nonspecific-generic-resumeFor private-sector employers, we can find no law that addresses the issue of whether or not a résumé is acceptable in place of an application.  Ultimately, the decision rests with the company.  The key is to be consistent; don’t allow one applicant to simply submit a résumé and then require the rest of the individuals applying for the job to submit an application.

The best practice to require all applicants to complete an application form, regardless of whether they have already given you a résumé.

An application allows the company to collect consistent information about each individual, which can be important if the company is in the unfortunate position of having to defend a lawsuit claiming discrimination in hiring. Furthermore, a résumé only reveals what the applicant wants to share with you.  A job application allows the company to collect the information it deems relevant, important and necessary to make its hiring decision.

If the company requires that an application be completed, they should return applications to individuals who fail to provide all pertinent information or who simply say “see résumé” and ask them to complete the job application as required.

The company may also choose to require the completion of an application and submission of a résumé.  This is entirely at the discretion of the company, but the company’s requirements for applications/résumés should be consistent for everyone applying for the job.

Once you have accepted a résumé and/or application from an individual, you must keep it/them on file for a minimum of 1 year (2 years if your company is a federal contractor or subcontractor).  It is generally not recommended that employers accept résumés or applications unless there is a job opening and employers should require individuals to state the specific position for which they are applying.

Contributed by Christine Crews, SPHR, is Vice President of Human Resource Services for the Employers Association Forum, Inc. (EAF). EAF is a non-profit corporate membership-based association dedicated to serving the business and HR communities with world-class HR tools, hotlines & legal compliance, news & trends, surveys & economic data, benefits & insurance, risk management, training & consulting, and leadership & organizational development. HCCMO members receive discounted rates on all EAF classroom training at EAF’s training center in Longwood.  Click here for currently scheduled programs: or


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