You love them. You appreciate them. You have to have them.
Yes, sure, you have tons already. Stacks of them, perhaps, piling up all around you. In your inbox, in your outbox, in manilla folders in file cabinets, in teetering stacks on your desk, held down with nothing but paperweights and dumb luck.
Maybe, sometimes, you feel like you need to get rid of them. Maybe some well-meaning coworkers have suggested that something be done about them before the situation gets even more out of control. You know darn well that you need a better organization system… or any organization system at all.
But most importantly you know that you need them. You cannot possibly throw them away. They’re going to come in handy someday after all! And then you’ll be glad you kept them.
Sound familiar? If so, you may be a resume hoarder.
And just like a regular hoarder, a resume hoarder has a problem that needs fixing.
There is hope! On the A&E program Hoarders, a team of professional organizers and psychologists help people clean up their house and learn to manage their hoarding. You can have that, too, only your help is electronic. Applicant tracking software can help you get your resumes organized in no time.
Follow the guide below to learn how to use an ATS to clean up your resume mess and get the most out of your software while you do it.
You’ve got a problem
The people on Hoarders often feel the need to hang onto everything because of a they feel an anxiety relating to their possessions. Everything they have needs to be saved because it might be important someday, and throwing anything away would be a complete waste.
You’re the same way. You just KNOW that someday one of these resumes will be the perfect hire… just not now. Sometimes that’s true, and you’ll find yourself calling back someone who applied for a position several months ago. But in general, the older a resume is, the less likely that the unhired applicant is going to be interested or available for a job down the line.
We all want to think that what we’re holding onto is buried treasure. But sometimes it’s really just junk. And getting rid of the junk will make you feel so much less stressed, and it will actually let you access things that really matter. Cleaning up a real mess feels good, and research shows that cleaning up your resume problem with an ATS will make you feel better, too. 94% of hiring professionals say that their ATS made their hiring process better.
In some cases, you may not be holding onto resumes because you want to so much as because you have to. There are requirements and hiring guidelines that set a minimum limit on how long you must retain old resumes. In most cases, one year is the standard, but in some situations you may need to hang onto resumes for two years or longer, in the unlucky case of a hiring lawsuit.
Do you have resumes more than two years old? More than three? Do you have resumes on file that are perfect for positions your company will never have open? Are resumes from current employees all mixed up with your talent pool’s resumes? If so, I’ve got some bad news for you, my friend.
How to let go
On Hoarders, there’s a whole team of people there to help. There’s the families of the person involved, of course, but also professional organizers.
(Quick sidebar – would hiring one of those be overkill for a studio apartment? Because I’m not Hoarders bad, but my apartment is a pretty good proof for the second law of thermodynamics in that everything will always, always return to chaos.)
It takes a long time, two or three days typically, for people on the show to get their house cleared of junk and habitable again. And that’s with that full dedicated team working non-stop. Afterwards, you can feel the relief when the camera pans through the clean, cleared out, organized home.
Just like a hoarder, in order to let go you need to organize.
While your resume hoard may also be proof of chaos in an enclosed space, you can’t exactly hire a team of professional organizers to attack your amassed resumes for you. This may be the only time when label makers and a trip to The Container Store can’t fix everything. If you don’t have a team to help, what have you got on your side?
Your organization method is all digitized. All you have to do is upload what you have, work out the keywords you need to label everything, and let the system handle the heavy lifting part for you. It doesn’t have to be hard to figure out, and it doesn’t have to break the bank. Think of your ATS as a team of very helpful computerized organizers. They really want to help you out, you just need to give them a bit of direction so they can do their job and leave you with a clean and tidy resume organization system.
Cleaning up feels hardest when you don’t know where to begin. Instead of drifting, I’ll tell you exactly where to start. Getting that first thing done makes the whole process easier.
1. Throw out any resumes that meet these criteria:
a) Anything over 2 years old
b) Any resume for a position your company will never have
c) Any resumes of current employees who are not currently seeking a new internal job
2. Develop your tag list ahead of time
Run your job posting through a wordcloud to see what words you include, and how often. Try to match your keywords to these.
Go basic. Check lists of resume keywords and add any you’d like to see.
Use a visual dictionary or thesaurus tool to catch possible synonyms, so a great resume won’t slip through the cracks because of a slightly different word.
3. Package your existing resumes separately before you try to upload them.
Most applicant tracking softwares prefer you to put your resumes in a .zip file for bulk uploads, but it’s always safe to double check with the vendor to make sure. If you’re not tech savvy, don’t stress. There are plenty of ways to zip files in a hurry, lots of them for free. Beforehand, you can always put all your files in the same folder so when the time comes it’s just one big shift, click, and drag.
You’re not done yet
Ok! All cleaned up, good to go, you’ll never have a problem again, right?
Nope. As anyone who’s cleaned so much as their laundry knows, once something is straightened up, it becomes a challenge to keep it that way (see above regarding my apartment). How can you keep your ATS from becoming the digital version of my grandmother’s attic?
Once you search out and find exactly the right fit, you should be using your new ATS for all new applications. This will make comparing resumes much faster and easier. (Just watch those keywords!) Resist the temptation to bring in just a few more resumes the old-fashioned way, and start getting used to your new system as soon as possible.
Once that’s locked down, you can start keeping it tidy by setting a lock on when people can apply. Find where your software has filters like these and use them (if you’re not sure where these filters are or how to use them for your particular program, contact the vendor, they’ll be happy to help). Depending on the size of your company, one to two weeks may be more than enough time to have a healthy influx of candidates.
When you advertise these new positions, limit where you post them. The more specific and concentrated the job postings, the more likely it will be that you’ll get fewer resumes of a higher relevance. If your hiring history suggests you’ll find closer matches on Monster, do you really need to post on CareerBuilder, too? If you know that a position requires plenty of industry experience, don’t advertise on CollegeRecruiter out of habit.
Tidying up your resumes should be a regular thing, too. Even if you choose to keep everything for two years, expect the dates to roll as new applications come in for different positions. A yearly spring cleaning never hurt anyone, and saves your system from becoming unmanageable. Schedule a week out of the year and make checking relevancy of resumes and cleaning out anything you don’t need in your ATS the primary objective.
Just a few short tricks can help you avoid replicating the mess you just cleaned up.
Are you a recovering resume hoarder? Have you already migrated to an ATS? Do you have any other tips you use to keep your system tidy? Tell me all about it in the comments.