I have been digitally signing (and encrypting, whenever possible) my official emails for sometime. While I am not extremely paranoid (but serious, certainly) about cryptographic security, I also think signing the email is a signature [pun intended] that I take such aspects seriously. On a like-minded recipient, this could therefore make a good impression.

On the other hand, if seeing the


Hash: SHA1

header has a high likelihood of annoying or confusing the person (to the point of them simply deleting my email), then I certainly do not mind sending an unsigned message.

I recently started applying for jobs (in the area of quantum information/communication to be precise) and was wondering if I should, in my first email contact with a potential employer or (postdoc) supervisor, also sign that email?

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    Well, are the positions in computer security or something else? Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 18:48
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    There are other digital signature schemes like PGP/MIME in which the signature appears as an unobtrusive extra attachment, which an uninformed reader can simply ignore. That avoids the BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE header and may be the solution for you. Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 20:07
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    Just ask yourself: what is the main point that you want to communicate in your email? Is it, e.g., (1) "I can use PGP", or (2) "I am looking for a postdoc position"? Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 15:14
  • Borderline OT... @NateEldredge An unreadable attachment might also confuse non-tech-savvy people. Putting signatures in headers seems like a good idea in principle; I wonder why it never became popular. Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 18:37
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    Someone working in QI/QC should be well aware of PGP, shouldn't they? On the other hand, if they really know their cryptography, I'd probabily avoid using SHA-1! Commented Sep 27, 2014 at 19:41

1 Answer 1


I cannot imagine anyone being too put off by the digital signature, although I would probably go with a detached signature.

I think if you are going to digitally sign your emails, you may want to make sure you understand what you are doing. This would definitely be the type of thing I might bring up as a "safe" small talk topic during a campus visit. Often the small talk conversations can influence a decision in a tight job search since the search committee is not only looking for someone who can teach the required classes and do great research, but also someone they want to work with.

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    I digitally sign any of my messages, and always include the following in the .sig: About PGP signatures: http://xkcd.com/1181/
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 17:51

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