If you're not receiving a lot of resumes, calls, and letters, you don't need to worry too much about setting up a formal policy for deciding who is an official job applicant and who isn't. In the smallest businesses, anyone who expresses an interest, orally or in writing, can be considered an applicant.
If you have 15 or more employees. Federal antidiscrimination laws require that you keep records of all applicants for one year to ensure that you aren't excluding people in protected groups (i.e., groups by race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, age (over 40), disability, or veteran status). Therefore, it becomes important to decide exactly what a person must do in order to be considered "an applicant."
Technically defined, applicants are those persons who have indicated an interest in being considered for hiring, promotion, or other employment opportunities. Applicants need not necessarily include those who submit unsolicited resumes if you have a policy not to accept them. You are given a great deal of discretion by the law in establishing legitimate application procedures. However, once you've established a policy or a procedure, you must apply it fairly and consistently to all applicants.
It's in your best interest to have a pretty simple policy. Since it's up to you to design the application intake system, weigh the following considerations: