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Why Emoticons Are Good for Business


I was reading a very interesting article yesterday that reported that 45% of employers are using Facebook and Twitter to screen job candidates.  Needless to say, that is a very interesting figure.  Reading a little deeper into the article, a list is presented outlining what may cause a candidate to be disregarded.  My personal favorite, and the topic of this post was:

Fourteen percent of employers have disregarded a candidate because the candidate sent a message using an emoticon such as a smiley face

That item was just a little too provocative for me to leave alone.  It kept rattling around in my brain for the rest of the day.  Though I am quite conservative in my emoticon usage, I still find it shocking that usage of such a benign item could disqualify a person for employment.  By day I am a Product Manager at a technology company and depend heavily on email communication with our office on the other side of the country.  The very same afternoon I received what appeared to be a very “heated” memo from a member of our team in the other office.  It was only when I caught that friendly colon-parenthesis combo in the second paragraph that I realized I was entirely misinterpreting the voice of the memo.  It was that moment that I realized that business needs emoticons.

When I say business needs emoticons, I am not referring to critical contracts and external-facing communications.  I’m referring to those emails that we all need to fire off with nary a second’s glance.  Email is a cold, functional communication device that leaves a lot of room for the receiver to misinterpret the emotion.  The shorter the note, the greater likelihood of it being misinterpreted.  Without our friend the emoticon, rivalries can begin and empires can fall all due to a simple misunderstanding.  If you think I’m crazy, take look at the impact it can have below.

We really need to have that by Wed.  Thanks.


We really need to have that by Wed.  Thanks.  🙂

If you can honestly say that the first example could not come across as “terse”, you may be part of the 14% earlier mentioned.  The rest of you will most likely concede that such a simple thing as an emoticon have a surprising impact on the interpretation of a short message.  That being said, I repeat my claim that emoticons are good for business and the relationships contained within.  If a potential employer were to dismiss you as a candidate for their usage, you may want to consider the corporate environment contained within.

Consider throwing one on to the end of your next one-liner.  The results may surprise you. 😉

Categories: Musings Tags: ,
  1. islandcat2u
    September 1, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    I’m retired from a high-tech company – very familiar with emails! Yes, I think emoticons can signal the writer’s intent. I would think “over-use” might signal a problem though.

  2. September 2, 2009 at 5:43 am

    So interesting! One of the assignments I give to the on-campus MBA class is to pretend they are an employer and find out everything they can about their group members, using only publicly accessible Internet sites. The assignment is actually uncomfortable for students, because of all the personal information that is readily accessible via the Internet. However, the assignment clearly enforces the need for individuals to use caution when posting information, since employers are likely to use that information in hiring decisions. But to reject a candidate based on the use of emoticons? Hopefully it was an overuse of unfamiliar emoticons.

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