I find myself constantly using text smiley faces when typing messages to other people. It doesn't matter if I am writing something casual like a facebook message, or something serious like replying to a job offer

I usually use them to convey emotion, such as friendliness :), sarcasm :p, or excitement :D. To me, they add a little more warmth and "human-ness" to text-based conversations, and they're part of who I am.

Typically I re-read anything serious I write before sending it, and will usually remove any compulsively-added smiley faces (the other faces are almost always kept for casual text conversations only), however today as I was removing a smiley-face from a response I was writing to a job offer, I found myself wondering if things like text smiley faces actually hurt me at all.

Does including text smiley faces in correspondence with potential employers hurt me at all?

I am mostly concerned with correspondence after the initial contact. I try and keep the initial contact correspondence very professional, however during replies I tend to let my personality show through a bit more.

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    It totally depends on the person on the receiving end of that second or third email, & since that's not something you know, I'd err on the side of caution. However, I an one of the weirdos who would appreciate/understand, & just yesterday was thinking how some candidate responses to me would have been greatly improved with any trace of personality. – jcmeloni Jul 5 '12 at 17:29
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    Don't overthink it -- a sense of professionalism is essential, but I see these things as self-selecting. Just be yourself and hopefully it will help you find like-minded people to work with, which should ultimately lead to higher satisfaction in your job. – Nicole Jul 5 '12 at 19:21
  • Personally I just use :) for the smile and and ;) for a wink. I usually use them once in the situation given so they don't overly stand out. – Michael Durrant Jul 5 '12 at 21:42
  • Personally I just use :) for the smile and and ;) for a wink. I usually use them once in the situation given so they don't overly stand out. – Michael Durrant Jul 5 '12 at 21:42
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    Now we need a question worded exactly like this, but with lol instead of smileys heh – Earlz Jul 6 '12 at 0:38

I'd say this is definitely a judgement call without a single right answer. I wouldn't worry overly much about the occasional emoticon if you truly feel the relationship has already loosened to a friendly level. I've had one or two winning hiring managers reach this point with me before the process was completed - we'd already exchanged a very well received joke or two, and I felt comfortable using my typical level of creative wording in correspondence.

I will say, though, that it's not a two way street. If you are going to have an error in judgement, it's always better to err on the side of formality. If you scrub emoticons with someone who wouldn't have minded, then you don't do yourself a disservice. If you go all smiley on someone who would have perferred more formality in email, then it is likely to form a bad impression. So if in doubt, I'd say leave it out.

Another thought - I often find myself using the three particular smiley's you mention when I am also using wording that I am concerned may be mistaken. For me, particularly, the issue is usually sarcasm - when I'm sarcastic, I feel a need to moderate with a smiley, so folks will know I'm kidding. Also, when I am about to say something that may be construed as harsh, but would not be harsh-sounding if I had said it face to face.

In these cases, I have to ask myself if the emoticon is a crutch I'm using when what I really should do is reword.

I think keeping that level of awareness engaged in still-forming professional relationships is a VERY good idea. Whether or not you ditch the emoticons, keep the awareness of tone in your email and how it might sound if you reread with the "mean voice" that might happen if the smiley wasn't present.

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    I too have found that smilies are often a crutch to make sarcasm work better in text. Due to my standard level of sarcasm this is slightly problematic, especially since I don't like smilies. – Rarity Jul 5 '12 at 19:02
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    I have to disagree about not being a two-way street. I think there is just as high of a chance that you might appear too square or conventional (by simply scrubbing smileys), which can hurt with certain types of employers or workplace cultures. One of the things I hear most often about hiring is "we hire people who fit our culture". You don't want to accidentally not fit because you were overemphasizing professionalism. – Nicole Jul 5 '12 at 19:26
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    Agreed that if you present yourself as stiff and starchy, all around, you won't fit some cultures. But I think there's something to be said in almost every circumstance by erring on the side of a bit of formality in the face of uncertainty. Lack of emoticons should not turn your writing into some esoteric tome, you can be subtly casual without them. – bethlakshmi Jul 6 '12 at 13:33
  • I personalty would strike a candidate poor communication skills. Do you also use the other parts of cell phone speak and texting, like the poor grammar, capitalization and punctuation problems? I personally can't stand reading "hi there ,i need ur help :)". – user25792 Oct 13 '18 at 11:29

You're definitely better off not including emoticons in correspondence with potential employers. Employers want to see that you are going to be able to communicate professionally with clients and most clients would be put off by the presence of emoticons in business communication. Although some employers will simply ignore emoticons, you're much better off if the text of your message conveys whatever emotions you intend to express without needing to resort to emoticons. Something like sarcasm or jokes probably ought not be in professional communication in the first place because of the risk that it will be taken the wrong way by the recipient. Even if the employer tries to ignore the emoticons, they will likely assume that you are less mature and a less capable communicator than another candidate that writes exactly the same message without emoticons.


It may be just me, but I would refrain from using anything other than purely professional English if your correspondence is for professional matters. That would still allow you to be explicit about your sentiments of joy or concern, but again very professional and as little personal as possible.

My biggest concern is that in writing without much context such displays of friendliness and personalty risk being misinterpreted.

Also - this goes the other way as well, I routinely receive emails from higher ups with emoticons, and I don't like how it looks or how it feels.


If you wouldn't want to work for somebody who got bent out of shape over emoticons, continue using emoticons.

If on the other hand work isn't finding you yet and you can't afford any risks when searching for new employment, don't take any unnecessary risks.


Professional writing is different from casual writing. Certainly emoticons and leet speak are inappropraite when contacting customers, when sending out resumes, etc. Once you know someone and have a personal relationship with them, then you can be more casual in your contacts. But even then, if the email is something likely to go to people you don't know well, avoid this.

Especially be wary of using a wink or other emoticon to indicate you are kidding. This is never appropriate in professional correspondence. And the need to put one in should be an indicator that you are saying something you should not be saying.

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