When Companies Merge, Do Resumes Fall Through the Cracks?

In an era of consolidation, hiring software collates every applicant’s resume. Just make sure you stay at the top of the pile.


What happens to your resume when you apply to a company that then goes through a merger or acquisition?

Let’s say you applied for a job at Merrill Lynch in early September 2008. By mid-September, Bank of America was in advanced talks to buy Merrill Lynch. Would your resume be transported to Bank of America’s ATS (applicant tracking system) software once the sale was final?

Do companies in such circumstances merge their ATS databases, or do both parties retain autonomous systems? Should you reapply to Bank of America, and if so, when? And how?

To unravel the mystery of what happens to your resume under these circumstances, Ladders spoke with Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass, in Boston, which produces resume-processing and data-extraction technologies used by HR departments and recruiters to sort candidates. (To understand how ATS technology screens and sorts candidates, please read “Resume, Meet Technology: Making Your Resume Format Machine-Friendly.”)

Sigelman and Burning Glass have helped a number of client companies combine ATS software in the wake of a merger or acquisition.

An unwieldy system

There are better options for merging data systems than was once the case, Sigelman said. As recently as a few years ago, monolithic ERP (enterprise resourcing planning) systems held a company’s data store, including any resumes it had acquired.
In the days when ERP was king, the consensus would have been that two merging companies would have to be on one shared system, with all data in one place. “That’s where ERP systems wound up becoming so popular: this theory that you want all data in one place,” Sigelman said.

The result was typically a well-ordered system in which all parties operated under the same processes and procedures. The tradeoff was unwieldy data storage infrastructure that was difficult to maintain and had trouble transferring resumes and other data between the various parts.

“I think a lot of companies wound up trading order for efficiency,” Sigelman said. “You invest $20 million in an ERP implementation, and you get a whole lot of heartache at the end of the day.”

Separate but equal data

What changed the game? The advent of XML (Extensible Markup Language), a data-markup language that aids information systems in sharing structured data. Today, XML attaches software code to documents and files to make the transfer of data easier.

Instead of two systems merging into one with the same processes and procedures, companies undergoing mergers can now opt for the most efficient method – to maintain separate ATS software and still share resumes in a common applicant pool.

Candidates can be considered for positions in various company units without the need to combine ATS software and without the need to standardize data coming from disparate ATS databases.

Will my resume be lost in the shuffle?

Your resume is safe, Sigelman said. From what he’s seen, most companies are careful with their data stores.

“The state of the art is to make use of such data, to recognize that such data represents a real asset to a company, whether it’s current job applicants or the resumes a company has received in the past,” he said.

In short, job seekers likely needn’t worry about reapplying to an acquirer when going after a job at the acquiring company.
In the end, it doesn’t hurt to send your resume again, Sigelman said.

The ATS will alert the recruiter to the existence of prior versions. Just be careful they don’t contradict each other.