Welcome to the Department of Justice, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

Sunshine Advisory

A Bulletin on Iowa Open Meetings and Public Records Laws

By Attorney General Tom Miller -- May 2003

So, You Want to Work for the
Government . . . ?

Are resumes and application letters public records?

Government bodies advertise vacancies and accept resumes, just like other employers. What is the public record status of resumes and applications? Would applicants be discouraged from seeking a government job if their resumes were subject to disclosure as public records? (Some prefer no disclosure.) Is the public entitled to examine and copy resumes during the hiring process?

Some resumes may be kept confidential -- but others may not. Iowa law provides basic principles to decide if resumes may or may not be kept confidential (Iowa Code sec. 22.7 [18]). Resumes may be kept confidential if all of the following are true:

  • The resume comes from a person outside of government. Resumes submitted by a person already employed in government do not qualify for confidentiality.
  • The resume is submitted voluntarily and is not required by any law, rule or procedure. (This element is easily satisfied, because ordinarily no one is required to apply for a job.)
  • The government employer could reasonably believe the applicant would be discouraged from submitting a resume if it were available for public examination and copying. If, based on experience or other evidence, the government employer could reasonably believe the pool of applicants will be reduced if the resumes are public records, the resumes may qualify for confidentiality.

All three of these criteria must be met in order to keep resumes confidential.

However, if the applicant consents to disclosure, the resume must be disclosed as a public record. Therefore, remember: it is important to know the applicant's preference about disclosure. Government employers should ask about confidentiality, and applicants should make their preference known.

Citizens who have inquiries or complaints may call the Iowa Citizens' Aide/Ombudsman Office - toll-free at 888-IA-OMBUD (888-426-6283.)

"Sunshine Advisory" bulletins are designed to give information on Iowa's public records and open meetings laws - our "Sunshine Laws." Local officials should obtain legal advice from their counsel, such as the city or county attorney

Iowa Attorney General's Office: Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.

On the Web: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org . Sunshine Advisories are a general resource for government officials and citizens.