

What Should My Email Address Be

It’s not only your email service provider that you need to consider in your job search. It’s what appears before the @ sign that’s important too.

Your job search email should be your name. If you have a common name, add some numbers to it.

Don’t be one of the people that recruiters love to talk about — “hotsugarmama”, “noviagra” or “idontpickmynose”. Yes those are all real job seeker emails. The list is endless.

But you also don’t want to use a hobby or interest.

Why It Matters

Professionalism. Some recruiters view a hobby or informal email address as being unprofessional and inappropriate for the workplace and your job search.

When you use your name as your email address, a recruiter immediately knows that they grabbed the correct email address to communicate with you. For the same reason you should always identify yourself in a voicemail message used for your job search. The last thing you want to do as a job seeker is put doubts in a recruiter’s mind.

Even if you don’t agree with this view, consider this. It’s your job search. Why take the chance?

Take control of all the variables that you can — a professional email address, a professional voicemail message, a great cover letter and resume, etc. — so you put your best foot forward with every contact you make in your job search.

And from TheOatmeal.com:

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15 Comments

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Avatar Image Ruthann Grace

While I appreciate the sentiment of this post and I do have a Gmail personal email address, I do get a bit tired of the age bias that exists in regard to the perceptions about the computer literacy of the boomer generation. As a boomer myself I am more tech savvy than most of my younger peers and most of my friends are as tech savvy as I am or are more so. Many times in conversations with younger friends and coworkers I am the person who is giving them the information on the new app, website or aggregator. When it comes to doing web searches to conduct research I often am more targeted in my approach than my younger peers and as a result find more robust information quicker. A computer, mobile device and the web are just tools. They are not age defined.

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Marie Koko

I agree with Ruthann (though I’m Gen X)….I have had two Hotmail accounts (one for friends, one for shopping and armchair activism) for years and they serve me just fine. I also have a work email and seriously, three is enough emails to manage. I used my Hotmail on my last job search and it didn’t hurt me at all (I got the job). Looking at your descriptor above, I am actually a combo of the “personal” and the “gmail” description; the one the folks in the office turn to for tech help! Like Ruthann…I find myself teaching my 18-20 something students tips and tricks for better using MS Office and the internet all the time.

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Kathleen Smith

Thanks guys for the comments. We actually asked the defense and intel recruiters these questions based on questions that we were receiving from job seekers of many different generations.

As technology expands, so do the communication vehicles. Many folks only communicate by phone, others only on Twitter, but in job search the central conduit for communication is email. Your email address is part of your brand. After your resume and skills, the email address is something that the recruiter will see time and again. Thus, the more you can do to represent your professional brand in a job search through your email address the better.

And yes, a younger generation does not necessarily mean more technologically adept. Each generation will be more adept than others in different forms of technology based on their personal abilities, access and instruction.

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Avatar Image William Lim

I too agree with Ruthann (and I’m Gen Y). Tech savvy isn’t age defined. In fact, some of the most enthusiastic Twitterers I know are older than I am, whereas I barely use Twitter. I have, however, kept the same primary email address provided by my home broadband ISP for over 10 years.

I think the whole deal with Gmail users being seen as more savvy is the same kind of hipster cooler-than-thou attitude that also sees iPhone owners as more savvy than Droids, even though Droid devices outsell iPhones. These are really matters of personal preference that I just don’t see translating into actual competency. After all, Gen. Petraeus and Paula Broadwell both used Gmail.

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Erik G Eitel

I have read a decent amount about this topic. While I do think an @gmail.com email address perhaps comes across more professional than say an @hotmail.com email address… I think it ultimately comes down to the name in front of the domain. If I were a recruiter, I don’t think I would even look at a resume with an email outside of their name in front of the @.

Perhaps for people who have been using email since email first existed, it might make more sense to keep the “old” email because that’s what others have in their address books or reach them by. Should we automatically assume that someone using a @comcast.net domain is a family man/woman? I think a lot can be said by the domain that people choose, however I don’t think any conclusions should be drawn from it.

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Sterling Whitehead

I’m 28, so I’ll try to offer some somewhat youthful perspective. Yes, if you have a @aol.com email address, I will automatically, unfairly, and unintentionally view you as older and less computer savvy. The same unfair bias applies with yahoo and hotmail but to a lesser extent. That being said, I still find myself being taught tricks on MS Excel and Word by older coworkers.

Technological competency is not determined by age, but there are automatic biases. Let’s not fool ourselves.

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Stuart Heiser, MPP

NASPAA encourages students and recent graduates to use their @school.edu address, especially when the domain is the school’s full name or recognizable acronym, as it instantly conveys an association with their program.

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Avatar Image William Lim

Using @school.edu is a great idea, except that many schools expire your email address 6-12 months after graduation (sometimes much sooner). Nowadays the typical graduate job search can take years. Savvier/elite schools either allow alumni to keep their school address for forwarding only (Columbia), or set up something like @alum.school.edu (Harvard) through the alumni association or the school itself. As technology costs come down and the importance of email goes up, I wish more schools would do this – especially also given the general disgruntlement among recent graduates that high tuition hasn’t resulted in better career advising services.

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Kathleen Smith

Great comments and I like that we are able to separate the issues of technology versus how an email supports your brand/image in a job search.

Yes it is what is in front of the @ sign that makes a difference. You don’t want to have the recruiter have to think “now is huggybear@yahoo.com” John or is it Jim. You want to reinforce your brand my having your name, or a version of your name and that is it.

It is ok to have one email address for job search different than your work email address or your personal email address. This will help you isolate and focus on each activity at hand.

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Tracey Harriot

This topic came up recently in an HR course. There were two hiring managers in the course who said outright that they do not even look at a resume if they see @aol.com in the email address. They did not expand upon why, although I assumed it was the age/out of date technology issue. I found it very interesting, but appreciated their honest replies.

I’m in the middle somewhere, I guess? No gmail account, but I still have an older mac.com email address, which hasn’t been available for a few years. (Although depending on who receives it, I could get some extra credit for being “a mac person.”)

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Dennis McDonald

One of my email addresses is a paid yahoo account — it’s rock solid and has good spam control. But every now and then it gets rejected by a sign up process as being a “free” account, even though it’s not. I usually find these are older or less sophisticated sites, though.

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Victoria A. Runkle

A different perspective. An ‘old’ email address may mean the applicant hasbeen using technology for a long time — and is actually a person who is an early adapter. Having sated that, it is important to adapt. Adapt, but if you have had an address since the beginning of email, itis important to know the roots.

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