I'm about a year away from graduating from university and am considering entering into the business sector, possibly attempting a startup or maybe freelancing as a writer, I don't know yet exactly.

But I've read about vCards but I'm not familiar with how often they're actually used. Should I use vCards in my upcoming professional life, or should I stick to paper business cards? Would a combination be better?

closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, scaaahu, IDrinkandIKnowThings, user9158, The Wandering Dev Manager May 1 '15 at 12:57

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 6
    In my short professional life I've only ever received a vCard from thos I had no intention whatsoever to contact. Subconsciously, receiving a vCard slowly turns into a one of those little things that raise small but very important red flags... – Pavel Apr 27 '15 at 8:07
  • What does a vCard contain? What does it do that a URL (for your professional web site) doesn't do? – Monica Cellio Apr 27 '15 at 16:38
  • @PavelPetrman: What kinds of red flags? – SarahofGaia Apr 28 '15 at 18:18
  • 1
    @Seib a question for anybody who knows. You said you've read about them but aren't familiar with how often they're used, so it was possible that you knew what they contained. If not, maybe somebody who does can edit that information into the question. – Monica Cellio Apr 28 '15 at 18:25
  • 2
    @Seib: The 'I have nothing of value or importance to offer yet I'll still call you every week or two to have a nice chat' sort of red flags. – Pavel Apr 28 '15 at 18:38

I'm in tech and I've never swapped "vCards" with anyone, ever.

Regular business cards are likely to be around for a long long time.

  • 15
    In fact, it's a little goofy when someone sends you an email with a vCard attachment. – Kent A. Apr 27 '15 at 3:54
  • 14
    I have had the same experience. The only people that seem to use vCards are the "hip", salesy guys. Besides, real business cards make great bookmarks in your tech manuals! :) – Jane S Apr 27 '15 at 5:05
  • 5
    Just use a standard footer on your emails with the business information you want in there. – Jan Doggen Apr 27 '15 at 19:45
  • It has always seemed kind of silly to me. Thanks. – SarahofGaia Apr 28 '15 at 18:20

Business cards still have their place, and are very "low-friction" - everyone is used to using them, they slip into a pocket or wallet easily and you can write (brief) notes on them (how to pronounce an uncommon name, why you should contact the person later, etc).

You can leave a stack of business cards at a meetup, for people to pick up on their way in or out.

It takes less than a second to exchange physical business cards and there are no software dependencies/compatibility concerns. Also, there's no risk of transmitting malware, corrupt data, or data you don't intend to share when you use paper.

For now, use conventional cards as your primary way to exchange contact information. Certainly explore vCards, but IME people still use and expect physical, conventional business cards. I don't believe I've ever had someone ask me for a vCard, nor offer one to me.

  • 7
    Although there is still a risk of transmitting viruses with physical business cards. – cpast Apr 27 '15 at 7:31
  • 3
    Also, leave the back blank. One vendor had these gorgeous business cards with printed backs, and he was always griping that there was no room to write on them. He was always tearing pages out of his notebook to write part numbers on while the other vendors just wrote them on the back of their cards. – hildred Apr 27 '15 at 20:44
  • @hildred: That sounds annoying as crap! >.< – SarahofGaia Apr 28 '15 at 18:22
  • @hildred: great point. Using the back of a card to write a note for the person you're giving the card to is a great way to make sure they look at it at least one more time. – NotMe Apr 28 '15 at 20:47
  • 1
    @Seib, I understood you perfectly. – hildred Apr 30 '15 at 19:12

I have yet to receive a vcard from anyone; and I have held roles from consulting to sales and programming.

Traditional and creative business cards are still the norm.

A newer trend is to generate a qr code which when scanned can add your details in to the recipient's address book (or redirect them to your website, or a number of other things).

You also risk having your vcard attachment blocked by email servers.

In fact, the only place I regularly see vcards used is when synchronizing two different contact databases.

  • 4
    AFAIK, the QR code is a vCard encoded in QR code. – ysdx Apr 27 '15 at 7:23
  • 2
    The only place I used a vCard was exactly as you say - moving data between contact databases. – ThisClark Apr 27 '15 at 13:04
  • 1
    +1 for putting the information in a QR code on your business card. Physical business cards are easy to exchange, QR code makes it easy to transfer the contact details to your phone if required. – Rikki Apr 27 '15 at 15:26
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    @Seib: because AFAIU (some) QR-scanners apps recognise vCard files (encoded in QR code) and handle them properly. So AFAIK, when you "generate a qr code which when scanned can add your details in to the recipient's address book", in fact you are scanning/receiving a vCard. – ysdx Apr 28 '15 at 19:58
  • 1
    See this page about contact information in 2D barcodes. – ysdx Apr 29 '15 at 11:04

Today, I don't think you need a vCard. There may be a platform in the future which popularizes them. As a systems administrator, I am leery of email attachments. I don't even appreciate images in signatures or lengthy signatures and legal disclaimers for that matter.

My desk drawer is full of business cards from the last five years. I pin some important ones to a board behind my monitor. Other important contact information for which I do not have a business card is scribbled on a slip of paper on that same board.

I think of vCard as a data exchange format like XML or JSON. It even has its own mime type text/vcard. In the event someone should ask you for your vCard, you can easily create one by creating yourself as a Gmail contact then exporting yourself as vCard format.

  • 4
    Vcard is more than 16 years old. If it was ever going to be popularized, it would have been by now. – David Richerby Apr 27 '15 at 17:57
  • @DavidRicherby: Woah! :o Does that mean that hCards are even older than vCards? Because I read that hCards were the predecessor to the vCard. – SarahofGaia Apr 28 '15 at 18:30

vCards are dead. They had the problem of being way too robust. You didn't always want to send a free/busy calendar feed to a vendor who was asking directions to the coffee shop you were meeting at.

Today, a well-crafted sig for your email and a crisp, simple business card are what you'd want. In your sig, a LinkedIn button may be appropriate if you're a job-seeker.

Reference: https://www.findspark.com/put-business-card-youre-student-recent-grad/

A business card should answer three questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What can you do for a potential employer / client?
  3. How do they reach you?

You want to make sure it prominently displays:

  • Your first and last name. (Culturally appropriate interpretation, of course)
  • Your skill set. (Be brief. 3 or 4 words max)
  • Your phone (1 or 2 numbers) and email contact information.
  • A website to your own work or LinkedIn profile.

Everything else just distracts. You can load them up with fancy graphics, but they just take away from your message. A photo, perhaps, but that's pushing it. The goal of the business card is to make the person want to contact you, and that's it.

For a job-seeker, I'd say the same thing applies to email sigs.

  • 1
    Why would a vCard include "a free/busy calendar feed"? As far as I know, a vCard just contains information that can be imported onto a contacts application. – Keith Thompson Apr 27 '15 at 20:16
  • 2
    @KeithThompson - It's able to do a lot of things, depending on the clients using it. That was my point, though: It is difficult to know how much / how little to put in a vCard. It's too much. Ref: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VCard#vCard_4.0 – Wesley Long Apr 27 '15 at 22:13

Do I need a vCard in the business environment?

No, you clearly do not need one.

I have never required (nor accepted) a vCard from anyone seeking a job. Not even once.

I have accepted many well-done, professional-looking paper-based business cards (and sadly a bunch that were "less than professional-looking").

  • I've always understood paper ones more. To me, a vCard is sort of cryptic, although that's probably because virtually no one uses them. Just as an aside, would having one hurt my chances of getting hired or getting clients? – SarahofGaia Apr 28 '15 at 18:34

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