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Dear Matt: I’m responsible for hiring entry-level employees for a large company, and I am amazed at how many recent college grads have their parents reaching out to us on behalf of their children – they even show up at interviews! I thought helicopter parents were only involved at the youth and high school level. But we’re now seeing it in the business world. Can you remind your readers and all recent college grads that parental involvement shouldn’t take place in the workplace?
Matt: By one definition, a helicopter parent is a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are also prevalent at the youth and high school level, often hovering over their children and every decision involving those children at youth or high school activities, in school, or with friends.
And now, helicopter parents are invading the workplace. Yikes! It’s true.
“Believe it or not, recruiters and hiring managers are seeing a surprising influx of parental involvement in the job search, recruiting, and interviewing process,” says Brandi Britton, district president for OfficeTeam, the nation’s leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled administrative and office support professionals. “As a staffing firm, we’ve heard our share of helicopter parent stories and experienced some unique situations with moms and dads ourselves.”
Today’s working parent can be a great resource for that recent college grad seeking job search advice, or with connecting them to members of their professional network. But they shouldn’t accompany their child to job interviews, contact employers on behalf of their child, or listen in on speaker phone or Skype/Facetime during the interview. Those are all things that are happening today and all things recent college grads should be sure to avoid to land that first job, or move forward in their career.
According to a survey of 608 senior managers by Office Team, 35 percent of senior managers interviewed said they find it annoying when helicopter parents are involved in their kids’ search for work. Another one-third (34 percent) of respondents prefer mom and dad stay out of the job hunt, but would let it slide. Only 29 percent said this parental guidance is not a problem.
The reasons for mom and dad getting involved are simple, says Britton: Recent college grads may not have as much job search experience and therefore turn to their parents for guidance.
“The job search process can be extremely challenging and daunting,” says Britton. “Parental support and advice throughout the process can help you stay positive and on track.”
“Although most parents mean well with their efforts, they need to know where to draw the line to avoid hurting their son or daughter’s chances of securing a job,” says Britton
Managers were also asked to recount the most unusual or surprising behavior they’ve heard of or seen from helicopter parents of job seekers. Here are some of their responses:
- “The candidate opened his laptop and had his mother Skype in for the interview.”
- “A woman brought a cake to try to convince us to hire her daughter.”
- “One parent asked if she could do the interview for her child because he had somewhere else to be.”
- “A father asked us to pay his son a higher salary.”
- “One mom knocked on the office door during an interview and asked if she could sit in.”
- “Parents have arrived with their child’s resume and tried to convince us to hire him or her.”
- “A job seeker was texting his parent the questions I was asking during the interview and waiting for a response.”
- “Once a father called us pretending he was from the candidate’s previous company and offered praise for his son.”
- “Parents have followed up to ask how their child’s interview went.”
- “A father started filling out a job application on behalf of his kid.”
- “I had one mother call and set up an interview for her son.”
- “Moms and dads have called to ask why their child didn’t get hired.”
When it comes to parental involvement in the job search, Britton provided the five biggest mistakes college grads make when involving parents in the job search:
- Parents should avoid direct contact with potential employers. They should not participate in interviews or call, email or visit companies on behalf of their children.
- Job seekers should be the ones filling out the applications and submitting resumes, not their parents.
- Helicopter parents should steer clear of involvement in following up after their child has applied or interviewed for a position.
- Having your mom or dad try to bribe a potential employer is a definite no-no. In our survey, one woman brought a cake to a company to try to convince them to hire her daughter.
- Parents shouldn’t be involved in job offer discussions, such as negotiating salary or benefits.
“Parents should absolutely not be included in their children’s job interviews,” says Britton. “The meeting is meant to be a discussion involving only the interviewer(s) and job candidate. “Parents participating in interviews can distract from the goal of making sure it’s a fit for the applicant and employer. The employer is evaluating whether to hire the applicant — not his or her parent.”
Employers usually appreciate candidates who are assertive, but when a parent is clearly handholding or answering questions for their child, it sends the message that the individual lacks initiative and independence, adds Britton.
Does this automatically eliminate a candidate?
“Not all employers will automatically take a candidate out of contention if his or her parents become too involved in the job search, but chances are that most hiring managers would be put off by this type of behavior,” says Britton. “Parents who become overly involved in their children’s job searches can cause more harm than good because employers may question the applicant’s abilities and maturity.”
Professionals need to take ownership of their careers – they’re responsible for applying to and ultimately landing positions. So how can parents assist recent college grads in the job search? Britton offered these additional tips on how parents can assist recent college grads in the job search:
- Uncovering hidden job opportunities: Family members and others in your network can be great sources for advice and help you uncover hidden job opportunities.
- Job search and interview preparation: It’s perfectly fine to tap your parents for behind-the-scenes assistance, such as reviewing resumes, conducting mock interviews or offering networking contacts.
- Access to professional contacts: Parents or those in their network can provide access to contacts at companies or alert you to opportunities.
- Resume and cover letter review: Have your mom or dad review your resume and cover letter to ensure they’re error-free and clearly showcase the most important information.
- Mock interview assistance: Prepare for interviews by practicing responses to common (and tricky) questions with your parents. They can also provide constructive criticism regarding your answers and delivery.
- Decision-making: Juggling a few offers? Children may want to get their parents’ opinions when weighing potential opportunities. But ultimately, it’s the job seekers decision, not the parents.
“Parents want the best for their kids, but being overly involved in a child’s job search can cause more harm than good,” says Britton. “It’s a positive for mom and dad to help behind the scenes by reviewing resumes, conducting mock interviews and offering networking contacts. However, ultimately, companies seek employees who display self-sufficiency and maturity.”
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About Ask Matt on CollegeRecruiter.com
Ask Matt is a new monthly career advice column that offers tips and advice to recent college grads and entry-level job seekers. Have a question? Need job search or career advice? Email your question to Matt Krumrie for use in a future column.