Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-2011

Department

Psychology

Abstract

When a person applies for a job online, one of the first things a recruiter learns about the applicant is the applicant’s e-mail address. So what might a recruiter think about an applicant who refers to himself as DemonSeed420@ mail.com or FluffyBunny@mail.com? That is, would job applicants with unprofessional e-mail addresses behave less professionally than applicants with more appropriate addresses? Will CrzyBioch@mail.com be as unstable as she claims to be? Should an employer take a chance on LittleBabyLazy@mail.com? Managers often make snap judgments about job candidates (Howard & Ferris, 1996) and do so using whatever information is available to them including the candidate’s smile, clothing, handshake, small talk (Barrick, Swider & Stewart, 2010), or name. For instance, Bertrand and Mullainathan (2004) mailed resumés in response to help wanted advertisements in Boston and Chicago. The researchers mailed identical resumés, manipulating only the first name of the applicants to be either a stereotypically “White” name or a stereotypically “African-American” name. Across all industries, occupations, and employer sizes, resumés with “White” names (e.g., Greg, Brad, Kristen, and Allison) received 50% more callbacks than did resumes with “African-American” names (e.g., Darnell, Jermaine, Latoya, and Tanisha). E-mail addresses function like names but e-mail addresses may have a greater potential to shape impressions than a given and/or family name because they can reflect more than gender and ethnicity. For example, e-mail addresses can imply skills (IronWelder@mail.com), political affiliation (BlueDem@ mail.com), interests (CarGal@mail.com), and values (ProLife56@mail.com). In a study about the relationship between e-mail addresses and personality traits, Back, Schmukle, and Egloff (2008) asked 600 university students to complete the Big Five Inventory. The researchers then gave the students’ e-mail addresses to a group of judges and asked the judges to guess how each student would score on the Big Five. The authors found that the judges were able to guess how the students scored on Openness and Conscientiousness. For example, judges guessed that students with addresses like Cares4Little@mail.com and SloppyMoe@mail.com would score low on Conscientiousness, and they were right. Like Back and her colleagues, we tested the relationship between e-mail address and personality, but we also wanted to know if an address could tell us something about an applicant’s job qualifications. More specifically, we asked if candidates with addresses that contained references to sex, antisocial behavior, and deviant interests were less intelligent, conscientious, professional, and experienced than applicants without these types of references. We also asked if candidates with nondeviant but otherwise nonprofessional addresses including cutesy, geeky, and immature addresses were less qualified than candidates with more professional addresses.

Publication Title

TIP: The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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