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?