As executive recruiters we sometimes hear candidates ask, “Do companies really keep my resume on file?” We understand, if a candidate doesn’t get an offer, they are disappointed. This is especially true if they were excited about the company. The answer to the question is, it depends.
It has become common for companies to use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to manage their recruiting process. These systems have their pros and cons, but they do help companies keep their hiring process structured, EEOC compliant, and efficient.
It’s important for candidates to remember that recruiters and companies receive hundreds of resumes for an open position and it can be difficult to keep track of which candidates are the top contenders. This is where an ATS can provide a filter for those candidates who are not qualified versus those who are. It’s been estimated that 95% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS to manage candidates. The software has become more ubiquitous of late, so there is a good chance any size company or recruiting firm is using an ATS today.
So when a company or in-house recruiter tells a candidate they will keep their resume on file, what they are really saying is that the resume is now part of their ATS. The reason the answer is it depends is because different companies use their ATS in different ways. Some may never refer to it again and in that case they won’t see it. Other companies will search their ATS for keywords when a new position opens up and they want to see if anyone matches. In this case, they will refer back to resumes that meet their criteria.
The best advice for candidates is to write their resume with specific keywords in mind. This is not to say candidates should keyword stuff. This may fool an ATS bot, but it will be immediately recognized by the person who then reads the resume. The key with keywords is context. It’s important to use them sparingly, 2-3 times maximum, and always where they naturally fit within the description of the responsibilities of the role.
Some companies may still be using older and less sophisticated ATSs’ with dated parsing algorithms. To be found by this software, keep section headings simple, maintain formatting consistency, don’t use tables or graphics, and save your file as .docx or .pdf if it is an acceptable format.
Another recommendation for candidates that hear this is to respond positively. Thank the recruiter and ask if there are related roles that might be a fit. If not, reiterate interest in the company and let them know you’ll continue to monitor their job postings and reach out if a similar role is posted.
If you’re working with a headhunter, contingency or a retained search firm, the answer to this questions is always going to be yes. Recruiters rely on their network, and many have dedicated researchers who will go through their database (aka ATS) to find candidates who match their client’s criteria. They will also look for new candidates, but once a candidate is in their database, they will contact them if they meet the criteria.
As with most aspects of a job search, nothing is black and white. Candidates need to put their best foot forward, paying special attention to the keywords they need to include in their resume.
Sheer Velocity is an executive retained search firm that focuses on VP, C-suite, and board level positions. Our recruiters have worked across industries and with every department. To learn more, send us a note.