What's the shelf-life of your resume?

Your shelf-life of your resume on file for that key job will melt away just like the ice. You won't be called.

Photo by stevendepolo

Resume writers and career coaches talk a lot about how we need the client to tell their story, capture their accomplishments, and demonstrate their value to the next employer. Differentiate yourself and Tell me WHY are some of the phrases we tell clients to encourage them to think deeply about their value.

Sometimes clients think the job is done when they have had us write that value-filled resume and cover letter. But without marketing, the resume still has no value. You have to get it in the hands of the people who can make the decision to hire you.

You wrote the resume and marketed it

Let’s say you started working hard at posting your resume online to targeted positions you really would like to have. Let’s even say you followed up using some of the success tactics you read about here.

But let’s assume that maybe the timing wasn’t right. The company couldn’t make a decision then. And yet you even made it through some of the interview process and it sounded really good. They liked you. You liked them. But you are not moving forward anyway no matter how much you really wanted to be part of their organization. Their budget was cut, a new project didn’t launch, and so you wait. They told you they would call.

All of us know about the shelf-life of the daily paper. We read it, maybe keep a key issue around for awhile but then we recycle it. The same thing goes for online newspapers and magazines. They may archive their stories but you can no longer find them with a search engine. Like the ice in the photo above, eventually they’re virtually gone and not retrievable.

Should you assume that the company kept your resume on file and you will be pulled up when the conditions change?

Guess what? It probably won’t happen. Your shelf-life of your resume on file for that key job will melt away just like the ice. You won’t be called.

What should you do? Develop a follow-up plan. Make a note of when you will call back. In an active job search, the recommendation is 7 to 10 days for follow-up so you won’t be a pest. When you have been informed that the position is not active, I would suggest a monthly touch base call to see if things changed.

I also would suggest that you create your LinkedIn profile as part of your career management strategy and keep it current with new accomplishments and success stories. Build that network and seek recommendations because in the volatile employment world we live in today, there is little certainty and certainly more uncertainty.

Own your space for your resume. LinkedIn, your own blog or web portfolio, or at least keep it safe on your own computer and update it when you have more stories to put in it. You can control the shelf-life in your own space but you cannot assume anyone cares about your career as much as you do.


  1. Andrew on February 3, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    A lot of companies send representatives to job fairs and take in resumes and applications for employment at those events even though they may not have any current positions open. They instruct their HR departments to do so so that they may have a ready group of candidates should business improve or positions become available.

    They may assume, however, that a person that applied a year or two ago might have found something with another employer and is no longer available. As such they might not keep resumes and applications on file beyond a given period.

    • Julie Walraven on February 3, 2011 at 5:24 pm

      It also improves the company profile in the community when they have a presence at career fairs and there is always the chance that they will come across a jewel of an employee that will bring wonderful things to the company.

  2. Kimba Green on February 4, 2011 at 10:12 am

    The only reason I have work coming in is because of follow-up. I just signed a contract to teach Social Media classes 5 times a month because I stayed in contact with the company. The relationship started 3 years ago when I was out of work for 2 months. A person I barely knew asked the company to interview me as a favor. They had no open positions but I stayed in touch and updated them on my new skills. Now I will teaching something I love! One really funny thing is that they have never seen me teach yet they gave me a contract. Pretty amazing!

    • Julie Walraven on February 12, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      Not seeing you teach, Kimba is one thing. It is very easy to hear you teach on your radio show or read you teaching in your blog or on Twitter. Seems like they can check your credentials almost anywhere. LinkedIn, Twitter, and on we go. Congratulations, and blessings!

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