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Be consistent in handling unsolicited résumés

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Q. We get numerous unsolicited résumés through e-mail and regular mail. Do we have any duty toward these individuals? Do we have any obligation to keep the materials they send? —R.B., Illinois

A. It depends on whether those who sent you the unsolicited résumés are “applicants” (a term with legal significance) or merely people looking for a job. Whether individuals are “applicants” will depend on how your company handles unsolicited résumés.

Employers with a policy of not considering unsolicited résumés need not treat such job seekers as “applicants” and have no duties or obligations toward them. However, once you begin picking and choosing among unsolicited résumés, you run the risk that they all should be considered applicants. Then certain obligations may kick in, such as the obligation to handle all unsolicited candidates as you would handle solicited candidates. If you rank solicited applicants in a certain way, you should rank unsolicited candidates the same way.

Develop a system for handling résumés and applications that will help you distinguish between applicants and mere job seekers. Apply that system in a consistent, nondiscriminatory manner. You can decide when and under what circumstances you will accept applications.

As for whether you have to keep the materials sent, federal recordkeeping statutes require that employers keep even unsolicited job applications and résumés for at least one year. Federal contractors must keep them for two years.

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