Should You Keep Great Resumes On File? 4 Tips for Recruiters

“We’ll keep your resume on file.” We’ve all either heard it—or said it ourselves—during the hiring process. For recruiters and hiring managers, it can feel like a nicer way of telling people they didn’t get the job.

But rather than using it as a cover for rejecting applicants, you can recruit faster and smarter by being strategic with the great resumes that cross your desk. Recruiting experts set the price of a new hire at three to four times the position's wages, so it pays to create candidate pools for those people who impressed you, but it didn’t work out, for whatever reason.

First, we’ll give you a few more effective ideas for how to reject candidates, and then we’ll dig into when you really should keep great resumes not just in your files but at the top of the heap.

In 2022 alone, BambooHR helped companies track more than 21 million applicants through the recruitment process. Our user-friendly ATS helps you manage candidates' information the easy way—and as part of our all-in-one HRIS, you can transition seamlessly from hiring to onboarding, payroll, and benefits administration. Take a video tour today!

How to Reject a Candidate

If you have to reject a candidate, there’s a better way to do it than just trotting out, “We’ll keep you on file”—unless you plan to contact them about other job opportunities. Here are some suggestions for what to say and how to handle the rejection process in a more effective way.

Never Ghost A Candidate

It’s much better to send a candidate an email telling them they didn’t get the position than to
leave them in the dark. And the more clarity you can provide in your rejection letters, the better.

First, you’re helping soften the blow by helping candidates understand why they didn’t get the job, and second, if you do keep their resume on file for future recruiting, you’re helping them become a better candidate the next time they apply.

Always Stay Compliant

Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), companies must keep a record of recruiting information like resumes and applications for at least one year. Federal contractors, however, are required to keep personnel documents for two years.

To be clear, you don’t have to tell applicants you’re keeping their information, but if they ask about it, you can tell them it’s to stay compliant with major federal laws regarding hiring records.

Keep Promising Relationships Warm

Sometimes, you really do want to keep tabs on a talented candidate in case the right position opens up (more on this below). Make sure you tell the candidate clearly: You’re keeping their information because they stand out in some specific way and you intend to reach out in the future. Otherwise, they might think you’re just letting them down easy.

Instead, you want to keep them interested in your organization and in answering your emails or texts the next time you send them a job opening.

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4 Times You Actually Should Keep a Resume on File

1. You liked this candidate—you just liked someone else more.

We’ve all had golden applicants; you may think of them as the ones that got away, even if you were the one who chose not to hire them.

Here’s the good news: Flagging their resume in your filing cabinet or applicant tracking system as a promising candidate will mean that much less recruiting work the next time a similar job opens up.

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

Other times, you may have someone apply that’s not quite the right fit for that specific job description. For example, they respond to your sales rep ad, but you think they’d actually make an outstanding office manager. There’s no reason not to keep them in mind for a later date, when you actually have an office manager position open up.

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

Keeping track of solid candidates gives you a plan B. What if your new hire decides to go with another job at the last minute? Or what if you realize they’re actually not the right hire during their first week?

It’s time-consuming and expensive to start the hiring process all over again. Keeping resumes on file from your other favorite candidates makes it so you don’t have to start at square one.

4. You extended an offer, but the candidate rejected it.

Today’s job applicants are inquisitive, with 77% of job seekers wanting to learn everything they can about the company before applying. They also prioritize a total rewards package and want to know most about benefits, total compensation, and growth opportunities at a prospective employer.

A candidate might reject your offer if you don’t meet their expectations or you’re not able to offer certain benefits, but keeping candidates’ resumes on file may help you attract top-tier talent when their priorities change.

For example, you’re not able to meet a candidate’s requested wages, but your company does offer remote work. Maybe they aren’t interested in a remote position right then, but situations change. They may be interested in flexible hours at a later time, so don’t throw out their resume just yet.

How to Manage Candidate and Employee Files as You Grow

As you’re gathering resumes and keeping job applicants on file, it’s critical to keep everything organized in a cloud-based ATS. The longer your company is in business, the bigger your archive of records will get, and the more exposed to risk you’ll be if you keep everything in paper files or spread across several staff members’ computers.

Paper files pose an obvious security risk—a lock and key is about all the protection you can have on a filing cabinet, and everyone knows the frustration of searching for a file only to find it missing. Additionally, digital files aren’t without their own risk. Even if you’re saving things on your local network, what happens in the case of a computer virus or a data breach?

You can’t reach out to great candidates without a solid recordkeeping system, so if you’re still stuck in paper or spreadsheet, it’s time to set yourself free and unlock all the human potential hiding in that treasure trove of resumes.

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