"Babydoll," "Pryncess," "Pinkie" and "Angelgirl": These are all current, peppy, cute e-mail handles you might expect a teenager to have — but would you hire one of them?
Maybe if you were forming an all-girl pop band or planning a photo shoot for Lap Dancer Quarterly, but in corporate America? Maybe not so much. Yet, these oh-so-adorable names are just some of the silly, suggestive e-mail addresses employers have seen attached to resumes coming from job applicants with otherwise impressive credentials.
With an increasing reliance on technology to communicate, human resources professionals and employers say young job-hunters are stumbling into some major pitfalls by failing to realize what's cool — and what's not — when applying for work.
Pamela Holland, chief operating officer of Marjorie Brody Communications (search), a Philadelphia-based executive development and corporate training firm, was thinking about such un-savvy behavior when an applicant included his personal Web site on his resume. It didn't matter if the site displayed design and technical skill, Holland said — because she couldn’t get past the content.
“There were party pictures of him that didn’t convey him in a professional way," said Holland, who was stunned the applicant sent the site address to a potential employer. "It really called into question his judgment.”
Holland said she and her co-workers had a good laugh looking at the site — but the applicant didn’t get an interview.
“If someone puts a Web site on their resume, I’m going to look at it, but unless it is an example of their work, I’m going to say, ‘What a buffoon,’” said Holland.
Workers over 30 or so will remember the days when job seeking was a labor-intensive project of scouring newspaper want-ads, making the rounds of employment agencies and typing and mailing resumes and cover letters.
These days, technology has reduced the task of applying for work to little more than a few point and clicks. This also means the all-important first impression an employer gets of a potential employee is often an electronic one — and it's not always pretty, according to employment experts.
“It’s definitely on my radar whenever I present to a university — you have to have a professional e-mail address and a professional voice mail message," said career consultant Diane Darling.
Applicants should try to see themselves through the eyes of a possible employer, she said. What does your kooky e-mail address or prank voice mail message convey about you?
“It speaks to…how you present yourself in your job search,” said Rosemary Haefner, a senior career adviser with CareerBuilders.com (search).
While Haefner hasn't heard many complaints specifically about candidates' e-mail addresses, she said plenty of job seekers have had their chances torpedoed by inappropriate voice mail messages.
“Professionalism is the name of the game,” she said.
Experts say the big problem with e-mail is not just the wacky addresses, but the slang, jargon and sloppy spelling and grammar. You want the recipient to hire you, not LOL @ U.
“Never, ever would I recommend sending an informal e-mail as a cover letter. It’s one of the biggest mistakes people make,” Haefner said. “That needs to be a professional document and very well written."
The advances that revolutionized job-hunting in the 1990s corresponded with an economic boom that put workers in high demand. People snubbed their noses at many traditional protocols, and employers were forgiving. But now that the job market has contracted, employers no longer excuse lax standards.
"The vehicle for getting the information out has changed, but the rules are still the same," said Holland. "When jobs become tighter, standards become stiffer. There is a tremendous resurgence in traditional business [protocols]."
Thanks to technology, writers, photographers, graphic artists and other professionals can easily provide a sample of their work be creating Web sites that function as on-line portfolios. But as Holland's unfortunate applicant found out, a personal site can also backfire.
"Everyone is trying to find that leg up to stand out," Haefner said. "But the risk is that a lot of managers would see that as a negative."
Of course, every company has its own style. A hiring manager of a cutting edge tech firm may admire creativity that would likely be unwelcome on Wall Street.
"There's no way we'd ever consider hiring someone with a silly e-mail address," said a human resource manager at a major financial institution, who wished not to be identified.
The bottom line, experts say, is that job seeking is a sales game, and resumes, cover letters, e-mails, Web sites and voice mail messages are all part of the ad campaign applicants put out about themselves.
"People have to remember that they are a product," Holland said. "You are the most important product you will ever represent."