What Does “I’ll Keep Your Resume on File” Really Mean? [+Free Resume Guide]

Putting yourself in the shoes of your job applicants is an important part of developing a good hiring system. Part of this involves taking a look at common hiring phrases, so today we’re answering an important question—what does “I’ll keep your resume on file” really mean?

Is there an elusive pile—or a particular place in an ATS—where recruiters stash those close second-placers who may have also been great hires? Or is it just something some recruiters say to soften the blow when telling applicants they didn’t get the job?

Let’s explore three reasons employers might choose to keep resumes on file—and how to communicate these realities to present and future job candidates.

Three Reasons Recruiters Keep Resumes on File

The resume file isn’t always the mysterious, endless pit some think it is. Many recruiters keep a file of great resumes for future consideration. Here are three reasons why:

1. We liked this candidate—we just liked someone else more.

We’ve all had those applicants; you may think of them as the one that got away, even if you were the one who chose not to hire them. You’d love to consider them for openings in the future. Recruiters often keep these applicants (and hence, their resumes “on file”) in mind and may call when similar jobs open.

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2. We thought this candidate was amazing—just not the right fit for that particular position.

We once had an applicant we really liked here at BambooHR, but she didn’t quite fit the position she was applying for. However, we knew we needed her skills in the future, so we kept her application on file. When a job opened up that aligned with her skill set, we sent her resume to the hiring manager and called her to find out if the position fit her career goals. When she said yes, we moved forward with the interview process and, eventually, she was hired. We didn’t even have to list a job ad!

3. We want to keep this resume in case the person we hired doesn’t work out.

In a strong economy with many employers looking for workers, a new hire can afford to be selective. This may explain why workers quit their jobs at the fastest rate on record in 2019. If a new hire ghosts you or you realize it’s not working, it can be time-consuming and expensive to start the hiring process all over again. Keeping resumes on file from your other favorite candidates will make it so you don’t have to start at square one.

How to Communicate Honestly with Rejected Candidates

Sending any response is better than sending no response and letting applicants wonder for weeks or more! But the more clarity you can provide in your rejection letters, the better.

Legally, companies are required to keep recruiting information such as resumes and applications on file according to federal anti-discrimination laws. So telling applicants “we will keep your application on file” meets the minimum honesty requirements for rejecting a candidate without telling applicants straight up they didn’t get the job or passing judgment on their performance. It feels easy to say this phrase to end on amicable terms and move on with the recruiting effort.

But you need to be careful when saying “I’ll keep your resume on file.” Many applicants assume this phrase means “Thanks, but no thanks,” based on how often they hear it in rejection letters. If their experience has taught them that getting hired through a resume on file is the exception rather than the rule, then they won’t expect you to contact them again.

Your ATS Can Help Find Great Candidates

As long as you’re tracking job openings and applicants in an ATS, your resume file isn’t as archaic as it sounds. It’s easy to keep resumes in the databases and search in the future.

Your ATS should have a place to document the status and potential of each applicant to help when sorting through the resumes later. Make sure your ATS sends automatic communications at the appropriate times (so your applicants don’t get a rejection letter before they make it to the interview pool).

As you’re open with your job applicants about keeping their resume on file and let them know about new opportunities, you prove how much you value their efforts in applying and their desire to be a part of your organization. When you keep resumes on file, job offers and great employees are often the results!