Advice & News

May 7, 2024

Ask the Expert: How Long Should I Wait Before Resubmitting an Application?


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Question: Do colleges and universities remove applications after a certain amount of time for open-ended applicant pools? If so, how long should I wait before I resubmit an application?

Answer from Christopher D. Lee, Ph.D., SPHR: How long an institution keeps job applications depends upon four factors. There are legal requirements, talent management philosophies and practices, and there at least two different types of openings.

Most vacancy announcements are for one single position, though from time to time there are vacancies where two or three positions of the same type are announced together.

Barring this unique and infrequent situation, there are "pooled" positions where there is a position that has a larger number of the same job on campus and there is frequent turnover in that position. Each of these circumstances cause institutions to handle applications differently.

From a legal perspective, employers are required to retain applications from one to two years depending upon whether federal or state law applies. Unsolicited applications do not have to be retained for any period of time. If an employer is considered a contractor by federal law - most colleges and universities are if they receive grants and other aid from the federal government - impacts the decision as well. Many state laws require applications to be kept for two years, and sometimes longer depending upon whether the application is classified as an official personnel record.

As a practical matter, the potential period in which information is retained is much more dynamic. With applicant tracking systems (ATS) or online application portals, the cost of keeping files is very low. Most organizations purge their records after the legally required period to avoid any potential or perceived legal liability. However, many others may not do so systematically and routinely.

Still, many also deliberately retain applicants' name, contact information, and their competency profile. This can be smart talent management since a person who was not best qualified for a position today may be a great applicant five years later because they grew their skills in experiences and are primed the next time that or a similar position is vacant.

With the click of a few buttons and a keyword search, organizations can reach out to hundreds of past applicants and notify them of the newly vacant position, saving tremendous time, effort, and money instead of advertising and waiting for applications to be submitted. While this is not as common in higher education, private employers mine their ATS databases more effectively.

If you are applying for a typical position, there really is no need to reapply for the same position again. Your application is in the ATS, as is information about every time that you have applied for any position at the organization, and notes about whether you were contacted, interviewed, hired, etc.

If open-ended means that there is no posted deadline, there is no "applications review will begin" date, or a good bit of time has passed, that does not really change the factors. Either the reviews have not yet started, or they have made the decision to pass on certain applicants. The data is still in the database, a new application will be added to the old one on file and a flag in the ATS will note that a file has been updated.

Unless your credentials and qualifications have dramatically changed, you do not need to apply again. If qualifications have changed dramatically in a short time, it may be worth calling the human resources department to alert them of this fact with hopes that your materials will be re-reviewed.

If by open-ended you mean that there is a multi-position job opening where applications are kept on file with the anticipation that there are frequent vacancies and applicants are solicited on a rolling basis, reapplying may be wise.

The key variable would be knowing how many application cycles have passed. If the open-ended position is solicited each semester, you should apply after two semesters or cycles.

The concept of pooled positions is they are there if, and when needed, so the applications are only reviewed as needed. If you are not selected, you may not know whether they were not reviewed or if there were not any needs at that time.

In either case, the pool of applicants will get stale, in industry parlance, because some applicants will no longer be interested or available after a period of time. This will cause the employer to want to refresh the applicant pool. That is why reapplying after two cycles makes sense.

In most circumstances, reapplying for the same position does not yield any intrinsic benefits. ATS platforms are a database of information and activities on each applicant. The original application materials - cover letter, resume, references - is in the database and it will be there for one to two years.

Some of the information - name, contact information, discipline or profession, competencies - may be retained longer. If you apply for positions indiscriminately, or for the same position time and time again, it may not be viewed favorably, as the HR staff has access to this information.

However, if after a very long period - two cycles for pooled positions, a different announcement is published, or your qualifications have changed substantively, then a resubmission may be warranted, as noted above.

Do you have a question about the job search, hiring process, advancing your career, etc.? Submit your question to one of our higher ed experts.

Christopher D. Lee, Ph.D., SPHR is a managing director at Storbeck Search, author, and former chief of human resource officer.

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