how should employers respond to parents job-searching for their kids?

In response to a recent post on parents who job-search on their kids’ behalf, one anonymous commenter left this question:

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.

I beg you, do not indulge these parents in this practice. I recommend politely telling the parent that if the kid is interested, she should apply herself. If the parent pushes, add that you need to deal with candidates directly. Period. Do not waver.

After all, you want to be evaluating the candidate not just in the interview, but in everything throughout the hiring process — email correspondence, how quickly a candidate responds to a contact, how well they follow application directions, etc. — and it’s not the parent you want to be evaluating.And if the kid can’t apply for a job on her own, how are you to assume she can handle the responsibility of the job itself?There is an appropriate role for parents in helping teenage job-seekers — but it’s behind the scenes, preparing them for what to expect in an interview, explaining how a typical hiring process work, and (if they’re like my mother was) pushing them to get up off the couch and go get a damn job to begin with.

{ 14 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    While being stern about having the actual applicant apply, I do have to wonder how many parents will put the pen to paper and fill out the application on behalf of the child. I guess you won't know that until the kid is in front of you at an interview and realize the interview isn't matching the application.

  2. Anonymous*

    I really hate helicopter parents. But I think there needs to be SOME latitude.

    I mean if I'm at a store or a restaurant and I see a help-wanted sign and I know someone whose looking for a job (whether it is my child, my neighbor, or my friend), I don't think there's any harm in asking what kind of people they are looking for and if I could take an application form with me for them.

    If the person I have in mind isn't suitable, I've saved both of the worker and the employer some hassle, and if they are suitable, I may have helped both parties find a great match. Its simply expedience and convenience.

    It is often said that a lot of hiring is word-of-mouth, and who you know. But that goes both ways. Applicants benefit from who in the company they know that can help them get a job. And employers benefit from who their workers and customers know, that can help them find good workers.

  3. nuqotw*

    If you are a teenager and your parent drives you to the job interview (thanks Mom!) is it okay for the parent to wait in the reception area at the place of employment? What *is* okay for a parent in such a situation?

  4. ObserverCollege*

    It really depends on the position. I have some unpaid internships, and for those I really want to see parental involvement. If the parent goes to the trouble of applying for the kid, then I can explain to the parent how the internship is really a drain on my small firm's resources. I understand it would be a great opportunity for their kid, but I run a business and I need to be sure my business will benefit from this kid's internship.

    Those parents then make sure I know I'll benefit by swinging a contract my way, or by generating some sort of cash payment to me. Obviously I don't tell the kid, so s/he can think s/he "earned" the internship (LOL!). Hey, the kid benefits, and I benefit.

  5. Interviewer*

    I had a mother call me about 3 months ago to follow up on resume her son had sent to us. He is a recent college graduate with a History degree, looking for a job as a paralegal. I told her we didn't have any openings. His mother proceeded to ask for tips on how he could get his foot in the door at our company or in the industry. I suggested 2 things: 1 – network, reach out to anyone she knew and ask them about openings and 2 – get him to be personally involved in the job search process.

    Fortunately, that mom heard me loud & clear. She replied, "Oh. Oh! So you're saying I *shouldn't* be calling for him?" I said yes. She indicated that his resume had gone to several places, that our company was the first one she had called to follow up on, and said she wouldn't make any more calls.

    I picture her having typed up and sent out all the resumes & cover letters. All that work, and the first call she makes, I tell her to stop it. Must have been a big blow to her enthusiasm. She was so ready to get him his first job.

  6. Anonymous*

    Some parents will interfere on behalf of their kids, even though the kid doesn't want them to. How would you suggest that the kid handle that situation? Just asking the parent to back off doesn't always work.

  7. Lisa*

    Anon @ 6.42

    If someone is running their own job search, I don't see how the parents could interfere, barring seriously over-the-line behaviour like snooping in their private things – a kid just has to leave out enough detail about the jobs they're applying for so the parents don't know who they'd need to interfere with.

  8. Ask a Manager*

    @Anonymous at 2:12 PM – Totally. I'm sure a lot of parents are doing the applications behind the scenes. This is not helping your kid, people!

    @ Anonymous at 3:07 – I agree that that's reasonable. But I'm talking about parents calling on their kid's behalf, following up, trying to apply for them, etc.

    @ nuqotw – It seems silly to say the mom can't wait in reception, but ideally she'd wait somewhere else (coffeeshop, come back at a set time, etc.). You want the kid to seem somewhat self-sufficient. Anyone have a different take?

    @ ObserverCollege – I'm going to assume you're not actually hitting up parents for money in exchange for hiring their kid, but if you are, you should just open a camp.

    @ Interviewer – How does this happen? How did this mother end up thinking this was a good idea or even okay? Is this generational? I don't remember any parents I knew as a teenager doing this.

    @ Anonymous at 6:42 PM – My advice to a kid with interfering parents would be to show them a post like this, to try to explain that they're not acting in her best interests and that they will actually hurt her chances with most places.

  9. Ask a Manager*

    @Lisa – That's a good point! Although I could see some parents insisting on knowing the details, in order to make sure the kid was really job searching.

    My mom just told me to go out and come home with a job and told me I wasn't allowed to hang out with my friends at the pool until I had one, and that was the extent of her involvement. I have terrible memories of trudging from store to store in the mall, filling out applications and wondering why the hell my friends weren't being forced to do this. But now I'm glad.

  10. Anonymous*

    I say with 100% certainty that no one over 18 should have their parents involved in their job search. But a 13-17 year old? Its quite a high bar to expect kids to be completely self-sufficient at that age. My mom got me my first job at 13 years old because she knew the owners of a restaurant. I think parents asking for applications for their kids is completely fine and a 17 year old might not have their license or their own car, so a parent sitting in reception shouldn't be weird. I once had to drive with my mom b/c we were sharing a car to an interview at an animal testing facility (don't ask!) when I was 17, and I politely asked if it was ok for her to come in to the lobby instead of sitting in a hot car.

    I'm all about the utter humiliation of a college student who lets his mom set up his interviews for him, but at the same time, its reasonable for parents to be involved with their child's first job.

    Of course, even when I was a teenager, there were parents who wouldn't even let their kids get a job because they wanted them to be "focused on their studies/sports/whatever" Kids should have a job in high school, or at the very least, should be volunteering or interning. 18 is way too late to have your first job, I think. No honor club or band practice can make up for that real life experience at an early age.

  11. Rebecca*

    I don't see anything wrong with a parent picking up an application. But for phone calls or other nagging/nosiness, there's an easy, authoritative, even legal-sounding way to respond: "Are you the applicant? I'm sorry, I can't discuss an applicant's status with anyone other than the applicant."

  12. Anonymous*

    Speaking from personal experience, I think parents should let their kids do their own job searching after they graduate from college and follow their own methods. They may have some advice to give, but most of it isn't relevant for entry level positions.

    My dad thinks that I'm supposed to take all his advice when it comes to job hunting. He thinks that he knows what I am doing wrong and that I need to do things his way to find a job. I've tried some of his advice – it just isn't working.

    He intentionally undercut me when I applied for a job at the same place he worked. He's a firm believer in not having multiple generations of the same family working in the same place, something that goes against the general culture of the workplace and town. It's a small town and family ties are considered networking. He went to HR and killed my application to show that he was serious about enforcing the rule of not hiring family members. He then got pissed at me for applying when I was probably more qualified than the person they hired.

  13. Smithy*

    When my daughter was at University (I'm in the UK), my friend contacted us to say her employer was seeking a part time, temporary adminstrator. She had to be interviewed, but the appointment was almost a foregone conclusion. She worked there for a year, fitting her studies and work around each other. Does that count as parental job-searching?

    Another daughter was faced with a 'competence based' application form, which she did not really understand. I had to give her a lot of assistance completing the form. Does that count as parental job-searching?

    Another daughter had been unemployed for a couple of weeks. My employer was taking on some youngsters to help with an office move over a weekend. I was also working on the move, and I asked if my daughter could come in as one of the casuals. My employer agreed, and then kept her and some of the others on for between a few days and a couple of months to assist with other stuff. By then my daughter had also been helping out on reception and in the finance department. The finance department kept her on for another 10 months (I had left by then).
    Does that count as parental job-searching?
    And wouldn't anyone else do the same?


  14. Ask a Manager*

    Smithy, I think those are examples of appropriate involvement from a parent. What isn't appropriate is parents filling out an application for the kid, calling the employer to follow up on the application, etc.

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