Ask the Experts: Job Applicant Recordkeeping

Question:  During interviews, we have candidates complete three forms: an application, a background check authorization, and a drug screen authorization. We keep these three forms and their resumes on file. There is nothing that is done with them unless they receive an offer. If we do not give an offer, is it okay to shred the application, background check authorization, and drug screen authorization? If we keep the resume, how long should we retain it?

Answer: Applicant files must be retained for three years from date of job placement or close of vacancy requisition.

Requesting that candidates complete a background check authorization and drug screen authorization in advance of a contingent offer is risky. These documents request information that is prohibited in the vetting process and could expose the company to discriminatory hiring practices based on information that may be disclosed when completing them. For example, asking a candidate to provide her date of birth could expose a company to a claim for refusal to hire based on age.

Best practice is to provide background and drug screen authorization forms upon written acceptance of a job offer. Keep all documents relating to each candidate’s interviewing process for three years after closing the job vacancy.