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May 1, 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.

Sunshine advisories are a general resource for government officials and citizens 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.

The Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB) is an independent board that the Iowa Legislature established specifically to address open meetings and open records-related matters.  The IPIB provides information to the public and governmental entities on "sunshine" issues.

The IPIB, which has jurisdiction and authority to investigate and enforce Iowa's open meetings and open records laws, enables citizens to file a complaint if they believe that someone is violating these laws.

Citizens who have inquiries or complaints about public records or open meetings should contact the Iowa Public Information Board. Iowa Public Information Board.

Wallace Building, Third Floor
502 East 9th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319


Phone: 515-725-1781

Updated December 1, 2014

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