Hiring 7 min

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

April 1, 2019

Have you ever told applicants you’d keep their resume on file? And did you mean it?

Last week, a friend (who works at a company well-known for their great benefits) told me a neighbor sent her a resume and asked that she send it on to HR. There wasn’t an opening in particular that she wanted to apply for; she just wanted to work for my friend’s company. “Do I actually send it?” she asked me.

It got us talking about the great abyss that “keep on file” seems to applicants. 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 choices? Or is it just something some recruiters say to soften the blow when telling applicants they didn’t get the job?

So, do employers keep your resume on file? Here are three reasons why they might.

Three Reasons Recruiters Keep Your Resume on File

I was happy to tell her that, actually, it’s not always the scary endless pit some think it may be. Many recruiters do keep a file of great resumes for future consideration. Here are 3 reasons why you should believe us:

1. We really did like you; we just liked someone else more.

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

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2. We thought you were amazing, just not the right fit for that particular position.

We recently had an applicant apply at BambooHR, but she wasn’t hired for the position. We kept her application on file because she had a background in an area we knew we’d need in the future. When the job opened, we sent the resume to the hiring manager and also called her to find out if this position fit within her own career goals. When we knew our goals aligned, 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 your resume in case the person we hired doesn’t work out.

According to Globoforce, four percent of new employees leave their job after a disastrous first day. And 22 percent of turnover happens in the first 45 days. Perhaps you realize the person you hired isn’t going to work out right away. In any of these situations, you’ll hope you held on to those resumes to keep on file so that you can call your other favorites.

But Some Recruiters Are Just Saying the Words

Some recruiters have a hard time telling applicants straight up they didn’t get the job. Sometimes they don’t like to give the specific reasons and the words “we will keep your application on file” seem to fill the space so nicely. It’s easy to say this phrase to end on amicable terms and move on with your recruiting efforts. Well, at least the recruiter is getting back to applicants about not getting the position rather than leaving applicants wondering for weeks or more!

Want to Spruce Up Your Resume? Check out our ATS-Worthy Resume Guide!

What recruiters really mean by “I’ll keep your resume on file.”

And, actually, recruiters aren’t technically lying. Legally, companies are required to keep recruiting information such as resumes and applications on file according to federal anti-discrimination laws. All companies are keeping resumes on file—whether or not that applicant is being considered for jobs in the future is another question. Of course, it depends on the company and the recruiter and the job. But it’s sometimes the exception rather than the rule that those applicants whose resumes are “kept on file” are contacted again.

Be careful when saying “I’ll keep your resume on file.” Many applicants assume that means “Thanks, but no thanks.” But sometimes we do really mean it—and job offers and great employees are often the results!

Your ATS Can Help with the “File

As long as you’re tracking job openings and applicants in an ATS, your file isn’t as archaic as it sounds. It’s easy to keep resumes in the databases and search in the future. If your particular ATS doesn’t have that option, you can also create a job opening that includes those on-file resumes and flag them on why you thought the applicants would make a great addition to your company. I’ve actually heard of companies keeping resumes on file for years and then calling. I always document the status and potential of each applicant and that helps when sorting through the resumes later. One word of caution, however: make sure your ATS isn’t sending automatic rejection letters to applicants each time you re-evaluate them (especially if you don’t even make it to the interview pool).

What does it mean to you?

Do you keep a file with resumes of those “who got away”? Have you had success calling those applicants? Do you mean it when you say it?

Want to Spruce Up Your Resume? Click Here to Download Our ATS-Worthy Resume Guide! 

Jeana Quigley