Q. How long should we retain recruitment records such as job applications and interview notes for candidates who aren’t hired?
A. Generally speaking, all pre-employment documents must be retained for 3 years following an employee’s termination. Therefore, pre-employment documents (e.g., job descriptions, applications/resumes, interview evaluations, and offer letters) must be kept for 3 years after the no-hire decision is made.
If a candidate is hired and additional documentation results (e.g., Form I-9, background check, or new hire action form), the documents must likewise be maintained for 3 years, even if the candidate doesn’t ultimately end up working for the company.
Some state laws may require longer record retention periods. For conflicting laws, always follow the longer retention policy. Keep in mind, the penalties for not keeping required records may be severe.
Arizona law, for example, doesn’t specify a record retention requirement for pre-employment records. Therefore, you must follow the 3-year record retention requirement established by federal law. Arizona law, however, has longer record retention requirements for other documentation.
For example, Arizona law requires you to maintain payroll records showing the hours worked for each day worked, wages paid, and earned sick time provided to all employees for a period of 4 years.
Other employment documents have special retention requirements. For example, the IRS rules suggest you maintain the Form W-4 for each employee for a minimum of 4 years after the date the last tax return was submitted using the information on the form.
You should keep in mind that the requisite retention period for various employment-related records established by state and federal statutes is a minimum. In some instances, employers must defend themselves against employment-related claims or litigation and are required to retain records beyond the statutory minimum period.
If, however, an extended record retention isn’t required to defend against an employment claim, best practices require retaining documents for the minimum period because some federal and state agencies assess penalties against employers when documents aren’t completed correctly (e.g., Form I-9).
Jodi R. Bohr, an attorney with Tiffany & Bosco, P.A., practices employment and labor law, with an emphasis in HR management counseling, litigation, class actions, and other HR matters She is a frequent speaker on a wide range of employment law topics. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.