What Does It Mean When An Employer Says They'll "Keep My Resume On File?"

 You may think this is what happens, but trust me. It isn't. (iStockphoto.com /  XiXinXing )

You may think this is what happens, but trust me. It isn't. (iStockphoto.com / XiXinXing)

You just submitted your resume for a job opening on a company's website. Shortly after clicking "send," you receive an email that looks something like this:

"Thank you for your interest in the position with our company. We appreciate you taking out the time to send us your resume, and we want to assure you that it will be reviewed and carefully considered. Should your credentials match our current requirements, we will be in touch with you. If there is not a match, we will retain your information for future reference."

It's a generic letter that tells you, in essence, four things:

  1. We have received your resume.
  2. We are going to look at your resume.
  3. If we like your resume for the job, we'll contact you.
  4. If we don't like your resume for the job, we'll keep the resume on file.

The unspoken message here is, "Don't call us, we'll call you."

Let's look at the numbers for a moment. Recruiters often receive hundreds – or even thousands – of resumes for each job opening they post. The odds are against receiving a call, so the company is trying to set your expectations as a job seeker.

So – the company told you they're going to keep your resume on file for future opportunities. Will they, really?

The answer is yes. Companies do keep resumes on file after you've submitted them. At least for a period of time. Here's why:

1. Resumes received now may be a fit for future opportunities. Only a small percentage of the resumes a recruiter receives for a job posting are actually a potential fit for the the job. So, the recruiter may mine the database in the future, when they get a new job opening; if there's plenty of qualified applicants in there, they may not post the job

An Aside: Most of the resumes received for any particular job (my guess: 70%) are sent by people who are on their way to being qualified for the job but are currently too junior for the role; they're applying in the hope that somebody will take a chance on them –OR– by applicants who have minimal or no qualifications for the position but really want a job with the company. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," seems to apply to the overwhelming majority of job applicants.

2. Document retention policies require that the employer keep resumes on file. First, a short lesson on what document retention means; companies are often required by their legal department to hold onto resumes (as official documents) for a designated period of time due to internal organizational need, regulatory requirements for inspection or audit, legal statutes of limitation, or other legal or nonlegal reasons. Let's say somebody applies for a job at a company and isn't selected for the position, and he or she decides to sue a company for employment discrimination; the company receives subpoenas for its employment records, and the resumes they received are part of the mix. A company would be in deep you-know-what if they weren't able to retrieve the resumes received for that particular job for their attorney to build a case.

So, what are the chances of your resume actually getting another look down the road? In truth, it varies. Corporate recruiters, as a general rule, are heavily bogged down in managing recruitment of their open positions. It's not unusual for a corporate recruiter to be working on 20 or more jobs at a time.

Do the recruiter's math: (20 jobs x 1,000 applicants) + all the interviews and other work they have on their desk = 20,000 resumes to filter plus a whole lot more stuff to do. The inclination may be to just slap the job up on LinkedIn or Indeed, see who applies, and look at the resumes the applicant tracking system (the recruiter's database) ranks highest.

That said, there are recruiters who do deep mining into their databases to find the gems. So, how can you increase your chances of getting another look down the road by an employer?

  • Submit a really good resume. A strong resume will show up in the recruiter's searches because it contains a lot of great keywords and is loaded with a ton of accomplishments. Want to learn more about how to strengthen your resume? Follow this link for my article, "6 Things You Can Do To Strengthen Your Resume Today."
  • Read the email that you got from the company to learn how long they're going to keep your resume on file. It's a decent bet that if the company follows its own retention policy, your resume will be dumped from the system after that time. Resubmit after that time expires.
  • Don't give up on applying to new jobs. Keep an eye on the company's job postings. If you see another job that is a particular fit for your talents, reapply to the new position.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.