Wheel - Recordkeeping

Keeping Resumes and Applications


We’re doing some end-of-year filing and record cleanup. How long do we need to keep resumes and applications?


There are many Federal Acts that require employers to retain employment applications and related documents, but not a single ruling that specifically addresses it. As an employer you must look at the federal laws from which you are covered as well as any contractual requirements you may have (i.e. union contracts). The following lists some of the Acts and their record retention requirements.

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Employers are required to keep various employment records, including job applications, for one year from the date the application was received.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act – Employers are required to retain employment applications for one year. There is language, however, that indicates if you are aware the applicant is over age 40, you should retain it for as long as two years.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act – Employers are required to retain job applications and documents for one year. There is some variation based upon whether or not the applications are solicited or unsolicited, but the maximum retention is two years.
  • Executive Order 11246 – If you are a government contractor and have less than 150 employees or a contract of at least $150,000 you must retain these records for one year. If you have at least 150 employees or more and a contract of $150,000, you are required to keep the records for two years. If you have a resume on hand, from a previous search, and decide to consider it for a new position months down the road, you will need to keep that resume or application for the time required based on the last viewing of the document (i.e. 1-2 years past the fill date of the second position).

A word of caution – if there is a discrimination charge or unlawful employment practice brought against the employer, employment applications must be retained until the matter reaches a resolution. This can get tricky if someone claims discrimination because they did not get a promotion; the employer is then required to keep all the applications received for that promotion until the claim is resolved. With a lengthy lawsuit and litigation, this could be an extended amount of time.

Generally speaking, it is a safe bet to keep resumes and applications of non-hired individuals for two years following the date the hiring process is completed for a position (i.e. from the time the new employee starts working). Remember to consult State laws in addition to Federal regulations when determining how long to keep employee records.

Recordkeeping can be a daunting task, especially when you are trying to clean out old records and keep handy the pertinent ones. Keeping track of all the paper is extremely challenging. Strategic HR, inc. understands your frustration and has many tried-and-trusted tips on recordkeeping – including a handy desktop Recordkeeping reference to help you decide what to keep and what to pitch (located in our HR Store). Visit our Recordkeeping page to learn more about getting your employment records in order.