Free Email Services Look Unprofessional

I can’t help it, but every time I see a yahoo or hotmail email address on a resume, or a piece of official correspondence I cringe. It just looks incredibly unprofessional and tacky! I’m sorry if that offends you in some way but its true and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who thinks this way. If you know any recruiters or HR people, ask them about it. Some probably don’t care, while others will probably agree with me. It’s a turnoff! It makes you seem cheap, even if you try to be all business like and actually sign up using your real name rather than a nickname of some sort. Most people these days know better than to put their HotStuff69 or TheRealGangsta email address on official documents but it happens too.

I use Gmail for my personal mailings but I feel the same way about it too. If you put it on a resume, it looks tacky. Yes, I understand that there is a notable difference between a typical hotmail user and a typical Gmail user. The later tend to be more clueful as a rule. Possibly because Gmail was for the longest time an invitation only service. Even now it employs a non-standard, more involved sign-up procedure that gives them a bit more control over their user base. So while Gmail address is slightly more tolerable, it is still frowned upon (at least by me).

Don’t think that you’re off the hook Mr. @comcast.net amd Ms. @optonline.com! The fact that you actually figured out how to use your ISP’s email service just means you are a tiny bit smarter than the average internet user. You see, most of the folks out there sign up for free email services because they can’t figure out how to access their ISP based mail, or they don’t know they have it. Its great that you have figured it out, but it is still not your email! It belongs to the people who sell you your internet connection. It does not represent you, and you should not use it.

There are 3 types of emails I consider appropriate for resume’s and official correspondence and/or paperwork:

  1. Business email, but only if you own the company or are representing it company in some capacity.
  2. School (.edu) email but only if you are a student, faculty member or a recent graduate.
  3. Non-free, personal email from a domain name you own – but only if the domain includes your name.

And yes, it is a little bit restrictive. For example, putting your current work email address on your resume while you are out job hunting is probably a stupid idea. Not only can it get you in trouble at your current job (but since you are looking for a new one, then you probably don’t care) but it also shows prospective employee that you are willing and able to use company resources for personal business. Probably not the impression that you want to give to a potential employer. That’s what I mean about representing the company in some capacity.

Then again if you are a one-man consulting firm, or a successful business owner the rules here are a bit more lax. In such circumstance using your company domain name may add weight and prestige to your name even if the matter at hand doesn’t directly involve your company.

School emails are fine, unless you have graduated like 6 years ago and you are no longer affiliated with the school in any way. Why the hell would you still be using their mail system at that point?

How do you make yourself look semi-professional when you can’t really use your work email, and you are not a student? Get a domain name. It looks 100 million times better when your email looks like yourfirstname@yourlastname.com, something@firstnamelastname.com or some variation on that theme. I do understand that all of the John Smiths out there might have trouble setting that up. But that’s the idea, and it looks very impressive and speaks volumes about your level of professionalism.

It does cost money, but not a lot. For example, if you go with Google Apps registering a .com domain will only cost you $10 a year. This works out to be less than a buck per month, and you get a full suite of Google applications including Gmail, Google Docs, Google Chat and Google Sites – all configured and ready to go. So you actually don’t need to pay for hosting and email. Just buy a domain name through Google and enjoy awesome personalized email!

No Google is not paying me to say this (I wish they did though). I just don’t think you can find a better deal at the moment. I mean, you can probably buy a domain name for roughly the same price from Godaddy or NetworkSolutions or wherever. But they will charge you extra for the Whois anonymisation (which Google does for free) and you will still need to buy some email hosting service. If you go through Google it’s all free, and it works “out of the box” (so to say). It’s no harder than signing up for Yahoo or Hotmail – but you get so much more out of the deal. Not to mention that IMHO Gmail has possibly the best Webmail interface out there.

For me, registering your own domain and setting up a personalized email address is an investment. And it’s not just for you. If you actually get lucky and you can register your last name as your domain, you can easily hook up your whole family with super easy-to-remember accounts following the firstname@lastname.tld pattern. This way your friends and relatives no longer have to remember something as silly XxJohnSmith5691xX – in the end, everyone wins.

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14 Responses to Free Email Services Look Unprofessional

  1. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux Terminalist says:

    Why I’m I more “professional” if I pay 10 bucks to use the exactly same service I get for free? Here in Portugal even small businesses use @hotmail.com or @yahoo.com, like plumbers and such.

    Prior to GMail I didn’t think a free email service would be a good choice because of their limitations in terms of security and management, but as you pointed out, GMail offers great functionalities like POPS and SMTPS, which means you can use a professional email software and still be secure.

    What really would make me impressed is receiving job applications using digitally signed with something like GPG. Few people even know how to make keys and sign emails, but I think everyone should send their professional emails signed (and encrypted, when appropriate) to prevent identity theft.

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    True. My dad uses his AOL email for work stuff most of the time. Then again he is a private contractor and he gets most of his jobs via word-of-mouth recommendations and etc. He doesn’t even have a website, or any online presence so it sort of works for him.

    I was talking more about high tech jobs that require some clue. Developers, sysadmins and etc… I wouldn’t really care if my janitor, plumber, maintenance guy or secretary uses hotmail on his/her resume. But if I’m hiring a developer, software engineer or systems administrator – that would be a strike against them. I wouldn’t discredit them just based on the email – but given two similar resumes I’d probably gravitate towards the guy with his own domain rather than the hotmail guy.

    Btw, in US resumes are usually handled by HR departments first. Most people working there are barely competent with technology. So if your resume is not in Word (for example if you sent it in as PDF) it may get deleted on the first pass and never even considered. If you read all these job hunting guides, they actually tell you to use Word, and nothing but word because the HR monkeys won’t be able to figure out how to open them.

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  3. Dax UNITED STATES Opera Windows says:

    Luke, I had no idea Google offered those services for essentially free. I pay way too much for my domain and webhosting and I don’t even really use the webhosting. Through google, it seems that I get all of the things i want (mail, docs, limited hosting too?) for basically nothing. Do you currently use google apps? What can you do through it as far as web hosting and file hosting? It looks like it would be a good deal for me. I’m very tempted to cancel my current webhosting and just go with google.

    And yes, they should pay you for getting the word out about this. I had no idea.

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Dax: You get Google Sites – look it up. You can create sites with a free Gmail account as well. It lets you create simple static websites, and choose from between few dozen different layouts and etc. It is not much, but it is enough to create a basic personal info page, or a landing page for your pet project or something like that. I think you get ~10G of space shared across all your sites and docs or something like that.

    I know they will sell you a domain name for $10 per year, but I don’t know how much flexibility and configuration they gave you. I actually bought a standalone domain (from godaddy) and just pointed it at google apps.

    Oh if you get a Blogger blog and Google App Engine account you can point your domain at those as well. So you have mail, docs, sites, dynamic web applications, and a semi-decent blogging platform for ~$10-$20 per year.

    Btw, this site is hosted by Dremhost (that’s why it is so slow and goes down so much). So if you want to run wordpress or a wiki or something dynamic you are probably better off sticking with your cheap hosting.

    Btw, the free version of Google Apps is somewhat hidden. When you go to the Apps For your domain page you will see prices for their paid service. There is a tiny link in the corner saying “compare with standard” – that will let you create the free account.

    Oh, and one thing about Apps – you get updates long after everyone else. For example, my apps account doesn’t have “themes” in Gmail or any of the “Labs” features. :(

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  5. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I think that even if I have my own domain, I’m sure I would also look unprofessional sending my email address as “mart@thesingaporeangamer.com”. The domain makes it look idiotic. But once I start a family, I do have plans to buy another one resembling my family name.

    But for me, I feel that having a gmail account seems good enough, rather than yahoo or hotmail ones. Just have to make sure that the username is not idiotic.

    My friends did share a variation of this joke once:

    Interviewer: “So I see your email is sexyman12@hotmail.com?”
    Applicant: “Err yes…”
    Interviewer: “No wonder I couldn’t register that! Mine’s sexyman13@hotmail.com.”

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  6. Hector SPAIN Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    For me it somehow depends on what you put “before” the @gmail.com. It’s not the same “HotStuff69″ or “sexyman13″ that your name.lastname. Something not idiotic, as Mart said. It’s not the best option, but I would go on reading.

    And about your personal domain, I don’t think it needs to be related to your name, just look professional. Like the name you would put to a company if you owned it.

    I don’t like .edu mails used for business stuff except if it is related to it. I mean it’s ok for a faculty member doing faculty memeber things, or for a student looking for internships, but I don’t think it works the same for recent graduates. It’s like they are not moving on. On the other hand I am tired of students mailing me from gmail or hotmail accounts, it’s not professional either. But probably we could blame how the university mail works…

    One thing more, here in Spain there are professional associations we call “colegios”, I don’t know if it works the same in the US. I would add that kind of email to your list. Somehow it means “I am an engineer (or architect, or whatever) and I am willing to work as one, and keep up to date with my peers”, or at least it should…

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  7. FlipX AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I agree in every regard, Luke. Hotmail addresses scream “desperately-trying small-timers”. Gmail addresses are borderline, if handled properly, as Hector points out.

    I use my uni address on my CV, but thanks for the heads-up re Google Apps. :)

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  8. Tino GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Google apps offers a really good deal. But be aware of the limitations. The thing I dislike the most is that you cannot really use aliases. [Highly relevant link redacted due to braindead spamfilter; just google for ‘request remove on behalf of’]

    Also, there is no way to move a google apps account between domains. That means that if you change your company or last name, you are in trouble.

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  9. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Dear Luke,

    I am not sure that I agree with you here. I have a very common and long name in French, and despite the fact that I own several domain names (including the one I am using right now), having an e-mail address in the format of firstname@name.com or anything like this is simply not convenient at all. The best I could reasonably do would be an address like initials.name@marelles.net (which I own).

    So I use either that one or my gmail one for cv’s. The massive advantage of Gmail is also that it does tagging and archiving, which, combined with Google Docs and Google Cal is great for job searching.

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  10. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Hector: True. Using something like “firstname.lastname@gmail.com” is ok. It’s that borderline condition. Same thing with hotmail, doesn’t work for me though.

    And yes, I’d add the professional organizations to the OK list although I don’t really see them that much here.

    @Alphast: Good point on the long/hard to spell names. Still, I’d argue that using part of your name or your initials is better than something more abstract.

    For example, I wouldn’t use my @terminally-incoherent.com email on a resume. The focus of this blog is more entertainment than anything else. I talk about video games, RPG, rant about DRM, review anime and scifi movies and etc.. I’d rather have the employer form their first impression based on a simple static page with some basic info, and perhaps few links to my projects and past work.

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  11. Sam Weston UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Just registered samuelweston.com because of this post. Unfortunately all the weston.net,com,co.uk were taken :( The google apps service is truly awesome. Just found a script to migrate all my email from gmail too! http://www.thamtech.com/blog/2008/03/29/gmail-to-google-apps-email-mig ration/ I’m a CS student so appearing professional in this way is very important to me. Off to modify my cv now.

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  14. Ray Gardener CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Just a quick note, to assist you in your noble quest for quality. Where you said

    “The later tend to be more clueful as a rule.”

    I think you meant to say “latter”. :)

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