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Submitted by Darrell on


Recently, I added my professional credentials to my e-mail signature.  This was at the suggestion of a senior person at my organization (my level +5) who said that by not including the credentials (that he and I shared), I was short-selling myself.  My credentials are valid, industry-relevant and earned over several years of post-college work.  This is not a case of claiming lots of letters for a weekend course. For clarity:  I would consider professional credentials like MBA, P.Eng, LLB, CPA, PMP, CFA and similar, and list one or two most relevant.

I was wary to do so because it felt like hubris, or bragging (all CAPS bold).  Something to include on the resume, but in day-to-day it may be received as snobbery - alienating others.  I hope that they establish credibility WITH others, and my fear they are perceived as putting yourself ABOVE others....

My question to the group is:

  1. How do you receive a signature line tagged with degrees, professional and otherwise?
  2. Where do they belong?  Resume only, e-mail Signature lines, job applications, interviews
Smacquarrie's picture

It depends.
As far as the signature goes, if the credential is relevant to the role that you fill, yes the initials should be included.
Think of it this way - You go to see your family doctor yet everything they have (rx pad, letterheads, invoices, etc.) only have their name on it. You would subconsciously think that they lack some professionalism.
Also check with your company to see if they have a standard template that would prevent or discourage the use of these.
As for how it is received, that depends on the rest of the message.
I work with several individuals who have these and some of them show validation for them in their emails by being well versed in the subject matter and being able to convey their message without coming off as arrogant.
If you communicate clearly then adding these should not be a problem.

KateM's picture
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I think you've listed the essentials for including credentials/postnominals in a signature or on a business card. (On a resume title/interviews/application, I would just put your name, since you're going to list your credentials more fully in the body of the resume.)

I primarily see email signatures as a way to briefly introduce yourself and your area(s) of specialty/interest *when you are sending emails to people either outside of your organization or outside of your workgroup* A "complete sig" on an email to your direct or your boss thus is technically unnecessary -- they know who you are, what your role is, what your credentials are -- but it's just simpler to pick one sig and use it for all communications.

I think of postnominals like adjectives -- as long as they're distinct, you can keep listing them until you've run out of distinct ones. On the other hand, a person who lists 3 very similar (if technically nonsynonymous) credentials seems pretentious -- like saying a house is big and large and spacious. Too redundant.

In my field (healthcare), folks generally use all the credentials that are required to differentiate themselves as far as specialization. "MD" indicates a physician, but it doesn't differentiate between a pediatric surgeon and a research-oriented cardiologist and a neonatologist who now does primarily informatics. Within the medical community, these sub-credentials are very important to show scope of practice. At a cocktail party, most people hear "Oh, you're a doctor" and think anything else is just gravy.

gehrhorn's picture
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I don't use an email signature. 99% of the people I email are in the company I work for. My Outlook contact already gives them my name, email address, phone number, job title, office location, etc. Outside people get my name, email address, and job title if that's relevant to what we're talking about.

For my resume I put my name as First Last, CISSP (an industry cert that people who have my job or hire for my job care about). I want it on there for keyword searches, but I can't spare a line in the resume to include it in a 'professional associations and accomplishments' section.

mike_bruns_99's picture
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I think it's more effective to have your office #, cell phone number, and office location in all email signatures.  

I have a general rule that 2 + 2 = call or visit.  Specific.  If there is an email, response, 2nd email on the topic, 2nd email response, there should NOT be a 3rd email.  Pick up the phone and call the person, or visit their office if their in the same buiding.

Sure, I can lookup their phone number via outlook.  But if in your signature I see your extention is x1234, you've just made it easy to communicate with you.  If I have to look it up, it's extra work for me.  

It's also a good habit, as the higher you get in an organization, the more contact you have outside the organization.

Computer space is cheap, relationships are not.  

Again, just my opinion.