From the NACE Principles for Professional Practice Committee
Career services professionals have requested advice on how to respond when students ask to connect with them on LinkedIn or be friends on personal Facebook accounts (not the office’s Facebook fan page).
The committee recognizes that each organization needs to craft a policy that makes most sense for it, but offers some guidelines for consideration.
In terms of the NACE Principles for Professional Practice, the real issue here is one of access. How accessible are you willing to be? Do you offer the same level of accessibility to all constituents/customers? Do students and employers who are connected to you personally have an advantage over those who are not?
The NACE Principles for Professional Practice document provides standards regarding equal access to employers by students. One of the three basic precepts for career planning, placement, and recruitment is “Maintain a recruitment process that is fair and equitable to candidates and employing organizations.”
The applicable principles are as follows:
Career Services Professionals
#4. Career services professionals will provide generally comparable services to all employers, regardless of whether the employers contribute services, gifts, or financial support to the educational institution or office and regardless of the level of such support.
#6. Career services professionals will maintain EEO compliance and follow affirmative action principles in career services activities in a manner that includes the following:
a) Referring all interested students for employment opportunities without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, military service, veteran status, or disability, and providing reasonable accommodations upon request;
#4. Neither employment professionals nor their organizations will expect, or seek to extract, special favors or treatment which would influence the recruitment process as a result of support, or the level of support, to the educational institution or career services office in the form of contributed services, gifts, or other financial support.
#7. Employment professionals will maintain the confidentiality of student information, regardless of the source, including personal knowledge, written records/reports, and computer data bases. There will be no disclosure of student information to another organization without the prior written consent of the student, unless necessitated by health and/or safety considerations.
The committee recommends that all parties proceed with caution, carefully evaluating all the ramifications of “linking” to a select group of students and/or a select group of employers. You may want to develop your own in-house policy to ensure consistency among all staff. Criteria for “linking” could include students who have participated in advising or attended programs. Employer “links” could be those who have posted positions or have a strong relationship with the career center. Some social networking sites have the option to “link” as an entire organization. This may be a more appropriate option than to link as individuals. When “linking” as individuals, all parties should be aware of any expectations related to that connection. The NACE Principles focus on fair and equitable access; any expectations that “linking” provides unfair access should be carefully considered.
Staff also must recognize they have a personal as well as professional presence in these online communities and should be aware of the audience with whom they interact. Learning about students’ social lives or sharing information about the staff members’ lives may not be appropriate if the expectation is professional networking. In addition, the focus of the social networking site should be considered. Some staff may choose to use one social networking site for their social interactions with friends and family and use a different site to link to professional colleagues or students.
“Social Media and Recruiting: The Old Rules Apply to the New Technology,” February 3, 2010, Spotlight Online
“Legal Q&A: The Use of Technology,” March 2009 NACE Journal
Created 9/2009. Current as of June 2012.