What Does Not Retained Mean?


what does not retained mean

If you’ve been out applying for a different jobs, there’s a decent chance that you have come across the term “not retained” on a job application.

And if you’re here reading this article, then you’re likely looking for a better understanding of what the term means.

To that end, we’re going to define the term “not retained” in the context of a job application.

Let’s get started.

What Does “Not Retained” Mean in a Job Application?

In the context of a job application/job application status portal, the term “not retained” means that the company decided that won’t move you forward in the hiring process.

It also means that they chose not to keep your resume on file for future openings and likely won’t keep you in mind for other job opportunities unless you apply to those separately.

Why is The Term Used?

Not retained is a bit of an odd term and it’s usage can be a little bit confusing. To help provide a little bit more context on the term, we’ve provided some background below:

Background on the Term “Not Retained”


As discussed in this thread, the origins of the term likely came from the days when people would apply for jobs with physical resumes. 

When you applied with physical documents, companies would keep the resumes of candidates that they thought they may want to consider for future job opportunities in an actual file.

If a job opportunity came up that they wanted to call people for, they would look through the files and call those candidates. That’s also where the verbiage “we will keep your resume on file” originated from.

Anyway, if a job decided that they did not want to consider you for future opportunities they would not retain a physical copy of your resume any longer and they would said that your application and resume were “not retained.” 

Now, the term doesn’t make quite as much sense anymore because everything is digital so there’s very little cost to retaining a resume. However, that term has continued to live on in job application management tools like Oracle.

Why Was My Job Application “Not Retained”

If you find yourself in a position where your job application and resume were not “retained” it comes down to the company ultimately making the assessment that you weren’t the right fit for the job.

And there are a variety of possible reasons for that. I’ve included some of the most common ones below:

You Don’t Have the Right Experience for the Job

The most common resume for an application not to be retained is that the company decided that your skills and/or experience didn’t match what they were looking for in the person that they wanted to fill the role.

You Didn’t Position Your Skills or Experience Correctly


Another common reason that your job application may not have been retained that I don’t see mentioned as often is that you may not have been positioning your skills or experience correctly on your resume. 

I’ll give you a personal example. I just went through a job search recently myself. I noticed that most of the companies that I was getting interviews with were very early stage startups and I wondered why.

When I took another look at my resume, I came to realize it was because I was unintentionally positioning myself as a candidate for those types of companies.

At my previous job, even though the company was decently well established, it was generating next to nothing in revenue sourced from the marketing department. After a few years at the company, I had increased that number by over $3.5M. 

The way that I positioned that in my resume was to say that I increased marketing sourced revenue from almost nothing to over $3.5M. What I didn’t realize is that companies would interpret that as meaning that I was best suited as an early-stage startup person that is best at scaling really small companies. In fact, that’s not the case, and it’s not how I wanted to be interpreted, but that’s how that line came across.

Ultimately, I adjusted the language of that line to just say that I increased revenue by over $3.5M and then I saw a much more balanced profile of companies responding to my application.

The moral of the story is to pay attention to how you’re positioning yourself and who you’re positioning yourself for in your resume and application.

You Had Mistakes in Your Resume or Application

In the job application process, companies expect that you’re doing everything that you can to present yourself in the best possible light. As a result, they tend to be less forgiving of things like typos, formatting errors, etc. and may even not retain an application that they find has too many of them.


Hopefully, this article has been helpful in enabling you to understand the term “not retained.” If you find that you did not advance in the job application process for a job that you were hoping for, it may be discouraging. But do your best, stay positive, optimize your application materials in the best way that you possibly can, and keep moving forward.

For definitions of some other terms that you may come across in your application process, take a look at our articles on the terms jobs no longer accepting applications, pending job offer, and requisition closed.

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and is a business professional with over 10 years of experience. He has been a hiring and people manager on multiple occasions, and has also gone through the hiring process himself at a variety of different companies. Dan writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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