Work It Out

How your name and email address affect your chances of getting hired

Dear Work It Out,

I often wonder whether a person's name shapes the person they become. Can a blah email name be a turn-off when employers look at my resume? I have a common name, so I had to create an email address with my name and a random number to get it.

Should I create a snappier email address? And is a Gmail account looked at more favorably than, say, a Yahoo account? I have experience in management, yet I have gotten very few responses to the 60 applications I have sent.

This is a fascinating question. At Business Insider, a colleague and I previously wrote about how much your name can subtly affect your chances of success.

For instance, research has shown that having an easy-to-pronounce name makes people like you more, and having a common name can increase your likelihood of getting hired.

Know, too, that some hiring managers may make judgments based on conscious or unconscious race or gender bias. For example, one 2004 study found that white-sounding names like Emily and Greg received 50 percent more interview requests than black-sounding names like Lakisha and Jamal. This is illegal and discriminatory, but largely out of your control.

Perhaps interesting and relevant to your question, other research indicates that using a middle name, middle initial or even multiple middle initials can make people think you are smarter and better at your job. Indeed, the more middle initials you use, the better off you seem to be.

This perception may stem from the fact that scholars, as well as people in elite professions like medicine and law, often use their middle names or initials in academic papers and official documents.

So if you're looking for a way to differentiate yourself, consider using your middle name or initial in your email address and resume. For example, instead of going by John Smith at johnsmith267@gmail.com, you could try John K. L. Smith at johnklsmith@gmail.com.

You also asked whether your email account provider matters. I'd say the content of your email address is the most important factor. It should be professional, and it should not include cute or clever phrases that harken back to your grade-school days.

That means no jokes (mathwhiz3.14@verizon.net), no sports references (gatorsfan4eva@yahoo.com), no flirting (coolguyNYC@hotmail.com) and no shared email addresses (johnandjanesmith@aol.com). Your name or company brand is ideal.

I doubt the account itself has much of an impact, but it's possible. Using a legacy provider like AOL, for example, may subtly signal that you're not as up to date as you could be. Personally, I don't think you could go wrong with a Gmail account, which is free to open.

At the end of the day, hiring managers are looking at the totality of your credentials, work history and self-presentation, so your name and email are just a small part of the whole. As long as you don't make major mistakes — like using a goofy or nonsensical address — your experience should speak for itself.

Have a pressing career concern or question? Email me anonymously at workitout@cnbc.com. Submissions may be edited for length and clarity.

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