Picky, Picky: Resume File Naming Conventions

While one could accuse me of having any number of deficiencies, a lack of organizational skills isn’t one of them.  I’ve always been pretty good at getting all my ducks in a row and keeping track of things pretty efficiently.  In fact, in some respects I feel like I’m borderline obsessive-compulsive.  At my former company, for example, the receptionist once pointed out that every time I came up to the front office to speak with her, I’d unconsciously straighten up all of the things on her counter — the stapler, the phone, stacks of papers, etc.

In regard to this, I’ve recently had a few clients come visit me with their laptops in hand, giving me the chance to witness the “organizational systems” they were using with regard to their job search — particularly in terms of how they were storing their various resume and cover letter versions on their hard drive.  Frankly, I was appalled.  By and large, there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason around how they were naming and storing their documents, an oversight that can create all kinds of confusion over the course of a protracted job search.

So while there are different strokes for different folks, I suppose, let me throw out one idea for consideration that relates to naming your job search documents appropriately.  The simple system I’ve used for many years (which seems corroborated by a number of other articles I’ve read on the subject) works as follows.  You set up one folder on your hard drive for all the resumes you create throughout your job hunt, then another for all the cover letters you send out to specific employers.  Then, as you customize versions of these documents for different opportunities, you save them with a file name consisting of: 1) the date you sent the document out; 2) your name; 3) the word “resume” (or “cover letter”); 4) the job title/focus of the document; and 5) the name of the company to which you sent it.

Examples of this naming convention might be:

2013-04-19 Julie Fernandez Resume – Marketing Manager – Microsoft.doc
2013-05-11 Howard Leighton Resume – Accounting Supervisor – Expedia.doc
2013-06-16 Sally Baxter Cover Letter – Inside Sales Rep – Eddie Bauer.doc

While this is a fairly long naming format, I realize, it tends to accomplish several important objectives.  First, by including the date at the beginning, your documents will automatically stay sorted (in Windows or Mac) by the specific date in which you sent them out — which is normally the most useful way to keep track of things.  Secondly, you’ll be able to tell where each resume and cover letter was sent, at a glance, by reviewing the company name and job title that was targeted.  And lastly, by incorporating your name directly into the file title, you’ll be making the job of employers/recruiters much easier.  Most hiring managers report that they despise receiving attachments with file names like “Resume.com” that are highly ambiguous and not easily searchable, after the fact.

So that’s how I’d go about it, at least.   And my advice seems to be in line with what most other job search experts suggest, aside from the date part at the front, which is my own personal invention — and something I’ve found invaluable in keeping my own massive collection of documents in order.  Note, however, you have to start with the year first, otherwise a date like “04-05-13” would come before “11-05-12” when sorted alphabetically.

Is this approach for everybody?  Perhaps not.  But I thought I’d share it, just in case it might be useful to a few folks still struggling with this step of the search process.  Anybody else out there have some practical “job search organization” tips to pass along?

8 Responses to “Picky, Picky: Resume File Naming Conventions”

  1. Eileen: Great point – thanks for sharing that tip regarding job numbers, which I overlooked!

  2. Another tip is to include the job posting number, if it has one, in the filename, so if you have applied to several different positions in the same company with tailored versions of your resume, you know which resume you sent for that particular job. This also has helped me avoid applying for a job twice that’s been re-posted (a re-posting is also an opportunity, if I made it into the final rounds of the selection process the first time it was posted, that perhaps their first choice didn’t work out, and maybe it’s worth another chat with the recruiter or hiring manager to express interest and to save them from having to do a full-blown search again).

  3. Excellent! Another advantage is to show the employer/recruiter that you are organized and can work collaboratively. Documentation in a team can quickly go sideways if there is no file naming conventions.

  4. Matt, super practical and really helpful tip! You have done it again! I learned something new!


  5. Andrea: Good tip — and yes, any process like the one you suggest that will minimize the endless repetition of filling out job applications is a winner in my book! 🙂

  6. Bill: Interesting twist shortening the date like that — love the thought, but wonder if perhaps employers would wonder what that number signifies — or erroneously think it’s the Job Posting # or something similar, leading to a potential miscommunication? Probably not a big deal, and regardless, I’m glad you feel the same way I do about keeping things organized by date…

  7. I love systems that make job searching easier. Another tip I have is to create a process for online applications. Sometimes months go by after you complete an application online and you no longer have access to the system/job posting, even if you created an account.

    First, create a document with the answers to questions commonly asked online. Most of this will duplicate your resume, but some information, such as references and salary requirements, may be new. You can cut and paste your answers from the document into the online application, which will eliminate spelling errors and make sure your online responses are consistent with your resume.

    When you apply to a specific job/company online, print (or print screen) the online application when you are done, so you have it for your records. You can then scan it and save it using the naming convention Matt suggests. This gives you a way to remember your answers. For example, if you are asked if your salary requirements are still the same, and it’s been several months since you answered that question, your document would let you see what you answered.

    Great post as always!

  8. Great tip Matt. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to find a resume you created previously and know is perfect for a particular posting when applying online. One change I made to your basic format was to list the date as a single number. 2013-04-12 would be 130412. It may be less obvious to others that it represents the date and still keeps things in chronological order.

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