Changing your email address is a massive pain in the ass. Realistically, you end up just having to check the old one and the new one for years on end, getting into weird cycles of forwarding emails from your old address to your new one to reply from, accidentally replying to yourself instead, missing out on all sorts of stuff and it’s just all awful.
But, if you have a super-dumb email address, it might be worth the effort. If you find yourself going to Hotmail and painstakingly typing in the username bluntzbluntzbluntz69 only to find an empty inbox after applying for a bunch of jobs, for instance, you might be due a change.
“I would always look past the email address and explore the CV, skills and potential of the person before judging their email address, but there have been occasions where I’ve had to respectfully encourage a candidate to change their email address in order to avoid any negative preconceptions from an employer,” says James Congdon, founder and director of London-based specialist recruitment company WithFrontier. “Email addresses containing profanity, references to childhood or just cringe claims such as ‘paulissexy’ or whatever are obviously going to lead to early prejudices from the person looking to hire, irrespective of whether those prejudices are just or not.”
Congdon points out that very few people would attend a job interview wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the claim that they were sexy. (Which is probably true, even if they ordered that shirt using their abigdogdoingabigpoo at Yahoo! address.)
“Everyone knows you put your best foot forward for an interview, and they don’t want any surprises once they hire you, so initially almost any little thing can be a disqualifier when there are so many people to choose from,” says New York-based career coach Jamie Petrizzo. “A strange email address would be one of them, potentially denoting someone who isn’t to be taken seriously.”
A study in 2007 found that the same resume would be viewed differently in terms of how hard-working and professional a job applicant was when it came from two different email addresses — one sensible, one silly. And research by TopResume in 2018 found 46 percent of recruiters cite unprofessional email addresses as “dealbreakers.”
“I’ve seen some doozies, both as a recruitment consultant and as an employment coach,” says Australian recruiter Frank “The Job Whisperer” Baran. He explains there are outright unprofessional email addresses and ones that might work against you in a more subtle manner. If you aren’t the youngest of applicants, an email address with your year of birth in it might not do you any favors. “Employers shouldn’t discriminate based on age, but it does happen,” he says.
He also points to faith-sharing emails (like bettylovesjesus@… or trustthelord@…), anti-faith ones (such as satanicsusan@…) and those including the number 69 — whether revealing yourself to be 52 or boasting about a hobby — as unprofessional moves. “My all-time favorite remains idrinkbourbontogetdrunk@…” says Baran. “Not sure if I want that person in my workplace.”
Jobs are all well and good, but what about if you’re trying to impress people in other ways?
On a lot of dating platforms, a username is one of the first things people see about you, and the same thing may well apply. “If you have an ill-thought-out or auto-generated username on your online dating profile, it will make you look at the best careless, at the worst like a bot,” says dating coach Hayley Quinn. “A lot of online dating success comes down to being able to create a great brand image for yourself online that communicates the right values to the person you want to attract; that’s why I would skip out on usernames that are woefully immature (WeedKing246) or unoriginal (Kelly72). Instead, even if your actual name has been taken by someone else already — damn them! — tweak your username to express an interest you love or a personal quality: SteveLovesEspresso, SmartDave, CuteErica, AlisonWrites, etc.” (Side note: Poor WeedKing246.)
Back on the job front, there’s also the second part of your email address to consider — the domain name. If you have a completely professional username but an AOL address, or you’re Hotmail til death, could that work against you?
“By and large I would say no, but it would depend on the role,” says Congdon. “If somebody was going for a web developer role, for example, then there may be some question marks around why they would maintain said email address over something like Gmail or even an email address attached to their own domain.”
The Poynter Institute suggested in 2018 that a no-Hotmail policy could even be seen as age discrimination. The recruiters they spoke to largely felt that, while an old-school email address could be a talking point, it wouldn’t be held against an applicant the way a really dumbassed username might be — if you’re using firstname.lastname@example.org, it’s not the Hotmail part that’s ruining things for you.
“Hotmail is probably the second most acceptable one, after Gmail,” says Andy, head of operations at a tech startup. “The ones that would really give me pause would be AOL or another ISP, like they had resurrected an old email address purely to apply for the job, when really they had no use for one in everyday life because they led very offline lives. Something like that suggests you’re just using an address that has been provided to you. The only wackiness that might be impressive would be a custom domain from an obscure top-level domain that they’ve configured to be very short or look like their name — that might demonstrate some technical ability.”
On the whole, though, wackiness seems like something to avoid. However much you might enjoy logging in as asseatingrobot, garyhazaboner or piecesofshit4brekfast, it’s worth your while to grit your teeth, move on and put your silly email address out of its misery. Besides, inside your heart, where it really matters, you’ll always be 420dildomagician.