An email problem you must address

I once won an argument with my son. Not that I'm petty or competitive about such things.

I once won an argument with my son. Not that I'm petty or competitive about such things. It was over his email address, which I felt was immature, confusing, and in need of an update as he applied for college.

He created his email address, "misterpooble," when he was 10 or 11. That moniker was probably age-appropriate for a fifth grader and he barely used email in middle school or even high school, so I didn't think much of it. However, as I neurotically began to read all of the advice columns for kids applying to college, I came across numerous warnings about email addresses. Here's one taken from the official ACT College Admissions site listing, called the "Top 10 College Applications Mistakes."

Number 8: "Using an email address that friends might laugh about, but colleges won't. Select a professional email address. Keep your fun address for friends, but select an address using your name for college admissions."

I gently suggested to my son that "misterpooble" violated that rule and he should consider using a professional email address, something such as his first and last name. He treated my suggestion with the usual care and concentration that most 17-year-old boys give to ideas from their parents. He rolled his eyes and ignored me.

But I persevered. Every week, as we navigated the tortuous application process, I raised the "misterpooble" issue, only to be brushed off. Finally, I pressed hard and he dismissed me by emphatically stating that Terry, his college counselor at school, said his email address was just fine. Momentarily defeated by his logic, I moved on to another issue. I asked if he had followed up with Terry to make sure his letters of recommendation were in order.

He sighed and agreed to email her about it that afternoon. Here's the exchange:

Misterpooble: Hi Terry. Did you get the letters of recommendations from my teachers?

Terry: Who is this? Who is misterpooble?

That afternoon, he changed his email address and retired the notorious Pooble.

This memory was rekindled last week when I was rushing back from a meeting to begin a phone interview with a candidate. I am a headhunter, so I will often get résumés from candidates' home email addresses that can amazingly be as ridiculous as "misterpooble." You would be surprised how many adults have odd email addresses created in the '90s, before they understood that this nomenclature would represent their online souls.

Two minutes before this particular phone interview, I desperately began searching my emails for the candidate's résumé and cover letter, but couldn't find it. I tried her first name. Her last name. Some combination of her first initials. Nothing worked. So I began the interview by sheepishly asking her to resend the résumé since I couldn't seem to locate it.

When the email came, it was from LAGMY, which had nothing to do with her first or last name. I wasn't sure I really wanted to know what it stood for, whether it was to be read as a verb, as in "lag," or a command of some sort. When I finished the interview, however, my parting advice was that she change her email address. I also offered to have her talk to the former "misterpooble," who, in light of his recent college acceptance, will reluctantly admit that on this one particular issue, his dad was actually right.

Don Spetner is EVP, corporate affairs at executive recruitment firm Korn/Ferry International.

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