parents who job-search on their kids’ behalf

From this MSNBC article by Eve Tahmincioglu:

“I recently received a call from the mother of a Ph.D. student who was applying to jobs on behalf of the daughter and thought there was nothing wrong with it,” [a hiring manager] said. “The mother asked for suggestions for what jobs she should apply to on behalf of the daughter and I told her none.” Rothberg said the mother was surprised at his reaction. “It had never occurred to her that her daughter should be in charge of her own career, especially as she was in her late 20s and looking for a professional position,” he added.

Or how about this:

Late last year, Lisa Fedrizzi-Hutchins, a hiring manager for an environmental company in New York, made a job offer to an entry-level candidate and asked her to review it and call if she had any questions. “The following day, I received a phone call from her mother because she felt her negotiation skills were far better than her daughter,” Fedrizzi-Hutchins recalled. “She had explained to me that the salary was far too low for her daughter to live comfortably in New York City and wanted to know what we needed to do to bring her salary up.”

I mean, why not go a step further and actually send the parent to work to do the job for you?

I hope that any hiring manager who gets a call like this does the candidate a favor and tells the parent in the sternest of terms that they’re completely out of line and doing their kid a disservice by making them the laughingstock of the professional world. Who the hell are these parents?

{ 29 comments… read them below }

  1. Mneiae*

    From many accounts that I have read, this is typical helicopter parent behavior. Gen Y's lives have always been overseen by their parents and their parents feel an obligation to keep taking charge of the kids' lives. The funny thing is that the baby boomers and Gen X, the helicopter parents, refuse to hire Gen Y because of the qualities they, the parents, instilled in the first place, the worst of which is entitlement.

    I am a Gen Y kid and I am frankly glad that I was raised to be almost completely independent from my parents. I can't imagine this happening for me, but I've seen it happen with my friends.

  2. Anonymous*

    This can't be that common, I refuse to believe a sizable portion of the population is that crazy. I'm also pretty sure that every time this happens it makes the news.

  3. Anonymous*

    Colleges try to discourage parents from interferring at that level. There are parents who will call a professor to complain about a grade. Sometimes parents are involved when it is a very extreme disciplinary situation happening; however, the student is responsible for managing his or her own academic career. That's when she or he should be learning to take care of him/herself. However, I have seen parents hover over their children everyday in college. Mneiae has the right term – "helicopter parent."

    I do like to think the parents think they have the child's best interests at heart. I know mine do; however, I also put my foot down when they try to interfere with my job search. They should be there for me to go to in the private conversations at home, not to do the work for me. I am sure, as well, there are parents who are watching their children slack off, fearing the real world and stay home to play videogames all day (trust me, I have seen a couple of instances of this already); these parents might think that by doing the work, it'll somehow get the work done sooner and the child will be going off to work. I don't know what is exactly going through those particular parents' mind; I can only guess.

    Which reminds me: there are some parents who see their children as the slackers and don't do anything to motivate them; they enable it (not that the other type isn't enabling either). So I guess you can say we have both sides of the spectrum.

    Then, of course, you have the parents who just can't let go for any number of reasons.

    These parents do need wake up calls, and I guess employers have to be it, unfortunately. The parents are jeopardizing their children's careers before the child can even enter the workforce. Parents, be there for us when we call you to ask for advice, but please don't be there for the interview…unless you want the job for yourself. We do appreciate your support!

  4. Anonymous*

    Anon @ 8:10

    It's more common than you might think. The phenomenon of the "helicopter parent" has made the news several times since the name has become a new trend in the English language. I don't know if it has made the news in this respect, but it's not uncommon at the college level (see my other post on college with the helicopter parent).

  5. Gene*

    Were I hiring and I got a call from a parent, my next action would be a rejection email to the applicant. It would include the reason that the applicant was obviously incapable of being responsible enough to get a paycheck from me if they are having their parent call. If they don't know that's happening, they'll put a stop to it and maybe get the next job; if they do, they don't deserve a real job.

  6. Charles*

    I agree with anon at 8:10 pm. this cannot be that "common."

    For schools, yes, even at the college level (afterall, parents could be the ones helping to pay for tuition and they want their money's worth). But I really cannot see it happening that often in the "work world."

  7. Anonymous*

    I have also seen a helicopter parent in action: I was a student file clerk in an undergraduate advising office when a mom and her daughter came in for some paperwork. The mother talked to me the whole time, asking me about the different degree plans, concentrations, and whatnot while her daughter stood there.

    I said hello to the mom first, and then directed every reply to the daughter. She just smiled and nodded, and never said a word. So weird.

  8. ImpassionedPlatypi*

    Yea, I am not even a little surprised by this, though I am fortunate enough not to have any first have experience with people like this. I read a blog called Free Range Kids which is authored by Lenore Skenazy. It's all about preparing children for adulthood, little by little as they grow. Basically encouraging todays parents to do exactly what most normal parents did before media over-coverage and fear mongering made parents into a bunch of paranoid little wussies with enormous trust issues and ridiculous competitive streaks. There are a slew of reasons to prefer a Free Range style of parenting over Helicopter parenting, but one of the biggest is exemplified beautifully by these stories. When you hover and control everything, kids don't actually grow up. They go off to college and their professors call them "tea cups" because they break so easy under the slightest bit of pressure without their parent there to handle it. And then those tea cups go out into the real world and some of them still aren't grown up or intelligent enough yet to tell their parents to back off. So you get stupid crap like this happening.

  9. CindyB*

    @ Charles and Anon 8.10pm – in my experience as a recruiter, while it isn't a weekly occurrence, it is quite common. I've had a couple of experiences, including a mother who rang up to challenge our decision to not hire her son. It doesn't always make the news, but it does make recruiters shake their heads in wonder. And it doesn't help the candidate at all.

  10. TheLabRat*

    I feel sorry for any job seekers whose parents (or spouses, or whomever) do this without their consent. Those that ASK someone else to do this for them have no one to blame but themselves.

  11. Anonymous*

    I am an older Gen Y, I suppose (early 80's). The ONLY time my parents helped me, in regards to employment or my job search, was to watch my young son while I looked for jobs and went on interviews after I was laid off.

    On the HR side, I've seen a few instances of helicopter parents. I've also had spouses call on behalf of their husband/wife who were employed with the company.

    I hope I raise my children to be independent, giving them more and more freedom as they get older and are ready for it. I want to set appropriate boundries and give them the support and teaching and love they need to be successful, independent adults. I don't think helicopter parents are the norm, but there's enough of them out there.

    As a mother, I can somewhat understand their desire to protect and help their children succeed, and it can be hard to step away and watch your child learn and grow and make mistakes, but you have to.

  12. fposte*

    Good point on the spouses, LabRat. It doesn't make a difference if you're married to the adult or if you're its parent–you don't negotiate or complain on its behalf.

  13. Anonymous*

    Anon @ 1:53am

    What's your point about the adults living at home?

    Please do not generalize the population of young adults fresh out of college or slightly thereafter based on the assumption that those who live at home are bums and have parents who do everything for them. Some of us have had trouble getting a job in our field – doing it on our own mind you – and don't have the means to rent a place at the present time. Of all the things that could ever happen, I never planned on graduation in the middle of a recession.

  14. Anonymous*

    shoot… I just typed this whole comment and then my internet connection failed. Here I'll try to be briefer for your convenience.

    My younger brother is developmentally disabled (dd). My mother takes an active and frequent role inadvocating for him now that he is seeking work that is appropriate for him and that he is able to do. Granted, most of her advocacy is with a county agency that is designed to help people with disabilities (pwd). But sheh as spoken to potential employers primarily because my brother is extremely difficult to understand on the phone and she acts as a sort of translator if they have questions.

    I realize that everyone here knows intuitively that pwd have different needs from people without disabilities. However as someone who works to make the needs of pwd more mainstream, this seemed like a good opportunity to point out that there are in fact actual situations where parents may be "overly involved" with their adult children's job search.


  15. Anonymous*

    To those who say it can't be common, I wish it weren't. I got some calls like that when I was in HR, too. Most recently I've seen spouses and SO's doing it, and these are not kids — these are adults who should know better.

    The next step, which is just as bad, is parents working with children. They're quick to tell you their kid doesn't get special treatment, that they are in charge of their own careers, etc. But let that "child" get reprimanded or written up by a supervisor, and the parent (or relative or SO) gets in the supervisor's face, with the "How dare you do this to my child?"
    One lady didn't like a comment a manager made to her son, and jumped right in to threaten with a lawsuit. She hadn't even heard the entire exchange. Her son was totally embarassed.
    Parents need to butt out of job searches, and you guys are right, it could cost the child a good job.

  16. Anonymous*

    Bravo Anon @ 3:09 PM… there are also the adults far past college graduation who didn't plan to have to move back in with their parents in their 20s and 30s.

  17. Anonymous*

    Anon @ 6:08

    Very very true. There are people who had to move back in with their parents thanks to this lovely recession. Those people, for whatever reason, came across tough times, and the parents are helping them out the way they can.

    Unfortunately, there's a stigma living at home because there are a few people who actually do fit the stereotype perfectly.

    And for Lexy: In the case of your brother, I'm sure employers take what you said into consideration.

  18. Anonymous*

    I wish helicoptering was limited to parents – ime spouses jump in the mix too. And as someone who's on the front lines of hiring there are few things that piss me off more than the overzealous outsider expecting their opinion to carry any weight in my world. These alleged well intentioned do gooders need to find something to occupy their time other than meddling. Sorry, this behavior grates on my last nerve.

  19. Anonymous*

    As someone who worked in an undergraduate Housing Office at a top University, I can tell that this sort of thing happens all the time. I would frequently get calls from parents talking about how unhappy their child was with their roommate assignment and how we had to change them. I even had parents threaten to fire me if they did not get their way.

    The irony of it all was that we could not move students out of their rooms or give them new roommates unless the student called because our office could not be sure if it was the parent or the student that did not like where the student was living.

    As a recent graduate, it really bothers me how so many people my age act so entitled and expect their parents to do everything for them. How will they ever learn to do things for themselves? Eventually their parents won't be able to help them anymore. Helicopter parenting is really a disservice to kids.

  20. Amy*

    I am a Gen X'er, and I distictly remember when I had my first job at age 17. One day that I was scheduled to work, I was legitimately sick and needed to call out, and I asked my mother to call them for me. She flat-out refused – "your job, your phone call." I wasn't too happy about it then, but in retrospect, it really set the precedent. As an adult, I admit I get tempted sometimes to call my spouse's employer when he fails to bring home benefit info or something similar but I have yet to actually pick up the phone on his behalf. So far just the threat of embarassing him has worked!

  21. Dan*

    As others have said, this is not necessarily common but not exactly rare either. I can think of two examples from my own experience.

    The first was as a university TA; we tried to be as helpful as possible to students, and even gave them some personal contact information so they could get a hold of us outside scheduled class times. Between a third and half of the students would regularly use these channels, almost always to complain about their grades. Even people who got fairly good grades like a B+ or an A-. But on one occasion when I was grading with the other TA in my class, his cell phone started ringing. Turns out it was the mom of one of our students, who had got the contact information we gave out and called to complain about how her son deserved a better mark. This was a second-year student. We pretty much laughed her off the line.

    The second comes from work. I had worked in a restaurant during my undergrad years to pay the bills, and a year or two after graduation the manager – who had become a pretty good friend of mine – called me up to ask me if I'd been interested in running the place for a few months because he had to take time off to deal with family matters. He'd been pretty distracted by personal affairs, so the place was a bit of a mess – standards were slipping, people were slacking off, morale was in the tank. He wanted me to come in and clean things up for him, and after some thought I agreed.

    I ended up having to get rid of about 3/4 of the staff, but the weirdest was this one kid working there part-time, probably about 18. I'd given him a couple of warnings for showing up late, so he knew he was on the last straw. I scheduled him to work on a holiday – which he hadn't booked off – and he started complaining about how it was unfair of me to schedule him to work. So I told him he had two choices: he could show up for work as scheduled or he could be fired. He said he would show up, then didn't, so I fired him the minute he walked in the door on his next shift.

    Two days letter, I get a call from his mother, who threatened to sue me for wrongful dismissal (which I told her would be a waste of time since I documented everything) and harassment (due to one polite phone call letting him know his last cheque was ready). She also threatened to sue me and the restaurant for damages unless I expunged everything negative about him from his file and inserted a document stating he had given two weeks' notice and quit in good standing as opposed to being fired for cause. I (following the advice of an old business prof) told her the restaurant was not an ATM machine and hung up the phone. Never did hear from the lawyer.

    So yeah, helicopter parents happen. It's pretty ridiculous, but makes for good stories.

  22. Anonymous*

    I've seen Gen Yers join the Peace Corps to get away from their helicopter parents. And it doesn't work. Their parents get them cell phones and call the emergency hotline whenever their kid goes two days without checking in. There is literally nothing that will get through to these obnoxious overbearing parents. No employer telling them off, nothing.

    And the sad thing is, its the kids that get blamed. Yet the kids have no power to stop them. If an employer isn't going to get through what power do the kids have? Likely the kids in those excerpts had no idea their parents were applying for jobs or on their behalf. Or if they did, they begged and pleaded for their parents not to, to no avail.

  23. Anonymous*

    I think we need to stop lumping "helicopter parents" with spouses. If a child fails to get a job, it's no skin off the nose of the parent – just a blow to their pride. But when a spouse is job hunting for the other spouse, it's often a matter of survival. I'm the person who wrote a number of comments in the "wife job hunting for husband" letter a few months back, and I can tell you, spouses job hunting for the other occurs because it doens't get done any other way. If you've got a slacker husband or wife, and you NEED that paycheck to pay the rent, you'll send out applications on their behalf. Helicopter parents do what they do out of yuppie entitlement, pride, competition, whatever…spouses do it (often) because they have to.

  24. Anonymous*

    I just found this post because I was looking for this topic on Google. I am hiring – albeit only summer positions for teens – but have had several responses from parents on their kids behalf. I don't know how to respond. I want to contact the parent and ask them to let their kids apply, but now I am asking if this is more acceptable today when the kids are first looking for work. For young healthy teens, I don't think it's ever appropriate for a parent to find a job for their child.

  25. Anonymous*

    Personally, as a Gen Y (born in 85), I've seen this happen more times then not. I know several people still receiving top ups of cash or possess credit cards the parents pay, etc. The parents think they're helping the kids out: the kids never have to learn the many uses of cheese (and other fun I'm-broke fridge tricks), or grow up.

    Worst was last year: my manager had left and I'd been promoted. At 24, this seemed like a good thing- until the company filled my old position with the son of another employee. He was 23, straight out of university with a massive superiority complex (he's one of those people who believe they know absolutely everything fresh out of school). And, because my boss was ridiculous, even tho he worked with me, his mom was the only one with authority over him. Which meant when he screwed up- and he did- I had to get his mommy to yell at him.

    You can guess how well THAT worked out.

    I didn't know who was worse: him or her. She never wanted to hear anything bad about her kid (and my boss was so eager to keep her happy that she didn't want to hear it either), and if I ever managed to get a legitimate issue across she had zip follow through. He thought he was too good for the job. It came out later his mom got him this one just to get him off the couch. The best part was when he started lecturing me regularly on management (this was his first job ever), everything from my clothing and makeup choices to communication and business skills and how to do my job. He even gave me a self help book at one point, which upon reading actually explained a lot about him (it was one of those that espoused the idea that employers must delight employees at all times in order to get any work from them at all).

    He felt he was entitled to a management position straight out of school where he would be in charge and be able to do only the work that stimulated and rewarded him. His mother supported this assumption. I disagreed, and eventually got him fired by simply documenting ever error he made in emails to my boss (he worked imputing data into a webpage. When I made my corrections, I just counted how many errors had to fix per section and reported this to my boss. Since I was doing this on top of my own job, I often did it at night- it didn't take too many 2 am emails from me before she got the picture).

    My point is I'm not sure how many of the problems are direct parental helicoptoring and how much is children who EXPECT to be treated like little princes and princesses', as that's how mommy always treated them. Parents at some point need to let their children go out into the world and crash and burn- they will be better people for it. If you've raised a jerk, the jerk will stay a jerk until you let someone else tell them they're a jerk.

  26. Joshua*

    I'll admit, there have been times where my mother had found job opportunities (usually job fairs or open houses) for me, but never actually applied for me. I don't think that is too bad, and the employer has no way of knowing how I found out about the opening, I just said I saw a wanted ad (and leave out my mother showed it to me). Actually, that's how I got the job I have now.

    My mother can be too involved sometimes, but she knows that it would look bad if she called up a company on my behalf. I'm surprised anybody thinks that is a good idea.

  27. Anonymous*

    I told my mother about this article. She couldn't believe it. I was raised by a single parent and was raised to be very independent. I've lived in 3 different countries(I'm from Oklahoma), and have done a lot of traveling. I'm only 23 yrs old now.. Anyway I've always done it myself. I get annoyed if my mom got in the process of stuff, but certain things like buying a car I find that its useful to have a family member's help in doing, but I think white americans are quite weird in that they expect their kids to just automatically be able to fully provide for themselves right after 18. 18 is quite a young age in a lot of countries you aren't even considered an adult, and mentally most 18 yr olds aren't. The way you know someone has matured is when they just absolutely can't stand living at home. That's when its time for them to get their own space. In black families its either you goto University or you join the workforce and start helping out with bills around the house. Either way you're not going to be bumming around, at the same time you're not banished from the house. Simply put many non-whites do this. It is apart of their culture. white americans did this at one point. typically one is finally completely out the house when 1) they're financially ready for their own space(those who worked right after highschool) or 2) those who have finally completed their degrees. People usually have no problem with this, but the whole parents doing the job search instead of the kid. Its silly. The kid shouldn't be doing it on their own, but as far as job searches come when parents are addressing their adult children they need to do it in the way of advice that the kid can either take or not take, and shouldn't be in this overbearing manner.

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