TAGS: case study, ethics, principles
This case study, which draws from all five of the Principles for Ethical Professional Practice, addresses the following:
Scenario: A female student of color accepts an offer with Company L, which has a strong partnership with XYX Institute of Technology (XYZIT), the student’s university. This company is also committed to increasing the diversity of its work force and has hosted recruiting events and made donations targeted to diversity student organizations.
However, after the student learns that the company has a poor reputation for women and Hispanics, she relaunches her job search and is offered another position by A Incorporated. She informs Company L that she has reconsidered and is withdrawing her offer acceptance in favor of accepting an offer with another company. Company L is livid; a representative contacts the XYZIT career center director (CCD) and demands that the career center take action.
Principles That Apply:
Analysis: While the scenario lays out several issues, more information is needed to assess which Principles are in play and what approach to undertake with the student and employer representative(s).
As the situation was first communicated by the employer, Company L, there is wisdom in initially following up with an employer representative to gain a better understanding of the specific circumstances associated with this case. For example, were there changes made to the original agreement with the student? Did the terms of the offer match what was communicated to the student during the interview process? Is there an overarching concern relating to the work environment or the overall vitality of the organization? Were there patterns in the student’s behavior after the offer was extended that troubled employer representatives? Were there other students who reneged on their accepted job offers with this employer? If so, is there a frequency or trend with this occurring among XYZIT students and Company L? Is there a possibility that this situation will impact XYZIT’s relationship with Company L?
We know that an employer’s interpretation of circumstances relating with the student’s decision to withdraw an accepted offer may differ from the student’s side of the story. Using a non-judgmental, listening-based approach to inaugurate the discussion with the student will likely yield the best results. Among probing questions to consider, include the following: What was it about the student’s experience with Company L that led her to interview with and accept a job offer? Did information surface that troubled her about her Company L offer acceptance? What was the timing and source of that information? In what ways did she investigate the Company L opportunity before and after the offer? What were the circumstances relating to the student interviewing and ultimately accepting an offer with A Incorporated? Did A Incorporated play a significant role in her decision-making?
Options for Resolution: Among veteran CCDs who have met with students reneging on job offer acceptances, many will share that no two circumstances are alike. Nevertheless, career centers often standardize what learning tools will be applied to students as a result of their decisions. Responses can be found on a continuum that include no action taken, a frozen online account until a meeting with a career services representative takes place, an apology letter to the employer, a frozen account for an established period of time, removal from the campus interview program, or official student conduct proceedings that may be applied by student judicial offices. CCDs must be mindful that any actions taken do not constitute retaliation against the student for complaining about perceived issues in Company L. In this regard, if the student has lodged good faith complaints about Company L’s treatment of women and Hispanics, the CCD should discuss those concerns with the student before taking any action.
Some career center actions are applied based on the reasons for the students’ decisions. When personal life circumstances or significant challenges from the employer affects the position accepted, career centers applying learning tools won’t likely be relevant. In the case where students may be gaming the process with full knowledge of the negative impact on others, substantial teachable moments may be seized upon in an attempt to affect future behavior.
Other Considerations: What level of communication is important and appropriate between the career center and employer? While getting a full sense of the circumstances relating to this scenario is an obvious objective, can the career center be helpful in addressing a broader concern? For example, there may be expertise on campus to help the employer address concerns among its employees who represent diverse populations. If Company L has trouble competing for qualified talent on campus, what role can the CCD or another career services professional play in helping the company formulate a better strategy for recruitment success? Certainly, tight offer deadlines can increase offer reneges. Also, a long delay by Company L in extending full-time offers to successful interns can result in students questioning how valued they were by the company. Ultimately, the students may move more quickly to accept an offer with a competitor.
Can the relationship between Company L and XYZIT be seriously damaged by this situation? If so, who else on campus should be notified and consulted regarding these circumstances? If other campus stakeholders are involved, apprising them of the NACE Principles and career center guidelines should be considered.
Reviewed and revised by the 2019 Principles for Ethical Professional Practice Committee. Posted September 2019.
Percent of staff time spent student-facing
Median number of students to professional staff member
Median square footage of the career center
Percent of career centers with employer partnership programs
Percent frequently discussing career readiness competencies with faculty
2018-19 Career Services Benchmark Survey