• Business Blog
  • How to Create a Personnel File Checklist in 7 Easy Steps

How to Create a Personnel File Checklist in 7 Easy Steps

Posted by Pekin Insurance on Apr 04, 2016

Want to keep your employment files organized and compliant with the law? Create a personnel file checklist to tuck in every folder. 


There are many different types of records companies create for a single employee. The Human Resources Department oversees the confidentiality of these documents and keeps them safe from harm's way. There is no one rule to follow when it comes to an employee's file. Privacy laws vary from state to state, and every company has its own best practices for storing information. Building a personnel file checklist helps to manage the contents of each folder and make sure the proper documentation procedures are followed.

7 steps to building a personnel file checklist for your Human Resources representatives 

Step #1: Start with employment documentation and relationship statuses

When a new employee begins, there is quite a bit of paperwork that gets collected by your Human Resources Department. All of these materials should be kept in the personnel file. As the relationship with the employee grows over time, more and more records will fit into the documentation structure. 

A quick list would include (but is not limited to): 

  • Job application, resume, and cover letter 
  • Employment verification and signed contract
  • Emergency contact information 
  • Performance assessments, evaluations, and more 

Complying with state and federal employment laws is, of course, very important. You have to include all of the required documents for your personnel files. These laws vary from state to state and may change over time. 

Step #2: Narrow down the contents—figure out what NOT to include 

The first step only included a snapshot of the documents you will acquire from one employee. It's also important to draw a distinction between your personnel files and other types of files. The best rule to stick by is only include documents directly related to employment status. 

Here are the types of documentation not to include in a personnel file checklist: 

  • Any medical records or health-related documents 
  • Confidential Human Resources investigation information or complaints
  • Background checks, criminal histories, credit reports, etc. 

These types of materials are confidential—they don't belong in the personnel file. Usually, in addition to the designated Human Resources staff, supervisors may add to an employee's file. They are not legally qualified to view medical information or highly confidential documents. 

Step #3: Order your checklist as if it were a table of contents  

Once you have a baseline set of documents to include in a personnel file checklist, then you can order it accordingly. That's one of the benefits of having a checklist: it provides a way to structure each file and keep things organized.

Since everything will follow the same order, you won't waste time searching for specific documentation. You'll know exactly where to find it.

Step #4: Always include an area for signatures and dates 

Accountability is an important aspect of file keeping. When a document is added to an employee's file, someone needs to sign off on it. It's the only way to keep track of who has accessed the files. If your personnel files were ever audited by a government agency or subpoenaed in a lawsuit, you'd get in a lot of trouble if something was processed incorrectly.

When a change is made to a document (additions, revisions, etc.), have that person initial the checklist and provide a date.

Step #5: Run it by your Human Resources staff and supervisors for feedback

Receiving feedback is the best way to create a checklist. You have to make it work for everyone—Human Resources staff, supervisors, and managers. They can provide knowledgeable advice on formatting and content. You don't want to forget to add an important document to the list and then be reminded after you've finalized everything. 

Step #6: Make an effort to simplify as much as possible 

Now you have a final product. You've narrowed down the contents, received feedback, and come up with a prototype list. You're almost at the end, but not quite—now it's time to simplify. 

Your personnel file checklist needs smooth navigation. Just like a table of contents for a book, it should be easy to digest, scan, and update. Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Try to keep the checklist on one page, if possible. 
  • Use as few words as possible. Make it visually understandable (check boxes, bullet points, etc.). 
  • Make it easy to change the form or update it with new information. Leave it flexible. 

Step #7: Update and revise as policies change and new material becomes necessary 

Finally, keep in mind that a checklist may change with time. There are new policies that come into play, new state laws to follow, and better ways to maintain records. When you finalize your list, keep it open to manipulation and rearrangement. 

Update your checklist when new policies arrive, and keep a watchful eye for state legislature revisions in regard to employment records. Also, always store your records in fire-resistant cabinets. If your workplace has a fire emergency, you don't want to lose these files!

If an accident occurs with an employee or your files are damaged, is your business properly insured to cover the damages? Take a look at our business insurance options to see if you could benefit from better rates and coverage today. 

Do you have any questions or thoughts to share? Let us know in the comments.


Subscribe to our Blog