• Handling Questionable Recruitment & Employment Practices: Guidelines for Career Center Staff

    Organizational Structure
    A woman sits through an uncomfortable job interview.

    TAGS: operations, policy, recruiting


    Should organizations have unrestricted access to students for purposes of employment recruitment? Can employers/organizations with questionable recruitment or employment practices be denied access to students because of those practices?

    Although the Principles for Professional Practice spells out core precepts for the recruitment process, career services professionals have asked the Principles Committee to address a fair way to assess and work with employers while protecting the welfare of students.

    The following outlines the related issues and provides some possible steps in working with employers and in counseling students about employment opportunities.

    (See also, Relationships Between Workers and Hiring Organizations)

    Professional Perspectives

    The Principles for Professional Practice provides three basic precepts that spell out core values and the philosophy of the career services and employment profession, all of which are relevant to this discussion.

    They are:

    • Maintain an open and free selection of employment opportunities in an atmosphere conducive to objective thought, where job candidates can choose optimum long-term uses of their talents that are consistent with personal objectives and all relevant facts;
    • Maintain a recruitment process that is fair and equitable to candidates and employing organizations;
    • Support informed and responsible decision making by candidates.1

    In attempting to adhere to these guidelines, along with honoring institutional expectations regarding student welfare, career services professionals often find themselves in a quandary. How much protection should they provide students and how much responsibility as emerging adults should these students be expected to assume for themselves?

    The Principles for Professional Conduct offers guidance when it comes to the intent to treat employers and students fairly. This intent is expressed in the following four principles that appear in the Career Services Professionals section:

    • Principle 1. Career services professionals, without imposing personal values or biases, will assist individuals in developing a career plan or making a career decision.
    • Principle 3. Career services professionals will provide students with information on a range of career opportunities and types of employing organizations. They will inform students of the means and resources to gain access to information which may influence their decisions about an employing organization.
    • Principle 4. Career services professionals will provide generally comparable services to all employers.
    • Principle 5. Career services professionals will establish reasonable and fair guidelines for access to services by employers.2

    A Career Center’s Responsibility

    While career centers do not necessarily officially endorse specific organizations, the posting of their positions or their inclusion in career center events, services, or programs implies that the employer has been vetted and that students can feel reasonably comfortable applying to these organizations.

    As a result, if a career center has concerns about an organization’s business or practices, the career center may feel justified in denying the employer access to students. In addition to the three core precepts stated above, career centers are expected to ensure the ethical obligations of employers who recruit students, as described in these three Principles for Employment Professionals:

    • Principle 1. Employment professionals will refrain from any practice that improperly influences and affects job acceptances.
    • Principle 2. Employment professionals will … work within a framework of professionally accepted recruiting, interviewing, and selection techniques.
    • Principle 3. Employment professionals will supply accurate information on their organization and employment opportunities.

    However, there are valid arguments as to why career centers would be acting unreasonably by placing restrictions or special conditions on an organization. A core concept is the student’s right to choose. It could be said that by limiting an organization’s access to students or intentionally pointing out reasons students should be cautious, a career center is interfering with students’ right to implement their career self-concept and even imposing its beliefs upon them. Moreover, an organization limited in this manner might rightfully maintain that the recruitment process is not fair to them by pointing to the second precept, namely “Maintain(ing) a recruitment process that is fair and equitable to candidates and employing organizations.”

    Considerations and Recommendations

    In respecting students’ rights and autonomy, the challenge career centers sometimes face is how far to go in looking out for students’ welfare. Career centers are expected to honor students’ prerogative to consider all types of career opportunities, yet career centers are also entrusted with some degree of guardianship.

    At the same time, career centers also must be fair to employers, taking care not to act prejudicially, capriciously, or arbitrarily in the role of gatekeeper. There are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes “reasonable and fair [access] guidelines.”

    It is within the rights of individual career centers to define policies that are appropriate for their campuses; these policies might very well lead to placing restrictions on employers, including barring campus visits or advertising positions. Career centers that do not currently have policies should consider developing one.

    Suggested Steps When Working With Employers

    1. Ensure that all organizations recruiting on your campus have been informed of office and university policies related to recruiting.
    2. Develop a set of employer/recruitment policies for the career center, have them reviewed by university counsel, post them on your web site, and share them as a standard policy with ALL employers recruiting on campus. Refer to the NACE Principles document and/or include the Employer Principles section as a part of your policies.
    3. Should you have any concerns regarding a specific employer, be sure to contact the organization. Frank discussions between career centers and organizations that are interested in the institution’s students should take place so that policies and expectations are clear. If your concerns are unresolved, contact the supervisors or other appropriate officials within the company.

    Suggested Steps When Counseling Students

    1. Educate students to make fully informed decisions regarding employment opportunities. Use a variety of tools including publications, web sites, office and on-campus recruiting orientations, job-search workshops, and individual appointments as your primary means.
    2. When teaching students how to search for employment, provide pointers on how to assess the appropriateness of positions and how to ask the right questions of employers.
    3. Note in campus job listing sites, on-campus recruiting schedules, and job fair employer profiles what type of position is being offered by the company.
    4. Recommend that students have an attorney or a trusted guardian review any employment contracts before signing them.


    Institutions often expect their career centers to play a gatekeeper role with employers, both for the protection of students’ well-being and to ensure adherence to the institution’s mission and values. Career centers should develop policies/rules that govern an employer’s access to its students for employment recruitment purposes. To this end, dialogue within the institution among the key stakeholders is recommended prior to implementing any such policy. The general counsel’s office, faculty, alumni relations, student government, and student newspapers (as a way to reach the student body as a whole) can be part of the discussion. Employers who fail to abide by the appropriate policies/rules should be denied access to the school’s students for recruitment purposes.

    It is within the rights of the individual career services office, once employer policies have been defined and publicized appropriately, to limit or refuse service to those organizations whose business or practices are in conflict with those policies.


    1Principles for Professional Practice, National Association of Colleges and Employers

    Reviewed 2016 by the NACE Principles for Professional Practice Committee

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