Over the past few days I’ve been trying to find some hardware from a disassembled desk that had been in storage.  This hunt necessitated going through some boxes that had been in tucked away for over 5 years, and I thought I knew where the hardware had been packed.  When these boxes were being filled I had a system for tracking what was in each box.  Or, so I thought.  Even though there was a general description of each boxes’ contents, it wasn’t as thorough an inventory as I recalled, or had hoped.  I pride myself on being reasonably organized , with systems in place to track all kinds of documents (digital and paper), collections, photographs, etc, but I couldn’t put my hands on something I knew I would need again!  It was very frustrating!
This ordeal reminded me of the importance of having a system for tracking your resumes, cover letters, job announcements and applications.   If you’re serious about your job search, then having a system of organization is essential.  Over time you’ve probably collected several versions of your cover letters, resumes, reference lists, and job announcements that are consuming space on your hard drive, or in a folder or drawer. Let’s look at some ways to create organization from your job search chaos.
Start by getting rid of really old copies of your resumes and cover letters. If you have changed jobs many times in your working life, you may want to keep one copy of an older set of documents for personal historical reference.  Otherwise it is unnecessary to keep resumes that are over a year old.  I know that sounds like a long time, and it is.  But believe it or not, in certain employment sectors, particularly government jobs and large universities, it frequently takes a long time for positions to get filled.  Because these employers are planning and budgeting a year or more in advance, it may take them at least 6 months or longer before an announced position actually gets filled.  If you do get called after such a long time, it is good to have a reminder of the information you provided in your application.
Certainly it is easier to store all the different versions of your well-crafted cover letters and resumes on a computer, portable flash drive or other recordable media.  In digital form they take up very little space, and you can always scan your older versions if you still want to keep them too.
One of the simplest tracking systems you can create is a main Job Search folder, and then a subset of folders; one each for your Resumes, Cover Letters, Job Announcements and References.  Your References folder can contain contact information for your references, in addition to letters of reference you’ve already collected, letters of commendation, thank you notes for your volunteer efforts, etc.
You might also want to be consistent in your document naming conventions. This is particularly important when you are applying for different types of positions.  Under those circumstances you’ll have different versions of your documents to emphasize different skills, experience or attributes.  Being able to differentiate between your documents can become cumbersome after a while, and this kind of system will make it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for.
For naming your files, trying using a prefix such as res, cvrltr, ref, and ja for Resumes, Cover Letter, References and Job Announcements respectively.  Then use the name of the company and the position title in file name as well.  It might look something like this:

  • res-xyzcompany-bookkeeper.doc
  • cvrltr-xyzcompany-bookkeeper.doc


  • refs-html programmer.doc
  • refs-php programmer.doc
  • refs-partyplanner.doc

That way you can find the best version of your documents to re-use in applying for another similar position.  Even though you’ll conceivably put each file in separate folders, using common prefixes will help you avoid naming and storage conflicts.
These are just suggestions to help you be more efficient in your job search document storage and retrieval.  Having a system for storing your job search documents can mean the difference between finding the version of the resume you need versus sifting through a long list of uncategorized files in your My Documents folder.
As for my desk’s hardware?  It was in an envelope marked “Desk Hardware” in the same box as the last items removed from the desk before it was stored away.  If only I had been more detailed in my inventory system, I would have found the hardware that much sooner.  But at least I found it, and my desk is almost ready for use.

For more tips and ideas for job seekers and those on the job please search this blog and visit: