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I passed my initial coding test last Sunday and got my first phone interview invitation with one of the company on Monday. I replied to the phone interview invitation on Tuesday through email. Right after I sent out the reply, I noticed that my email name was "Potatoe Brother" and I was very confused. And I checked my Google profile and noticed that my Gmail name had been changed from my real name to "Potatoe Brother". I immediately changed it back to my real name and was wondering who changed it. I asked my sister, who is an 8-year-old, who admitted that she did it "for fun". Now this is a very unprofessional part of me to have such name and I have not heard back from the recruiter since then (it has been a day). Even though I am not sure if she actually saw my email, I am afraid that I may have lost the interview opporunity due to this. I am going to send out a follow-up email and want to explain this in the follow-up email. What is the best way to explain that?

A little bit more information: I just recently graduated and have been using my college's email for 99% of the time before graduation. Because I will lose my access to my college email, I decided to use my personal email for job hunting. So I was not aware of the fact that the name was changed.

What I need help with: This is really one of those "my dog ate my homework" type of case. Unfortunately, it happened. I am afraid that the recruiter would simply not believe what I said because it is just hard to believe on their part.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Aug 20 at 13:58
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I've seen many worse email names than Potatoe Brother. I wouldn't worry about it - if it's going to lose you an interview, then would you want to work with someone who has such a lack of humor anyway?

Change the email name back. If the recruiter contacts you for a further interview, then feel free to drop it into the conversation. Otherwise, move on. And change your password so an 8yo can't log into your computer.

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  • Do you think that a follow-up email is a good move under current circumstance? – ZpfSysn Aug 19 at 20:55
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It might be worth reaching out, not because the display name is particularly outrageous (Letter #3), but because it's different than the name you used before. My concern isn't that they'll be offended, it's that they may assume it's not from you at all, that it might just get ignored since they don't recognize the name.

  1. Send an email to yourself to make sure the change has gone through and your name shows up correctly.

  2. Reply again to the invite and explain that you had already replied Tuesday but under a different name:

    I wanted to make sure you saw my reply to this email. The reply I sent Tuesday was sent under a different name.

    Be sure to also include whatever information was in the first email in case it got deleted or lost.

I don't think this really requires an apology unless you want to apologize for the confusion.

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I couldn't imagine a recruiter taking umbrage or marking you down for a screen name that is merely odd (but not offensive or outrageous).

I think it would be perfectly safe to say nothing.

If you feel the need to relieve your own embarrassment with an explanation, a very short message such as:

"to follow up on my previous email confirming my interview booking, my screen name on that email may have appeared to you as garbled. I was unfortunately the victim of a prank by a younger family member, much to their amusement, but this has now been rectified and I trust no confusion has resulted in the meantime!".

And leave it at that. Don't labour the point or panhandle for forgiveness - just strike a tone of wry humour. Any sensible person understands harmless childish mischief. And by avoiding specifying the offending words and instead referring to "garbling", you avoid drawing any further unwanted attention to the matter (or disclosing the words for the first time, if they were not in fact sent or seen).

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    I wouldn't even mention that it was ‘by a younger family member’, as that's not important. Not ‘much to their amusement’. Just ‘victim of a prank, but this has now been rectified’ is enough. The shorter the message, the less attention you'll be drawing to it, and the less they're likely to dwell on it. – gidds Aug 20 at 9:56
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    @gidds, possibly. I just reckon that the mischief of a child in the same household is a reasonable explanation and puts "Potatoe Brother" firmly in the category of childish nonsense. If you open the possibility of it being an adult "prank", another adult is still likely to wonder what on earth the name means, and possibly wonder whether the friends you keep are a childish sort who don't mind embarrassing you to your employers, which cuts against the professional image which the OP is clearly concerned to maintain. It's possible people's judgements on this differ, but I'd just tell the truth. – Steve Aug 21 at 9:32
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I am in agreement with the comment by @C Bauer , quote

... send a followup email saying "Sorry if there is any confusion from my previous email; my little sister thought it would be funny to change my name from {name} to Potato Brother. She has a great sense of humor." The recruiter will probably be amused.

I'll just add that the main concern is a practical one. Did the email end up under Junk Mail in the recruiter's inbox? Did the recruiter delete it without reading it because it seemed frivolous and not from anyone they knew?

It's perfectly valid to resend the original message together with a light-hearted note such as suggested by @C Bauer - The main purpose is to make sure the message is received and read rather than to apologise.

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  • Much simpler and better than a long-winded over-engineered explanation accusing the name of being "garbled" (which it plainly wasn't) – Asteroids With Wings Aug 21 at 12:08
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How do I explain/apologize to recruiter for unprofessional email name due to prank made by younger sibling?

My feeling is Don't!

Assuming that "Potatoe Brother" is a mipselled euphemism and not the actual name so that it won't show up in internet searches, leave it alone.

Many employers will not want to have someone who leaves their devices and email applications open and unsupervised so freely that someone can surreptitiously access it and do mischief.

In this day and age loss of intellectual property and security intrusions are such serious issues for a company that (depending on the type of job) they might see you as sloppy and not take the chances of having someone with poor electronic hygiene enter their company, and a careful recruiter might present you with fewer options.

I don't see any way that you can explain this while simultaneously demonstrating that you have good workplace behavior.

And whatever you do, don't advertise that you leave your devices and email applications laying around open and unsupervised on a Q&A site on the internet where it is potentially googlable forever!

Your prospective employer may see this as a liability, and though unlikely, it could be used against you in the future, depending on the type of job you might have in the future.

Recommendation

Secure a new email address that you will use for personal correspondence related to employment that contains your name, and take the time to move everybody that you are currently working with over to it. While it takes some time, this has several advantages:

  1. It demonstrates swift action even for a matter that might seem small at the moment. If this ever comes up again (which is unlikely but not out of the question, depending on your future career) you've establish that you recognized and corrected even a small issue quickly and decisively.
  2. You can be much more careful with this particular email account, logging in only long enough to read and write correspondence in a single sitting.
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    "where it is potentially googlable forever!" - This!!! I got curious to know if "potatoe brother" is really a thing in pop culture... And this question is the 2nd result! OP is luring his employers straight here... – insanity Aug 20 at 13:11
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You really seem to worry about this, so you might actually do something about it, but what I'm missing in the already given answers is the fact that you can simply call that person and explain him or her in a live conversation what went wrong.

Most probably that person won't mind and (s)he might even have a good laugh about the prank (I know I would :-) ), but by picking up the phone and speaking about it in person, you really show that you find solving errors important, which is always a good thing.

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