Principles for Ethical Professional Practice

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The dedicated individuals who make up the membership of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) are involved in an important process—helping students choose, prepare for, and attain personally rewarding careers.

NACE’s Principles for Ethical Professional Practice are designed to provide everyone involved in the career development and employment process with two basic precepts on which to base their efforts: maintain a recruitment process that is fair and equitable; support informed and responsible decision making by candidates.

The environment in which we all work is subject to continuous and rapid change, with advances in technology, increased competition, diversifying constituencies, and differences among generations. Therefore, the Principles are intended to serve as an enduring framework within which those involved in the career development and employment processes operate and as a foundation upon which professionalism and ethical behavior are promoted. NACE members are expected to use the Principles to guide processes, decisions, and outcomes.

The Principles for Ethical Professional Practice Committee is in place to provide leadership in the ethics area and facilitate the ongoing dialogue on ethics-related issues. The committee also provides advisory opinions to members on the application of the Principles, acts as an informational clearinghouse for various ethical issues, and periodically reviews and recommends changes to the Principles.


1. Practice reasonable, responsible, and transparent behavior …

… that consciously avoids harmful actions by embodying high ethical standards.
… by clearly articulating and widely disseminating your organization’s policies and guidelines.
… that guarantees equitable services for all constituencies.
… that is commensurate with professional association standards and principles.
… when resolving differences and addressing concerns.
… by nurturing sustainable relationships that are respectful and transcend transactions.

2. Act without bias …

… when advising, servicing, interviewing, or making employment decisions.
… when defining what constitutes employment.

3. Ensure equitable access …

… without stipulation or exception relative to contributions of financial support, gifts, affiliation, or in-kind services.
… in the provision of services and opportunities without discriminating on the basis of race, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability, age, economic status, or veteran status.
… by proactively addressing inclusivity and diversity.

4. Comply with laws …

… associated with local, state, and federal entities, including but not limited to EEO compliance, immigration, and affirmative action.
… in a timely and appropriate way if complaints of non-compliance occur.
… and respond to complaints of non-compliance in a timely and prudent manner.

5. Protect confidentiality of …

… all personal information related to candidates and their interviews, and their engagement with services, programs, and resources.
… student information related to professional plans.

Approved by the NACE Board of Directors. Posted June 2017. Updated October 2019.

For related resources, see ethics.

Related Resources

Advisory Opinions

Career Services Should Not Select Students for Employers
Managing Data Security With Technology Providers
Requiring Logins, Passwords Violates NACE Principles
Rescinded and Deferred Employment Offers
Setting Reasonable Deadlines for Job Offers
Supporting Appropriate Recruitment and Employment Practices: Guidelines for Career Center Staff
Working With International Students

Case Studies

Confidentiality of Student Advising/Coaching
Increasing Engagement With Career Services Among Students With Diverse Social Identities
Student Activism and Employer Access
When a Student Reneges on a Job Acceptance
When an Employer Rescinds a Job Offer
When Employers Seek Connections With Students From Diverse Social Identities
When Faculty Refer and Rank Students for Employers

See NACEWeb (keyword or tag: ethics)

Requesting an Advisory Opinion/Problem-Solving Procedures

A NACE member/regional association may request an advisory opinion regarding an interpretation of the NACE Principles at any time. The advisory opinion will apply to the situation as explained and will not be considered precedent for a subsequent complaint brought to NACE.

  • The member/association will prepare a written statement detailing the conduct in question. Statements will include the Principles to be interpreted relative to the conduct in question.
  • The information will be reviewed by the NACE Principles for Ethical Professional Practice Committee and a response given to the member/association.

Questionable practices or problems involving recruiters and career services practitioners should be resolved between the parties as quickly as possible. NACE recommends the following:

  • Discuss the incident with all parties involved in the situation. Determine the specifics of the problem.
  • Attempt to resolve the incident among the affected parties.
  • Refer unresolved concerns to the supervisors of the involved individuals or other appropriate officials.

NACE staff can answer many questions regarding the NACE Principles for Ethical Professional Practice; for more complex issues requiring an advisory opinion, staff can refer your question to the NACE Principles Committee.

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