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Applicant Files

What are applicant files?

Applicant files contain all documents that a potential candidate submits when applying for a position. They include details related to the employment lifecycle, from interviewing, selecting, pursuing, and hiring applicants. It can also be used for onboarding new hires and maintaining all the related forms and files. Most human resources departments keep all the documents for candidates in one file to make it convenient for HR staff, directors, and interview team members to locate information quickly. The key to effective recruiting is establishing a functional system to organize documents received from job seekers, such as resumes, reference lists, and supplemental documents.

Applicant files is a term used to describe all documents that a potential candidate submits when applying for a job position, such as resumes, reference lists and supplemental documents. They contain details related to the whole of the employment cycle, from interviewing, selecting to pursuing and hiring applicants.

What are applicant files used for?

Applicant files are often used for onboarding new hires and maintaining all of their related forms and files. To have an effective recruiting process it is important to establish a functional system to organize documents received from job seekers, so many HR departments keep all the documents in one file in order to locate information quickly.

What are employee personnel file contents?

The employee personnel file is the main employee file that contains the history of the employment relationship from employment application through an exit interview and employment termination documentation. Only Human Resources staff and the employee’s immediate supervisor and manager may have access to the information in the employee personnel file, and it never leaves the Human Resources office.

The employee personnel file is generally stored in a locked, fire-proof file cabinet in a locked location that is accessible to Human Resources staff. The confidentiality of the employee information in the personnel file is of paramount importance.

Of all the company-kept employee files, the employee personnel file is most frequently accessed day-to-day for information by the employer, supervisor, or Human Resources staff.

What are the things to be considered while submitting Personnel File Contents?

Will the employer need a particular document to justify decisions if the employer was sued? Would the employer need the document in a court of law?

Does the employee know and understand that the document will be filed in his or her personnel file? In most cases, employers ought to have the employee sign the document, not to signify agreement with the contents of the document, but to acknowledge that they are aware of and have read the document.

No surprises, opinions, or personal notes about the employee should ever be placed in an employee personnel file. Just the facts, no speculative thoughts, belong in an employee personnel file.

What are the Contents of an Employee Personnel File?

  • Job application
  • Resume
  • Resume cover letter
  • Education verification
  • Employment verification
  • Rejection letter
  • Position job description
  • Job analysis records
  • Job offer letter or employment contract
  • Employment agency or temp agency agreement, if used
  • Emergency contact information
  • Signed employee handbook acknowledgment form showing receipt of the employee handbook
  • Checklist from new employee orientation showing topics covered and by whom
  • Any relocation agreements and documentation
  • Any contract, written agreement, receipt, or acknowledgment between the employee and the employer (such as a noncompete agreement, an employment contract, or an agreement relating to a company-provided car)
  • Life of employment official forms including requests for transfer, promotion, internal job applications, and so forth
  • Any other documentation related to employment
  • Copies of any performance appraisal used or employee development plans
  • Employee self-assessments
  • Records from any formal counseling sessions
  • Notes on attendance or tardiness
  • Performance improvement plan documentation
  • Disciplinary action reports
  • Employee recognition presented such as certificates, recognition letters, and so forth
  • Employee formal suggestions and recommendations, organization responses
  • Training records
  • Requests for training
  • Competencies assessments
  • Training class or session notifications or schedules
  • Needs assessments signed
  • Training expense reports
  • Complaints from customers or co-workers
  • Employee resignation letter
  • Exit interview documentation

How to review personnel files?

You should establish a time to periodically review each employee's personnel file, perhaps when you conduct the employee's annual evaluation. During this review, consider whether the documents in the file are accurate, up to date, and complete. Some questions to consider:

Does the file contain every written evaluation of the employee?

Does the file reflect all of the employee's raises, promotions, and commendations?

Does the file show every warning or other disciplinary action taken against the employee?

If your policies provide that written warnings or other records of discipline will be removed from an employee's file after a certain period, have they been removed?

If the employee was on a performance improvement plan, a probationary or training period, or other temporary status, has it ended? Has the file been updated to reflect the employee's current status?

If the employee handbook has been updated since the employee started working for you, does the file contain a receipt or acknowledgment for the most recent version?

Does the file contain current versions of every contract or other agreement between you and the employee?

What Not to Keep in a Personnel File?

Your personnel files should not be a receptacle for every document, note, or thought about the employee. Here are some areas to be careful about:

Medical records. Do not put medical records into a personnel file. If your worker has a disability, you are legally required to keep all of the worker's medical records in a separate file -- and limit access to only a few people. Even for workers who are not disabled, you may have a legal obligation to keep medical records private (and it's a good idea to do so, in any case). For more information on storing medical records, read Nolo's article Keeping Personnel Files and Medical Records Confidential.

Form I-9s. Do not put Form I-9s into your employees' personnel files. (Form I-9 is a form from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), formerly the INS. You must complete an I-9 for all employees, verifying that you have checked to be sure that the employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.)

You should put all Form I-9s into one folder for USCIS. The government is entitled to inspect these forms, and if it does, you don't want the agents viewing the rest of the employee's personnel -- and personal -- information at the same time. Not only would this compromise your workers' privacy, but it might also open your business up to additional questions and investigation.

Unnecessary material. Although an employee's personnel file may contain any other job-related documents, don't go overboard. Remember that, in many states, employees have the right to view their personnel files. (For more information, read Nolo's article Employee Access to Personnel Files: Is It Required?) Indiscreet entries that do not directly relate to an employees job performance and qualifications -- like references to an employees private life or political beliefs, unsubstantiated criticisms or comments about an employees race, sex or religion will come back to haunt you. A good rule of thumb: Dont put anything in a personnel file that you would not want a jury to see.

Anything related to worker eligibility, such as I-9 forms, copies of driver’s licenses, or Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) records

Private documents that are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), also referred to as health information privacy

Private employee data, such as bank accounts, Social Security numbers, or immigration documents, are best stored separately from the personnel folder

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