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How to Keep Job Applications on File

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The Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that employment applications be kept on file for at least a year. If you know that an applicant is older than 40, his application must be held for two years, according to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. State laws could require even a longer period to hold onto job applicant records. Because of state and federal regulations, an accurate record-keeping and filing system for job applicants is an important part of business. You may even need to check back with these applicants if the employee you hired doesn’t work out.

Use electronic management software to create and store job applications. Several online programs allow users to create such electronic forms as job applications. These employment forms are sent and saved electronically, and allow for paperless storage. Since most applications arrive by email, this is an easy way to store material in files that do not take up any physical space. Using an electronic workflow stored in your company’s document management system requires security, so employment files will not be hacked or viewed by unauthorized personnel. Set your computer to automatically send you alerts to remind you when files should be deleted or reviewed.

Set up job application personnel files in paper folders. Plan an efficient filing system using color-coded file folders kept in drawers, shelves or file cabinets. Print out resumes and job applications received by email and file them with the applications filled out in person or sent in the mail. Applicants can be filed by name or Social Security Number in sections determined by the type of job. For example, sales jobs would be listed in a folder titled “Sales” and applicants would be put in order by last name or numerically by identification numbers. Secure the files in a locked cabinet or room.

Keep records for at least four years if a job applicant sues you for hiring discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission normally requires you to keep solicited applications for at least a year, but if you’re facing legal action, the EEOC recommends you keep the job applications for at least four years. If you don’t store your applications properly, the EEOC could charge you with discriminatory hiring practices or record-keeping violations.

Destroy job applications after the legal period for holding them ends. Establish a system with reminders to do this. Contact your IT department to remove your electronic files properly and shred any paper job applications. This is important because job application files contain personal information such as Social Security Numbers and employment data that must be kept strictly confidential.


Helen Holzer is a veteran journalist who began writing in 1972 and has lived all over the country. She has written and edited on nearly every topic for major daily newspapers and other publications. She has also been a book reviewer and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

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James Woodson/Digital Vision/Getty Images