@Work Advice: Is your e-mail photo G-rated?


July 22, 2013

Reader: I am reviewing résumés from the recent crop of college graduates and am stunned at the number who send a perfectly written cover letter and an interesting résumé but then ruin their chances with a profile photo attached to their e-mail that shows them hoisting a beer mug, smoking a hookah or posing in a tight T-shirt.

I wish you would do a column for these young people. There are thousands of them applying for jobs right now, and some of them are so well educated and so clueless. Thank you.

Karla: Hear that, young’uns? Time to ditch the duckface, banish the beer bong and think about how you’re presenting yourself to the people who can grant or deny you access to Paycheckville.

But I’m thinking this cluelessness might be technological more than generational. Some of you may not be aware that if you have a profile picture on your e-mail account — Gmail, let’s say — other users outside your contacts list may be able to see it in the e-mails you send.

Just as you might ask friends to look over a cover letter or résumé for you, you should also send them test e-mails. If they can see that cheeky selfie you uploaded back in college, you should replace it with something more professional. Better yet, with all the free e-mail services out there, there’s no reason you can’t set up a new account just for job searches.

Photos aren’t the only way your e-mail correspondence could make a bad first impression. That George Carlin quote or religious passage in your signature might not seem as funny or inspirational to a hiring manager as it does to you — so stick with basic contact information. And make sure your e-mail address is business-appropriate and easy to connect to your résumé. Save your “ScoobySnax420” handle for messages to friends.

While we’re on the subject, all you not-so-recent grads should check out your virtual reflections, too. Does your LinkedIn profile show someone poised, polished and professional? If the picture you’re sharing with potential employers features kids, pets or your wedding, consider replacing it with a simple headshot — unless, of course, you’re seeking a gig working with kids or animals, or as a life-size cake topper. Overly personal photos are not only unprofessional, but also may reveal information about you that hiring managers have no legal right to know.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to do something about this Facebook profile photo of me wearing a cat on my head.

Karla L. Miller is ready to hear your work dramas and traumas. Send your questions to wpmagazine@washpost.com. You can also find her on Twitter, @KarlaAtWork, or Facebook.

For stories, features such as Date Lab, Gene Weingarten and more, visit WP Magazine.

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