what should I say to parents who are job-searching on behalf of their kids?

A reader writes:

As part of my daily duties, I manage interns and volunteers for the nonprofit I work for. Recently, I’ve had a few interns “apply” by having their parents contact us first and say that their son or daughter “is seeking an internship.” I am not clear whether the parents are doing this of their own volition or whether the students (they are in college) are simply too lazy or shy to contact us directly to start with. I don’t want to be judgmental, but it is off-putting to have people nearly 20 and/or older have their parents communicate for them, and follow up for them in addition to that (one we followed up with directly and his father emailed us to follow up later after we had asked the potential intern to fill out an application and contact us when he returns from school, etc.). What are your thoughts on this? The field we are in requires people with self-drive and a strong work ethic.

To give more background, we get many, many requests for internships and can ultimately only accommodate so many. I want to give everyone an equal chance, but other candidates are communicating for themselves and not through their parents. Even students in high school who volunteer for us communicate for themselves, so I wanted to seek an outside opinion. Should I speak with the intern and bring up this issue – perhaps mention that it’s not professional at this point to have their parents communicate for them?

Actually, you should explain this to the parents, at the time that they contact you.

Every time this kind of parental intervention comes up, people rightly complain about it — but I’ve noticed that I rarely hear people say that they shut it down with the parents when it happens, which leads me to think that they’re actually answering these parents’ questions (while inwardly cringing) instead of clearly telling them that it’s inappropriate and refusing to indulge them. Maybe it’s because people don’t like conflict, or because they’re caught off guard and aren’t sure how to handle it in the moment when it’s happening, but regardless of the reason, no employer should be indulging this.

When parents contact you, you should clearly lay out (a) that this isn’t okay and (b) what needs to happen instead. At a minimum, you should say this: “We prefer candidates to contact us directly.” (And do not reward the bad behavior by then supplying information anyway. End the call.)

But if you want to be more pointed about it — and I hope you will — you could say, “I’m not sure I understand — are you contacting us on her behalf?” followed by, “We’d need her to contact us directly if she’s interested.” If you want to be particularly helpful, you could add, “You actually aren’t helping her out by doing this — employers won’t be impressed that a parent is doing the legwork for her.”

Shutting it down before it gets off the ground is the best way to signal that this isn’t in any way okay.

{ 298 comments… read them below }

  1. Formerly Shy*

    When I was 17 I was looking for my first job but was painfully shy and I asked my father to accompany me inside stores as I asked for applications. One lady straight up told me that it looked bad and would hurt my job hunt. I felt hurt at the time but I took her advice and got over my shyness. I’m mortified that I even brought my father along and am grateful for her honesty. (Not that employers owe it to applicants to explain this- it -should- be obvious.)

    1. Adam V*

      No need to be mortified – everyone does things wrong when they’re getting started, and as soon as you learned better, you changed your behavior. Props to you!

    2. Mallory*

      I’ve been making my 17-year-old daughter apply for jobs at restaurants in our small town (where in-person walk-in applications are still the norm), and she was pretty shy about it at first, too.

      The first few times I made her apply, I would drive her to the location, give her a pep talk about what to say, and wait in the car for her to come back out. Now that she’s done it a few times, she’s comfortable walking to the places herself and taking the initiative. I think she just needed the initial push and the script to get started.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        This is exactly what my dad did when I was 16 and starting out. Drove me there, waited for me, coached me on what to say and generally calmed my nerves, then we’d discuss it on the way home. It was very reassuring! But he didn’t accompany me IN, which I think would have been awful.

        1. Mallory*

          See, that’s what parental coaching should do: prepare the child to do for herself.

          1. Jamie*

            This. My kids do ask for advice, and as I have an opinion or two about the hiring process I oblige. And I will mock interview as much as they like.

            It doesn’t take away the nerves of a real interview, because I’m still mom, but it gets them comfortable delivering their answers to the common questions as well as pausing gracefully when needing a moment to compose an answer.

            I’ve had some entertaining results out of this.

          2. TrainerGirl*

            When I was a sophomore in college, I signed up with a temp agency. My dad, who is the most awesome dad, would drive me to the job location on Sunday before I started, so I would be comfortable driving myself on my start day. My mom, who is a bit bossy, made me practice interviewing with her, as I was very shy and quiet then. It was painful at the time, but I’m so glad that they prepared me for the work world. I was laid off three times in one year in 2012-13, and I was able to pick myself up each time and find a new job. I am still appreciative of those lessons.

      2. AVP*

        I also think it’s hard to get up the gumption to go apply in person for restaurant and retails jobs, since that’s *so* not the norm in many places. I was mortified when I was 17 and my dad made me do it, but somehow I did get jobs.

    3. Angora*

      She did you a favor. I took my father with me when I talked to the various armed recruiters before I went into the military. To me that was a major decision. It was a lifestyle choice along with a job search.

      I feel the role as an employer and/or university dealing with young people should be honest. The students may not want to hear it; but would prefer to tell someone something that will make them mad; but the behavior is not repeated for their next employer. Especially workstudies not showing up for shifts, etc … fire them… other students need the money .. there are a line of them.

      1. NavyLT*

        Well, that’s a little bit of a different scenario. Recruiters–especially on the enlisted side, since they’re often dealing with 17- or 18-year-olds–talk to parents all the time. Part of that is because there might be parental pressure not to enlist, so if the recruiter can’t get the parents on board, the kid isn’t going to sign a contract.

        When I was applying for the usual terrible retail/food service jobs in high school, my dad lost patience with the low number of applications I was bringing home and drove me to every potential employer near where we lived and told me to pick up an application whether there was a help wanted sign in the window or not. I was employed within about a week. (He didn’t go in with me, though, just sat outside with the car running.)

      2. Jay*

        I don’t think it’s necessarily the kids that don’t want to hear that they should do things independently. Maybe in some cases, but in others probably are silently cheering as someone tells their parents to back off.

    4. EM*

      I do think my dad came with me when I applied for my first job as a bagger in a grocery store. I was 16. Cringing now, lol.

    5. Tasha*

      When I applied for my first job, I was 13 and the employer wanted to talk to my parents. There was some complicated stuff with labor law :) It was also at a university, but in retrospect, I’m glad and surprised that everyone took me seriously.

      But when I was 15 and older, all my family did was talk about my applications and interviews with me after the fact.

    6. JS*

      Honestly I dont think it is bad unless your dad spoke for you. If he just stood off to the side and let you take the initiative (as in you werent looking to him for reassurance) its not a bad thing.

  2. Katie the Fed*


    I have to wonder what’s going on in these cases. Are the kids too lazy to do it themselves or are the parents overstepping?

    Incidentally, I have the same thought when people talk about doing job-search related stuff for a spouse or significant other.

    1. Mallory*

      I think maybe the kids are unmotivated and the parents, in trying to give them a push, are going way overboard. I know I’ve been fairly exasperated with my daughter’s lack of motivation to get a job, so I’ve told her she has to get one and pushed her into applying for the first few. I’ve also cut her off from having any spending money to go out with her friends, so I’m working the problem from both ends ;-)

      But I would never call an employer on her behalf. I will just make it very uncomfortable for her to not have a job and answer any questions she has about getting one. The rest is up to her.

      1. Mike C.*

        Yes, it must be the kids.

        By the way, I’m willing to bet a significant amount of money that “lack of motivation” might, just might, have something to do with the terrible job market out there.

        1. Colette*

          Maybe – it might be an irrational fear of not getting a job, assuming that the teenager in question is aware that this is an unusually bad job market. (For many of them, this is all they’ve known.)

          Or it could be that they’re not particularly motivated to get a job, which is also really common.

          1. Mike C.*

            Or it could be that they’re not particularly motivated to get a job, which is also really common.

            I don’t believe this is the case for a statistically significant portion of the population for a second. It’s nothing more than an ugly, ageist stereotype.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Teenagers? From my own experience and my friends’, it was pretty common. I wanted a job in theory, but I had to be pushed to do something about it.

              1. Mike C.*

                I thought the discussion was about college students, not teenagers. And given the rather over-scheduled lives teenagers have these days, I don’t really blame them.

                1. Jamie*

                  Tbf college students are teenagers for the first couple of years, anyway, so it’s not a clear line of delineation.

                2. Mallory*

                  Oh, I was continuing a discussion from upthread about my particular, unmotivated high-school teenager. We live in a town where restaurant jobs aren’t that hard for a motivated teenager to get, but she just thinks it’s more fun to hang around the house reading, watching animé, and wearing pajamas. No overscheduling.

                  I can see how my comment appears to be about the college students, but that’s not what I meant.

                3. Mallory*

                  Plus, the high school pays students who score well on AP tests ($100 for a 3, $125 for a 4, and $150 for a 5). She took one AP test last year and got a check for $100, so she took 3 AP classes this year and is counting on being saved from getting a job by becoming a semi-professional AP test-taker. So it’s kind of lack of motivation and counting some chickens before they hatch.

                4. Stephanie*


                  Oh, my district did the cash for passing AP grades thing as well (only for science and music theory), funded by local companies or nonprofits (it also paid for the test fee). It was awesome. Since you just had to get a 3, some of us took tests to get cash (like Environmental Science, which my HS didn’t offer).

                5. Mallory*

                  @Stephanie Hmmm . . . maybe her ambition to make her cash via AP test-taking can be more fruitful than I’d previously thought. :-)
                  I never considered that she could take ones for which the high school doesn’t offer a class.

                6. Stephanie*


                  I’d check with the program. That was just how ours worked. They just didn’t have enough students sitting for AP Science tests. I didn’t take biology, so I didn’t try AP Biology. But our AP physics teacher encouraged us to take both the calculus-based and non calculus-based physics AP tests to get the grant money.

              2. Jamie*

                This – although I have one kid who was ridiculously motivated and he’s kind of a weird AAM success story with the magic question.

                He’s now kind of an interview savant – it’s really bizarre because I adore him, but relaxed and personable with strangers is not really his forte – but he’s been so successful he has no fear now. It’s like knowing someone their whole life and then finding out they have a super power.

                Alison made an interview machine out of my son.

                The last time he was on the market he interviewed 4 places, got 3 offers and then was ott annoyed when one manager he turned down called him after a couple of weeks to see how the new job was working out and if maybe he was interested.

                “Why can’t these people stop calling me?”

                (He was also the one in 4th grade who came slamming into the house after school declaring, loudly, that “I am so sick of girls falling in love with me!” so he doesn’t do well with unwanted attention.)

              3. Diet Coke Addict*

                Yep. I wanted money! But I wasn’t very motivated to actually get a JOB, which was hard and a time-suck and a bunch of other stuff. I definitely needed my parents to push me into it, as did almost all my friends. We worked, but we weren’t really motivated to find jobs.

                1. Jamie*

                  It’s hard too, because starting out we don’t know how.

                  I remember my first application and being nervous because there was a field for the address of my grade school (!). And if someone doesn’t give you a little coaching you don’t know to whom you should speak, do you fill it out right then, how the process works. The first time you do anything like this it’s daunting.

                  Although crappy hiring managers make liars out of the best parents. I did the whole coaching thing, mock interview with my daughter who was SO nervous for her first interview. All kinds of prepared.

                  She gets there, is told to wait because the interviewer is late, he shows up 20 minutes late speaks to her for less than 5 minutes – hands her new hire paperwork and schedules her for orientation.

                  Calls later to say he will reschedule orientation and will call her back. 3 days later no call, she calls. He’ll call her back. Days later no call, she’s convinced she doesn’t have a job after all calls one last time. He’s in – oh yeah, I meant to call you…gives her the date.

                  She’s been working there for a couple years now and it’s been a great experience – she’s moved up a little and they love her because 2+ years and she’s called in sick once* and is always happy to come in on a moments notice and cover a no show. Apparently dependable is an even bigger deal in food service than in an office job where they expect you to show up consistently.

                  But seriously, the crap I got from her because I made it seem like an interview was a big deal when all she had to do was show up…the hiring manager could have asked her one of the questions we practiced!

                  *car accident, I made her, she insisted on calling herself in even though she was in the hospital because she didn’t want her mommy to call her boss.

            2. Joey*

              You mean you don’t know any kids that think hanging out with friends or doing something “fun” is more important than a job?

              1. Mike C.*

                See above, but you can do more fun things when you aren’t living with your parents, and you have money.

                Furthermore, the whole stereotype of the “lazy, entitled millennial” somehow implies that they are significantly different than previous generations, and I find that to be complete crap as well.

            3. Colette*

              That hasn’t been my experience.

              Teenagers who need money are motivated to find a job – but teenagers who don’t need money are often busy with school/activities/friends and, while in theory they’re OK with having a job, it’s not a priority in their life.

              1. Mike C.*

                Just as a heads up, I’m forking my argument here. The previous responses refer to older, college students, while this applies to the younger, high school student.

                Note that the “school/activities” aren’t frivolous leisure activities – many schools have increased graduation requirements (required community service, capstone projects outside of class, etc) and the amount of extracurricular activities college bound students are expected to take on is somewhat incredible. For many, every last minute is scheduled. In this light, I really don’t think mass generational laziness is a fair assessment.

                1. KellyK*

                  Absolutely. One other thing to consider economically is that if you’re able to get a good scholarship because of really good grades, that’s worth a lot more than working 15 or 20 hours a week and letting your grades slide a little. I got over 20k a year in scholarship money because I was a National Merit Scholar–I would’ve had to flip burgers for more than 10,000 hours before “have a job in high school” was worth more economically than “get good grades and prepare like crazy for standardized tests.”

                2. Mallory*

                  What KellyK says about the scholarship money for good grades is making a lot of sense to me. Basically, the reason I want my daughter to get a job is that, because of our financial situation, we can only give her what she NEEDS, but we’re not going to be able to fund a lot that she WANTS like we have in the past, so she’s going to need to get her own “running-around-with-friends” money. I’m actually at the point where I’ve quit pushing the getting a job so much, but the turning down her requests for spending money is going to be an unfortunate reality for her. I hate that, because I wanted to be able to do more for her during her senior year of high school. I guess pushing her toward a job was more about preparing her to have her own means when I’m not able to give her what she wants. I don’t want her to be the friend who can’t afford to go out when the group is making plans.

                  But back to the scholarship being worth more than working 15 – 20 hours a week — that makes perfect sense to me. My daughter got a notice that she is in the first round to being a national merit scholar (not a semi-finalist yet, which will be announced in the fall, but still in the running). So obviously not unintelligent or lazy, just unmotivated to get a job. I guess I’ll just leave her alone about it, be glad for any scholarships that she gets, and be sympathetic (but not forthcoming with any cash) when she finds herself with no money to go to the mall.

              2. Annie O*

                I agree with Colette above. Teens who truly need money are going to be more motivated to find a job. If you’re dealing with food insecurity (like 1 in 5 American children), in fear of becoming homeless, etc, getting a job and helping to support your family becomes a huge priority.

                And in response to KellyK, some kids just don’t have the luxury of focusing on school and grades, even if it’s a better strategy in the long run. I think a lot of us forget that some teens need to work to help support their family. When I was a kid, we called reverse child support.

                1. Observer*

                  That’s not the point. The point is that if a teen has the ability to make that choice, it is NOT “lazy” or “unmotivated to be productive / self sufficient” to take the opportunity.

                2. Annie O*

                  Observer, I don’t understand your objection. The discussion here is about different levels of motivation to get a job. Need is going to play into that equation (that was my point). That doesn’t mean I’m saying that a lack of motivation to get a job automatically equates to laziness. But employers can often pick up on that lack of motivation, and it’s going to hurt the kid’s chance of getting hired. Especially if their parent is the one trying to apply on behalf of the kid!

          2. Kelly L.*

            Or they could be motivated but want different things from what their parents want for them. They’re enthusiastically seeking internship X but their parents want them to do Y.

            1. Trillian*

              … and they don’t have the experience or the knowledge to counter all the parental arguments for why they shouldn’t be doing X and should be doing Y, so fall back on passive resistance.

              I can never understand why people are nostalgic about being young!

              1. Kelly L.*

                Actually, I didn’t even mean passive resistance–I meant the parents were going behind their backs “for their own good”–but that too!

        2. My Scintillating Pseudonym*

          I agree. There are kids who don’t want to work, but they’re the minority. I grew up in an upper middle class area where the kids got pretty much whatever they wanted from their parents, but almost everyone I knew worked anyway. We liked money for things their parents wouldn’t buy, we liked the socializing, and we liked feeling all important and “adult” because we had jobs. The difference was, in that time and place you could apply at five places (restaurants, the amusement park, etc) and get offers at at least three, probably all five. Plus the jobs paid more money. I made $9 an hour at my very first job at age 16. That was 15 years ago. Now my second job pays $7.25 and I work six times as hard because we’re understaffed.

          I didn’t have more gumption than the 16-year-olds job hunting now; I was working, but in a sense I had everything handed to me.

          1. vvonderwoman*

            This. I was in the same situation, I just didn’t like having to ask my parents for money. And if I wanted to drive, I had to pay the $75/month for insurance. So I went out and got a retail job for $9/hr. This was 2005-2007 and I was given a raise to $9.50 when I went back for a summer during college in 2008. I had no experience (besides baby-sitting) and I was handed a relatively high-end retail position, getting commission on $80 sweaters. I doubt the situation is the same now.

        3. HR “Gumption”*

          I spent the entire month of April hiring traveling 24 cities WA/OR/CA/NV & AZ, and seen first hand the job market is stronger than it’s been in years. I work directly with State Employment Centers. Companies are hiring, there are jobs out there.

          1. Mike C.*

            stronger than it’s been for years…

            First off, that’s a relative measure. We just went through the largest recession since the Great Depression, so while things are indeed recovering, the United States lost around 6.8 million jobs in 2008 and 2009. Monthly job gains need to be in the neighborhood of >400k to account for population growth alone before we can cut into that 6.8M number. Currently, a “good month” nets us 200k new jobs.

            Secondly, to make an obvious point, but the people who were fired were those with job experience. Those are the first who are going to be hired back. Even for industries like fast food or retail.

            Finally, I live in WA, and yes, things are looking better here than in nationally overall. But it’s going to take an insane amount of time before we pull ourselves out of this.

          2. Joey*

            What kinds of jobs though? I’m willing to bet its typically very specialized/skilled or the traditionally less desireable jobs like physically demanding work, low pay, commission based, etc

              1. De Minimis*

                Exactly right….I made the mistake of relocating to an area that had an allegedly strong job market only to find out most of the jobs are not very good and pay a lot less compared to other states.

            1. HR “Gumption”*

              I was traveling through traditional agriculture/manufacturing /distribution areas, not so much white collar demand. Lots of entry level and service jobs posting and being filled.

              I’ve been doing this for 15 years and worked the peaks and valleys first hand.

          3. My Scintillating Pseudonym*

            How many applicants did you have for each available position?

            1. HR “Gumption”*

              It varied from city to city. Keep in mind these jobs were posted at State Job Centers, ads ran Craigslist/Facebook/our Website, etc. I had about 300 positions to fill. Total applicants about 550.

              3 years ago I would have found the same amount of apps in less than 1/2 the trips taken this year.

              1. Clerica D. McClerkykins*

                550 applicants for 300 positions seems artificially low for that level of advertising…There is only one website for jobs at my company and over a single weekend we received 160 applications for an AA position. Are these highly skilled positions? Even then I’d expect a pile of applicants who just didn’t listen to the requirements.

                1. HR “Gumption”*

                  “Are these highly skilled positions?”
                  Not at all. Seasonal jobs working in Seafood processing plants.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      It could be a lot of things other than laziness – fear of doing it wrong, uncertainty, self-doubt, etc. Not that any of that is a valid reason to let your parents do it; I just think that “lazy” gets over-applied to kids.

      1. Tomato Frog*

        I think probably 75% of the decisions I made from the age of 13 to the age of 21 were fear-based.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Oh, how true. And cruelly, it’s those decisions that we make in that moment of huge fear that can make or break our quality of life. I think that fear is not the problem, the problem is how do we respond to the fears we encounter.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          Well that’s good to know :)

          I’m not a parent….yet. I always wanted to have jobs when I was younger and had to convince my parents to let me work when I was 16, so this is really far outside my frame of reference.

        3. Tinker*

          Same except it was probably more like 27 or so for me. And today I’ve just lowered the percentage >_>

      2. Leah*

        Agreed. I also wonder what the widespread use of texting and emailing has done. Getting used to calling total strangers was something I got over at age 13 but I remember being so scared even though all I was doing was asking for brochures from high schools I was applying to. I remember feeling almost sick when I picked up the phone but it got easier. It was a useful experience.

        I imagine that having to walk in and ask for a job face-to-face is even harder.

    3. Lar*

      Agreed. I see wives/girlfriends conducting job search activities for their significant other more so than the other way around.

      1. KnitWorthy*

        I also noticed that within the comments of the post about AAM’s resume review service. Oi.

    4. Phoenix*

      I’m not seeing a whole lot of people suggesting that the kids involved don’t know the parents are involving themselves – that was my first thought. Maybe I just know more boundary-ignoring parents than lazy and unprofessional college students!

    5. Observer*

      As often as not, the parents ARE over-stepping. And even when the “kids” want their parents to do it, it’s often not laziness.

      There are a lot of reasons for this, and I do NOT think it’s a good thing. But, laziness is, in my experience, not the issue.

    6. anomnomnomimous*

      It could be neither! My mother gets bored sometimes and signs me up for all kinds of things – dating sites, online tarot card classes, even an online ministry degree – without my knowledge. I can absolutely see her checking in somewhere “on my behalf” without ever contacting me about it and thinking she was doing me a favor. Of course, there’s no way to tell in cases like this, but it’s not always the kids’ fault!

      1. Tina*

        Now that’s just funny! If she’s bored, why doesn’t she sign *herself* up for those things?

        1. anomnomnomimous*

          Some of them (like the tarot card class) she signed us both up for. It was actually kind of fun! The rest, I dunno. I think it’s easier to do something for someone else than it is to do it for yourself. I do that too, in a way – I look up activities that she’d like, though I’d never actually sign her up for them! I leave that to her!

    7. Rose*

      I had a supervisor whose wife was job searching for him. She wanted to move back to New York and she thought if he was called for an interview he wouldn’t ask about how they got his info.
      She made a linkedin profile for him and one of my coworkers found it. The coworker sent around the link because it was riddled with grammatical and spelling errors and we were editors. We teased him about it too (Our office was incredibly relaxed and we were all friends outside of work) and he was very surprised to find out he had a linkedin profile and a wife who was job searching for him. ;)

    8. Anonathon*

      I think laziness is not (always) the case. I think that applying for a job feels scary and grown-up to most kids, and they’re convinced that they’ll do it wrong somehow. When you’re 16, you really are worried what people will think, and job-searching tends to spark that worry. That said, I think pushing through that fear is super valuable, and parents should encourage kids to do just that.

      On a separate note: if you’re dealing with under-18 interns, the parents may honestly not realize that the kid is supposed to call themselves. Maybe they think that internship = school. And if they register the kid for school, then they should be involved in this process too. I doubt that’s the case across the board, but it may just be honest confusion for a couple folks.

    9. Anonalicious*

      Incidentally, I have the same thought when people talk about doing job-search related stuff for a spouse or significant other.

      I think that depends a lot on what it is they are doing and the expectations are in their industry or with the companies they are applying to.

      My mother-in-law applies to jobs for my father-in-law, but that is partly because he works 12 hour days in an overseas location and really doesn’t have the time. The types of jobs he does, with military contractors hiring ex-military people with security clearances, tends to not care much about cover letters and more about military and work experience and if you will pass security checks and can get a visa. This is pretty much the norm for the jobs he applies for and for the other guys he works with.

      That said, I don’t think it’s a big deal in general if a spouse helps out by browsing job postings or filling out application forms, as long as the person who is actually applying to do the job is the one writing the resume, cover letter, and doing the interviews.

    10. Rachel*

      my boyfriend’s mom has narcissistic personality disorder. she has no problem getting involved in his work life even though he would much prefer that she didn’t. once, they got in an argument bc she refused to give him bank account info for accounts in his name, so she called his manager and told the manager that my boyfriend had been having serious attitude problems lately.

      so when i hear these things i tend to chalk it up to crazy parents rather than lazy kids. because the parents are adults, should know better etc. blaming kids for the actions of their parents sounds backwards.

  3. MM*

    Agree with your answer …. shut them down. I have worked in the university setting nearly 20 years. If someone answers the parents questions before they even hire an intern, etc…. than they have opened the door for future contact from the parent.

    Helicoptering parents have gotten worse.

    Advise to parents: Do not call for your child; once you do it I will never hire the student to work for me because I do not believe they can think for themselves and are incapable of taking responsiblity. IT”S A MAJOR TURN OFF …. DO NOT CALL.

    Another thing …. Give your child their social security card when they leave for the university. We cannot hire them without the proper documentation for the I-9 form. Or it can delay their start date for a week or two while you get it to us. Faxed copies are not acceptable.

    1. CanadianWriter*

      My mum kept my SIN card locked up in a safe for years and getting hired anywhere was such a hassle, because I had to wait for her to give it to me. I finally wrestled it out of her hands.

      1. the gold digger*

        I have never had to show my social security card for a job. When I am asked to verify my work status, I use my passport.

        I didn’t even get a copy of the card until I was 44.

        1. Esra*

          I think American’s social security card is different from our SIN cards. No SIN card/#, no job.

          1. Felicia*

            I do still have my SIN card, but I usually forget it so I memorized the # when I was 16. I’ve never needed the actual card. I think my mom lost her SIN card 20 years ago, and has had 4 different jobs since then. I keep telling her she should get it replaced, but she really only needs the number.

            1. Onymouse*

              +1. I read recently that they don’t even issue a physical card anymore – you just get a paper receipt with the number on it.

            2. Wren*

              If we’re talking the Canadian SIN, yeah, the cards were just for people’s convenience. Only the number matters; in fact, I am using the past tense with the card because to my knowledge, they don’t even issue them any more.

              1. Aless*

                I work for the governement in Canada and you cannot work without the actually SIN card being turned into me.
                I then need to make a copy of the card and certify that it is a true copy.
                I’ve had people being delayed 3 to 6 weeks on payroll because they didn’t have it.
                Please please please, some employers don’t care but some will make sure to obey the regulations and that will delay all the paperwork.

                1. Onymouse*

                  That’s kind of funny if you think about it though – if anyone could validate a SIN, you’d think the federal government could! Of course I understand there’s a process, but even still, you’d think there was a more efficient way.

        2. Stephanie*

          Depends. I didn’t get a passport until I was 21, so I had to use my Social Security card plus a photo ID for I-9 documentation.

          My parents also kept my birth certificate until college as well.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        My Mum STILL has my birth certificate hidden away somewhere; she sends me a notarised copy whenever I need one (which isn’t often – the last time was when I was applying for Canadian permanent resident status in 2005). My sister has searched the house for her own certificate, and can’t find it, so they’re both well hidden! My Mum seems to think of them as mementos of our childhood that belong to her, rather than important documents that belong to us…

        Ah, parents! I love both of mine very much, but sheesh.

        1. Felicia*

          I still let my parents keep my birth certificate, because I need it maybe once every 5 years and my mom is cool about handing it over, and in Ontario they print it on flimsy little paper that’s very easy to get ripped or crumpled. I just wish it was bigger – it’s about the size of a drivers license/SIN card etc.

          1. Chinook*

            I don’t know about the other provinces, but in Alberta you can get wallet sized birth certificates and marriage certificates. My birth certificate was laminated (I don’t know if that was the province or my parents) and I love that it is both portable and durable. My marriage certificate came with a plastic pouch that it fits in. DH found it useful in the military because it meant he could keep it on him to use whenever anyone would question his marriage status (because it entailed him to certain benefits)

            1. Felicia*

              My birth certificate is wallet sized, it’s just very flimsy paper prone to rip. The Ontario birth certificate hasn’t come laminated since the 80s (i was born in 1990, mine is not laminated), they won’t let you laminate it yourself or give you a laminated copy (I’ve asked). It’s really common for peoples’ birth certificates to rip and then they have to wait for hours for a new one. They should bring back laminated birth certificates! So mine is portable but not at all durable and there’s nothing I can do. They should at least use better paper! Or make it bigger if they’re going to use such flimsy paper. My parents were born in Quebec and their birth certificates are bigger and less flimsy.

              1. Wren*

                It may have changed since mine was printed in the early 80s, but I would say it’s not exactly wallet sized, but a little larger than your standard wallet card, which is even more annoying. When I was a teenager travelling to the US, I had to keep it in the cash section of my wallet, because it was too big for card/ID slots.

                1. Felicia*

                  Yes , exactly! I think they often get ripped by trying to put it into the wallet part because they kinda sorta fit, but not quite.

              2. Esra*

                I’m convinced they won’t let us laminate them just so they can pocket the money when everyone constantly has to replace the frayed, thin paper ones.

                1. Felicia*

                  I agree with this theory ! I’d laminate it but then it is apparently invalid if you do

          2. Mallory*

            My husband will be 50 years old this October. He was back home not too long ago, helping his dad do some cleaning in the attic. He found the original of his birth certificate up there, and his mom would not let him have it! She was holding it for safe-keeping (!) and said she’d send him copies of it whenever he needed it. He always just thought she only had a copy, not the original. He’s kind of flabbergasted that she won’t give it to him. He’s never had any trouble from not having the original, so I can only laugh and be bemused by what she could possibly be thinking.

            1. Mallory*

              I guess she’s like Cath in Canada’s mom and considers it a memento belonging to her rather than a legal document belonging to him.

        2. Student*

          Oy. Just contact the hospital you were born at to get your own copy. Or the local/state authorities. Your mother can only hold your birth certificate hostage if you allow her to do so.

          You have options to pursue to get your own copy. What did you think people did if they lost their birth certificate to a natural disaster or accident? Just give up and die?

          1. Chinook*

            In Canada, the provincial registiries/governments can reissue you one if you bring proof of identity. If you wer eborn in Quebec before a certain date, your baptismal certificate also works as proof of birth but they receommend getting a proper birth certificate (even if they never issued one before).

            1. Joline*

              Yeah. I’m Canadian and had to get the long version of my birth certificate a couple of years ago (the one with your parents’ names and places of birth) to get my German passport and it was super easy. I think I ordered it over the internet.

          2. Cath in Canada*

            The hospital where I was born doesn’t exist any more, and last time I checked I’d have to go to the UK in person to get a replacement copy from a central office. More hassle than it’s worth tbh!

            1. Mallory*

              Maybe one of these days you can help her clean the attic and secretly abscond with the birth certificate, should you happen to find it.

        3. Observer*

          In the US it’s easy enough for an adult to get a proper copy of your birth certificate (ie one that will be acceptable to any organization that needs one.) And, it’s also not all that hard to request a replacement SS card.

          If I have a young adult tell me that they need to ask their parents for either document, that’s what I would suggest they do.

          1. Stephanie*

            Yeah, it was really easy to get a duplicate copy of my SS card after I lost mine. Took about 30 minutes total.

            1. Cube Ninja*

              In my neck of the woods, waiting for your turn at the SSA office takes significantly longer than actually going through the in-person process with SSA staff. :)

            2. Leah*

              For people who are prone to losing them or have a lifestyle that makes it harder to keep the card in good condition, it’s worth noting that there’s a limit on replacements. No more than 3 cards issued in any given year and no more than 10 replacement cards issued in a lifetime. If you change your name, I don’t think they restart that lifetime counter but the first card with your new name doesn’t count.

              I had to get a social security card with a new name on it a few years ago and it was pretty easy. I filled out all of the paperwork at home ahead of time and was also able to double check and organize my IDs before getting there. I went in just after the lunchtime rushed at a smaller branch. I waited about 5 minutes and processing my paperwork took less than that.

          2. Mike C.*

            There are some states that make this really difficult, especially if you are older and were born in a smaller area or outside of a hospital.

            This comes up a lot when you have large scale disasters – record keeping offices might not have good backups, records are destroyed and it’s a low priority when compared to restoring power or water.

            1. Mints*

              Ha yes. I wasn’t born in the US, and we lost my original birth certificate, but had a few copies to use for a year or two. When we traveled to the country, my mom tried to go to the hospital I was born in and get a copy, but they had had a huge fire and don’t have the records. So I don’t have any official copies. Luckily I have two passports, unofficial copies, and a SS card, but it’s a low-level worry whenever I need to do something official

              1. Anon for this - Born Elsewhere*

                I sympathize. Computerized records of birth just weren’t a Thing where and when I was born. My only saving grace is that in this country my citizenship certificate works well enough for official purposes, knock on wood.

        4. KT*

          My mom is the same way. I just went to a registry recently and got another copy for myself. My mom can keep hers for whatever secret purposes she’s keeping it for…

        5. Elizabeth West*

          I have mine, thank goodness, and my Social Security card too. I need a new copy of my BC; when I got my passport recently, I noticed it’s getting a bit worn.

          What my mom won’t let me have is my photo album. I can’t do Throwback Thursdays because I have NO pictures from my childhood at all!

          1. Adam V*

            I “borrowed” some pictures from my mom before my wedding, and I don’t think I ever gave them back.

            In fact, we cut some of them up to make a collage of the two of us… I’m a bit worried what she’d think if I gave *those* back.

        6. EB*

          I went to the Clerk-Recorder’s Office in the county where I was born and got a certified copy of my birth certificate (you can also get it online or via mail). It was printed on special paper (the kind transcripts come on) with the county seal on it.

        7. Vancouver Reader*

          My mother gave my birth certificate to my sister for safekeeping because she thought I’d lose it because I’m known to be a flake. I can’t disagree with her judgement. :)

      3. Jennifer*

        Hah, yeah, I got sent home from my first day of work because my mom did the same thing. Luckily for me she lived an hour and a half away and could drive it to me.

    2. Juli G.*

      Yes! Every year I have some intern show up without proper I-9 documents and I have to tell them that they have three days from mom or dad to ship it otherwise I have to terminate them (at least until they provide something from the list).

    3. Robin*

      Has this gotten worse lately? I’ve done my share of managing interns, although not as much in the past 5 years, and this has *never* happened to me. Is it new, or am I just in the wrong industry?

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I bet it’s more common in universities – my BIL is a professor and said he always has a few parents who decide that it’s ok to call and complain that their kid deserves an A because they are paying such a high tuition. He said it was unheard of until a few years ago.

          1. Beti*

            Am I reading that right? She gives undeserved good grades because she doesn’t want to stand her ground? That’s weak. And I don’t really understand her. She seems to be unhappy that students demand better grades and then she does the exact thing that causes that behavior. I’m glad she publishes under her real name; I’d hate to take a class from her.

            1. KellyK*

              It sounded to me much more like she gives undeserved good grades because adjunct professors’ continued employment depends on good reviews from students, and giving low grades to students who feel they deserve better is a good way to get scathing evaluations. It’s a conflict of interest problem—she’s evaluated on keeping students happy, not on evaluating their work fairly.

            2. Callie*

              well if she’s an adjunct then she can be fired for any or no reason, so it could just cost her her job.

              1. Beti*

                Wow. Well, that’s just a terrible system. She’s doing her students a real disservice. Makes me glad to be taking a lot of math classes. The grading for that kind of work is much less subjective.

        1. cecilhungry*

          I only ever questioned a grade one time–I got a B+ in a very subjective class where I’d always gotten good feedback from the professor. I had assumed I would get the A in the course and was frankly counting on it because it was a semester I’d bitten off WAY more than I could chew and knew I would have at least one C on my card–I needed that A to bring up my GPA! I think I was more heartbroken about that B+ than any of my other, worse grades, so I emailed him to ask.

          My professor replied that I had done great work in the class, but his rubric for such classes was that simply showing up & turning in adequate work landed you a B, and you had to work pretty hard to get above that. My work was quite good–thus the B+–but not outstanding. I was still sad, but it made sense.

    4. Allison*

      Huh, I don’t think I’ve ever needed the physical card for hiring paperwork, I’ve just needed to know the number so I can write it, you know, 20 different times. got the thing memorized at this point. I’ve needed my passport and voided check. maybe my drivers’ license, but never my SS card.

      1. Meg Murry*

        You need your passport OR your drivers license and SS card for an I-9. So if you have a passport, you are good, but if not you’ll need the SS card.

      2. Amtelope*

        Your passport counts as proof of both citizenship and identity. You need either a passport, or a driver’s license/state photo ID (proves identity) + SS card or birth certificate (proves citizenship).

      3. Stephanie*

        Depends. You need one document to verify identity and one document to verify eligibility to work in the US. Passport satisfies both.

        I’ve had to use my SS card for other things. When I got my drivers license, I had to show it to prove I was here legally (woo border states). When I registered with the county workforce development office, I had to show it to prove I was eligible to work in the US. I’ve needed it more than I would have guessed. If only the damn thing wasn’t so small and flimsy.

        1. the gold digger*

          Stephanie, I had to show proof of citizenship to get a DL in Iowa in 1998!

          (PS According to a member of our city council, it’s not like Arizona is on the border with Mexico or anything, so why should they care about immigration? BTW, this person is of Mexican heritage. I cry for our local politics.)

          1. Stephanie*

            But what was really weird was that I didn’t have to show proof of address, just that I’m in the US legally. I could have listed the Grand Canyon as my address and they probably wouldn’t have cared as long as I could prove lawful residence. Also weird is that my license doesn’t expire until I’m 65. So at 28, this means my license expires in 2051.

            DC, on the other hand, didn’t ask for citizenship/permanent resident verification, but was super strict about valid proof of address.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Your DL does not expire for 37 years? I am thinking about how many renewal fees I will have paid by then. sigh.

              1. Stephanie*

                Nope! People have thought it was fake before.

                In theory, you’re supposed to get your photo updated every five years. I’ve never heard of it being enforced.

    5. Mike C.*

      You’re punishing a student for the actions of a separate party? That’s nuts. They don’t control their parents, they might not even know they are calling.

      Come on, lots of folks have parents who do this crap, and there is nothing that they can do about it.

      1. TL*

        I disagree. If you’re at college, you can just not tell your parents about what’s happening – you can deny them access to everything, including grades+health information (if you’re over 18.)

        If you’re financially dependent on your parents this might be more problematic, but I know my parents didn’t know who I worked for, what opportunities there were, what my grades were, or any numbers to call at my college except the main lines.

        1. Mike C.*

          Parents are cosigning those loans, and you’re talking about a huge cultural shift within a family to start so close and then suddenly not tell them anything. That’s going to freak out a lot of normal, sensible parents – the crazy, controlling ones are going to go really go wild.

          1. TL*

            Uh, my parents didn’t cosign a single one of my loans. They helped out financially other ways, for sure, but no, your parents do not have to cosign your loans.

            1. Mike C.*

              Most folks taking out student loans as teenagers still have to have their parents cosign.

            2. vvonderwoman*

              Most people have loans co-signed. Sometimes it’s required (I’ve known people who had to drop out because their parents’ credit was so bad and no one else was willing to co-sign), other times it’s just good financial sense. I have a lot of Parent PLUS loans (loans just in my parent’s name) because the interest rates were less than half of what the loans that were signed by both me and my parent would have been.

          2. Jennifer*

            Yup, that’s totally true. Especially when “I PAID FOR IT” is a huge factor. That’s why there’s a dang law forbidding the parents to be told anything without the students’ permission–otherwise…..

        2. EM*

          Sure, and if my kid said that to me, I’d be all, “Great! So now you can figure out how to finance your entire college education on your own too!”

          1. TL*

            I didn’t say that to my parents; I just didn’t let them have access. My grades were none of their business. Nor was who I was working for or, god forbid, any information about my professors or classes.

            Then again, I did pretty much finance my college education on my own – they helped with some living expenses, like medical stuff and clothing and car things, but if it was related to college, I paid.

            But my parents have always seen their financial obligations towards their kids as obligations, not strings to pull so their children behave. Different strokes, I guess.

          2. Aisling*

            At 18, I was an adult, and my parents treated me as such. I had the same experience as TL. I would have been mortified to have my parents looking over my shoulder in college. If college isn’t a training ground to be a “real adult”, then what opportunity is? Better I fall on my face in college than at my first job.

      2. Colette*

        They can apply elsewhere (and not tell their parents), assuming they’re in a big enough city.

        Here’s the thing – as we often discuss, there is a limited amount of information available to the hiring manager during the hiring process. If you need an employee who does what needs doing without prompting, will you be more successful hiring someone who applied on their own or someone who may have been nagged into applying?

        Obviously, you can’t tell what prompting may have happened behind the scenes, but if you have signs that the applicant didn’t motivate herself, I think it’s fair to take them into account. I don’t know that I’d automatically disqualify them, but I’d definitely be looking for other signs that they can motivate themselves.

        1. Mike C.*

          The problem here is that you’re assuming that any candidate who has their parent call is complicit in that action. Without any other sign of this, you can’t make that assumption from the fact a particular place was cold called to begin with.

          Look, my parents are great, they never pulled this carp. But I have friends who aren’t so lucky – their parents were controlling and smothering and basically took a “my way or the highway” approach to things. That meant if they wanted to call someone, they called – without permission or knowledge of the student.

          Sure, look for other signs. I’m only objecting to a blanket rule for what can be a very low information situation.

          1. Colette*

            If there are 100 places to apply to and you find out that your parents call 20, that still leaves you 80 places to apply that your parents haven’t called. (I’m assuming retail, fast food, etc., of which there are far more than 100 places within an easy bus ride of where I live.)

            I’m not saying the candidate knew in advance that their parent called, but I would suspect often they’d know after the fact. Even if they don’t, they can still take control of their own job hunt. They won’t necessarily get the ones their parent called, but they won’t get many of the other ones, either.

            1. Mike C.*

              That’s still a terrible rule because you’re allowing a third party to unduly influence the selection process.

      3. annie*

        Eh, in my experience, every time this has happened it is very obvious that the kid is well aware of what mommy or daddy is doing. Usually because they are standing there next to them. Walking in off the street. Bothering the receptionist. Trying to “fill out an application”. Despite our standard operating procedure of emailing a cover letter and resume, clearly stated on our website. It is a real pet peeve.

        I will admit that yes, seeing this does result in the child’s application immediately getting a large X over it. Life isn’t fair. I’m sorry if you got stuck with a helicopter parent, but I don’t think that means I need to subject myself and our office to dealing with it all summer.

        1. Mike C.*

          Well, you have more information there than having a parent simply cold call you. I’m just saying that all else being equal, you shouldn’t hold it against the student for having overbearing parents. If the student is complicit then yes, it makes sense not hire them. But at the very least don’t eliminate them right off the bat because their parent did something behind their back.

    6. Rachel - HR*

      I disagree with such specific advice. Instead how about: make sure when your child leaves they have documentation to fill out the I-9 form.

      I’m 30, I work in HR, and my mother still has my social security card. I could ask for it at any point but I don’t need it. I have my passport to use as I-9 documentation and employers cannot dictate what I-9 documentation is presented.

      1. HR “Gumption”*

        An employer can require verification of your SS # for payroll purposes though.

        1. RG*

          For payroll, you fill out and sign the W-4 (or W-9) w/ your SSN – doesn’t require verification of your SSN with the card.

          1. HRAnon*

            Not required by the government, but an employer can- and we do- require either the actual card or a photocopy for payroll.

            You would be amazed how many people either don’t know, or just make an error on this. And then don’t notice when their W-2 is wrong… for multiple years. It is a huge hassle to straighten out, and I speak from experience, which is why we now have this requirement.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      The same goes for courts. It does not impress the judge when a parent calls for an adult age child. (Sometimes but RARE times, other people need to call on behalf of the defendant. But those occasions are rare.
      Even with underage children it does not help their case if the parent screams in to the phone “but Johnny has a game and can’t come to court”. Hmmm, UH. No. Just don’t do that.

    8. Observer*

      I think you are making a mistake here. Not that I think the parents are correct. But, you are making some unwarranted assumptions. Of course, if the parent makes a nuisance of himself, that’s one thing, because even if the kid CAN think for herself, you don’t want to have to deal with the pushy parent all through the process. But, if you can get the parent to back off reasonably quickly, and the kid pocks up the process fairly smoothly, you might just discover that the kid can think for herself.

  4. Felicia*

    Although my parents have been known to give bad job searching advice (neither of them have had to look for a job in a long time), at least they know better than to call people on my behalf. I bet some of these parents are doing this without their college student’s knowledge , and if my parents did that to me when I was in college, I would be mortified. But then I worked in highschool , as did many of my friends, and we were expected to find those jobs ourselves. And I graduated highschool 6 years ago so it’s not that long ago. I think these parents need to be told that they’re hurting their child’s chances and that you can’t answer their questions. In college I worked in the testing centre, for students who had to take tests at different times or needed certain accommodations, and there were parents calling all the time. I was between 19-21 at the time and had parents calling me constantly demanding to know how their child did on whatever test, or asking to book a test appointment for theird kid (only the student taking the test is allowed to book the test) . Even at the same age as their kids I knew this was extreme and not ok. I had to repeat over and over that their kids were adults and I couldn’t answer their questions.

    1. Blue Anne*

      This was my thought too. I bet a lot of these kids have no idea that their parents are doing this.

        1. TL*

          I had some friends in college who let their parents make major decisions for them (and who would’ve not been completely mortified had something like that happened, though thankfully it didn’t.)

    2. OP*

      Unfortunately, the student does know and acknowledged it in email. Then, the parent resumed contact to follow-up, as opposed to the student following-up with the filled out application (after we had given the student the appropriate forms to fill out).

      It is entirely possible that the student doesn’t know the father followed up again though.

  5. CanadianWriter*

    This sounds like something my mum would do. Kind of horrifying.

    I would tell the parents to back off, but also warn the students about what their crazy parents are up to.

    1. Anx*

      Yes! I don’t think that many college kids know they’re parents are doing this.

      I imagine that there’s a miscommunication somewhere. Maybe a young person answers their parents’ ‘how did so and so get that intersnhip?’ with ‘her dad’ or ‘her mom’ and thought their parents literally went around looking.

  6. CTO*

    I used to have the same issue come up when I managed volunteers/interns at a nonprofit. If a parent contacted me to inquire about openings, I’d tell them, “Yes, we have openings, but I need your child to contact me directly to request an application” or something along those lines. I never let a parent remain involved past that point (unless there were special circumstances, like the volunteer was 10 years old or had special needs or something like that).

    If parents protested, I’d just kindly explain that part of the learning experience of the volunteer/internship was going through the hiring process, and that not forcing the youth to do that on their own would be shortchanging their learning.

    You are setting a very reasonable boundary here, so don’t feel apologetic about setting it. If a parent persists in contacting you, just keep politely shutting them down. Don’t share any information with them and repeat “I can only speak directly with the applicant” ad nauseum. If the child doesn’t get an internship because either the parent is overbearing or the child isn’t motivated… well, that’s a learning experience for the entire family.

    1. CTO*

      And in case it makes you feel better: I try to remember that volunteers and interns are hired to serve the agency’s needs. Our agency does not exist to provide volunteer positions; we exist to accomplish some good in the world. We are not responsible to accommodate volunteers/interns who don’t meet our needs, because the agency’s needs come first.

      (And yes, “agency’s needs” can be broader than just the pressing work at hand. Our needs do include good PR, positive community relationships, welcoming in volunteers so they can learn and spread the word about us, etc. But you don’t need to feel bad at all about turning down applicants–or their parents–who aren’t fitting into your culture or process.)

  7. Marina*

    I actually like the phrase you used in your letter: “The field we are in requires people with self-drive and a strong work ethic” and you could follow it up with “so therefore we require that interns apply to us directly.”

    1. Mallory*

      But my little Pookie does have self drive and motivation! and I’m determined to prove that to you through a demonstration of my drive and motivation on her behalf!


  8. Anonymous*

    What if a parent works for the company and uses the employee referral process to introduce a son or a daughter?

    1. CTO*

      I would say that’s different, because that’s using a process that the employer has established and encourages people to use. OP’s problem is that parents are operating outside of the agency’s established process and it’s causing big headaches.

      Referrals, whether through a formal process or otherwise, only work when the employee introduces a possible candidate, maybe puts them in touch with someone or gives a recommendation, and then steps out of the hiring process. The parents in OP’s letter aren’t stepping out of the process at the point that our business culture considers appropriate, and that’s what I see as the problem here.

      I like to think about it this way: would it be okay for a friend or colleague to do for another friend? If not, then it’s not okay for a parent to do that in the workplace, either. My friends would never submit an application on my behalf or contact the company directly during the selection process.

      1. Chinook*

        I think that, if a parent is used a referral, that is so different. They are mentioning the person once and then not interferring. My mother did this with a local newpaper editor who mentioned he was posting a position later that week. She said I was looking for work, he said I should apply and, after that, it was all up to me (and I got the job). At no point would my mother had thought to lobby for me or threaten to hold back advertising dollars if I didn’t get the job.

    2. Kay*

      I think if it’s done the same way you would refer a friend or colleague that would be okay. My current day job used to be my mom’s job. She was retiring, and I was moving back to town and needed work. My boss knew I would be good because he knew her, and I got the job. I’ve been here almost 2 years and have definitely proven myself capable whether I got the job because of my mom or not.

      1. De Minimis*

        My first couple of jobs when I was in high school were mainly due to parental contacts, but I still had to come in and fill out everything on my own.

      1. Chinook*

        There is a big difference between nepotism and networking, though. Speaking as someone who spent a decade running from anything my mother could influence, but never did, I learned that the difference is there but subtle. Networking letss you hand in the resume were nepotism doesn’t require the resume, interview process or any skill whatsoever.

        1. Mike C.*

          I meant the comment to be tongue in cheek. After all, I got my first job that way – grandfather owned a janitorial business. Hooray for cleaning toilets? :)

      2. Clever Name*

        Oh yes. I got my job in high school and two summer jobs after high school because of nepotism. :)

        1. cecilhungry*

          You could argue I have my current job because of nepotism–or you could argue that I got one internship through nepotism and then the company liked me enough to seek me out with a position when I was looking.

    3. Observer*

      Totally different thing. Networking, at any age or stage, is fine. So is using a formal referral system. That’s very different from this.

      I’ve called ONE employer for my children – it’s someone I knew, so I shot an email saying “My daughter NotPookie is looking for a job. Do you have any openings?” Once we established that, yes the company might have something and she might have the requisite skills, I asked where she should send her resume, and bowed out.

      Otherwise? I think both of them would have pitched a major fit had I even suggested it. So, that was fine, since you couldn’t convince me to do it anyway.

      1. Joey*

        I’m not sure I agree that using mom or dad’s reputation to help me get a job can be classified as networking.

        1. Observer*

          I don’t know that what i described falls into that category, nor does it sound like what the post above it.

          I would say that if the only reason a kid gets a job is because of the parent’s reputation, it’s a problem. However, if all the reputation does is gets someone to look at a resume – well that’s what networking is all about.

          1. Joey*

            Hmm so my parents helping me get interviews is “networking”? I’m not sure most people would agree with that.

            1. cecilhungry*

              I agree with Observer. In the case s/he mentions, and the original question, you’re using an already-established relationship to inquire about a job. A friend might do this for you as well. In the original letter, this is strangers calling off the street, something a friend would/should not do either.

              I got my first internship through my mother. She worked for a company that needed interns, and she suggested my older sister, who got the job. They liked her so much that they hired me a year later on the strength of my sister’s performance. I then had to prove myself on my own merits.

              I think that’s totally okay, and different from the context of the OP.

            2. Observer*

              Depends on how they “helped”. Set it up for you? Insisted (or tired to) that you be interviewed? Acted pushy and overbearing? Applied pressure? Proposed a quid pro quo? etc.

              That’s not networking. Asking someone you know about openings and letting that person know the you are going to be submitting a resume? Classic networking. People do that for their friends all the time, and it’s considered normal.

    4. bridget*

      I work as an attorney at a law firm, which often hires runners, filers, etc. who are related to attorneys (but are usually the kids of named partners). My college-aged brother is interested in seeing how a law firm works. I think it would be appropriate if I shot the HR director an email, asking if any positions are open. If they were, I would tell her his name and that she was likely to hear from my brother soon, and then give him her information and encourage him to apply directly. Does this fall into “referral” category, or inappropriate category?

      1. StevenO*

        I’m nervous by all the responses because I think they might get someone fired. Where I work, we really don’t have a formal internship program, but we will on occasion take on an intern for the summer. Often, however, it’s only when a member of the Board of Directors or someone else very high-level in our field calls and asks if his or her son might be gain experience interning here one summer.

    5. Stephanie*

      My dad’s office had such a bad problem with nepotism (entire families were working there), that the company ended up banning pretty much all referrals.

      But I think a parent referring a child is fine, since it’s within the accepted boundaries of the company’s hiring practices.

    6. Juli G.*

      It is important that the kids do the work after referral. I just went through intern hirings and referrals were fine. But if I email YOU for your resume, don’t have your dad send it.

  9. Lily in NYC*

    I’m starting to realize that I must get a sick thrill out of these types of confrontations. I’ve only had this happen once (we usually get fantastic intern applications) – a mom called to ask if we would interview her son. I was so gobsmacked that I’m sure it showed in my response, which was something like “Are you really calling on behalf of your child? What made you think this was a good idea?” She said he was too busy with school. It made my day! I love when crazy stuff like this happens.

    1. LBK*

      Oh wow, that’s kind of an appaling answer, too. Too busy with school? So you’re saying he doesn’t know how to balance his priorities and set up his schedule so he can take care of things that are important, like job hunting? Or, alternatively, applying for this position is such a low priority for him that he doesn’t want to make his own time for it? Sounds great, let me email him his job offer now.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Oh, I agree. I told her that she wasn’t doing him any favors and that he was welcome to apply but that it probably wasn’t going to work out. We got one terrible resume that I think was his (because the mom told me where he went to school and I remembered the area code – it just fit). He didn’t even write a cover letter.

      1. Recruiter*

        I’ve never understood students complaining about being busy with school. Unless you’re a full-time student also working full time, or working multiple jobs, or working part time and taking care of kids, you’re probably not as busy as you’ll be once you graduate.

        When I was in college, I got to do things like eat lunch at home, or go to the gym in the middle of the day, or do laundry on a weekday (and I was working part time!). Now, with a full time job, I have maybe a couple hours to myself a day, and my weekends are a race to get all my errands finished. Most students have no idea how good they have it!

        1. Marina*

          That’s funny how different experiences can be. I remember when I got my first full time job out of college, it felt so relaxing! After I went home at 6, my time was entirely my own–I didn’t have to do any more work until I went in the next morning. By my last quarter in school I think I was putting in easily 60-70 hours a week between classes and homework. Yes, my time was much more flexible than it was when I got a job, but “flexible” doesn’t necessarily mean “less time”.

          1. CTO*

            Me too. I was way busier in college than I was after I graduated. After graduation I was only working 40 hours a week and didn’t have homework, school clubs, a second job, etc. to balance.

            College these days is much more expensive than it was even 10 years ago, and the tough economy puts pressure on students to take on more internships, worry more about taking on too much debt (that they won’t be able to repay), etc.

            I think it’s safe to assume college students can live very busy, demanding lives. That said, their parents still don’t get to do their job searching for them.

            1. Recruiter*

              I graduated college less than five years ago…the difference is probably that I live and work in NYC. There’s a different rhythm to life here :)

              1. Recruiter*

                And fwiw, it probably also depends on industry, or even the specific organization you work for.

                Eh, maybe I should stop comparing who’s busiest and get back to work!

          2. Lynn Whitehat*

            Me too! I couldn’t believe all the free time I had. I went home for the day and I was DONE, no studying or paper-writing or anything. Weekends, likewise. Amazing! I think the year I had a high-responsibility job, two toddlers, and my husband was overseas was the only year of my life that was busier and more stressful than undergrad.

          3. Youth Services Librarian*

            That’s how I felt! Between classes, multiple part-time jobs, and extracurricular involvement (and I was hardly involved) it was such a relief to not have to struggle to remember what job I was at and stammer over answering the phone!

    2. Clever Name*

      I agree. “Too busy with school” is a lame answer. I was busy with school, so during spring break week I stayed on campus and found myself a job for that upcoming summer. It was great because the professors were usually on campus but not swamped with grading.

    3. Jennifer*

      Lemme guess, that was followed up with “He’s in class right now, he’s in class from 8-5 every single daaaaaaay,” but it’s okay for mom to call from work.

  10. Anx*

    I think a big issue with parents and their children’s employment, is that they simply can’t believe their child has tried on their own because they aren’t getting any results, OR they feel panicked and desperate knowing how competitive internships are.

    I’ve heard of a things like “well you need to follow up more,” “make sure they remember your name/face,” “just go to their office,” or “you have to make connections somehow” because that worked for them. I’ve been in really awkward positions with gainfully employed people that are trying to help me, and I don’t know whether to just trust them because obviously it works for them (even if we are quite different and the same behavior would yield different results) or to go with my gut/how I’d like to be approached. Throw in the fact that it’s near impossible to contact a human being about entry level work, and I can see why this is such a problem.

    Also, people reward this. And have been. People have been giving kids As for their parent-produced hw, have given in to pushy parents but not self-advocating teens, etc. Last week, I literally had to hear about a man complain about the lack of rebounding from failure/non-academic work ethic in his upcoming students in his program less than 2 weeks after him deriding a potential removal of GPA minimums.

    1. Turtle Candle*

      “that they simply can’t believe their child has tried on their own because they aren’t getting any results”

      Yes, I saw this a fair amount. Plenty of “well it shouldn’t be this hard to get an internship/interview/job, so you must be doing it wrong somehow, let me take over and fix it.”

  11. Muriel Heslop*

    I hire interns throughout the year and my standard response to parental inquiries is: “I am only able to communicate with applicants. If your child would like more information, please have them contact me.” This is all couched among pleasantries, of course. I’ve never hired anyone whose parents approached me; most of the offspring never follow up with anything.

    My company is for-profit, but it is still amazing how many people seem to think that internships exist for the sole benefit of the interns. From where did this idea emerge?

    1. Onymouse*

      Probably when some companies decided to not play their interns. A few bad apples and whatnot.

      1. bridget*

        Right. In fact, if an internship is unpaid, it *can’t* benefit the employer, it must only benefit the intern in an educational way. Otherwise you are playing with fire re: minimum wage laws.

    2. LQ*

      If you are a for-profit you should be either paying your interns or it should be for their benefit. Legally a for-profit doesn’t get to have interns who don’t get benefit.

      Why would someone do something for free (where you often have to pay to do it, requiring a new wardrobe, transportation, etc) when they get no benefit?

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        But not for their *sole* benefit. Having interns should be beneficial to the company as well, even if they are in the business of making a profit.

    3. Tina Marina*

      Isn’t that (in theory) the point of internships? Again, in theory, interns aren’t supposed to help with any essential or vital tasks for for-profit companies, but simply get the opportunity to learn basic work skills and make connections in their field. Having worked several myself, I know that that’s not the case, and anyone who thinks so is being somewhat willfully naive.

      What companies are looking for is entry level workers (in terns of professionalism, skills, etc. if not experience). But what kids are told is that this is the equivalent of a class, where they can dictate terms like hours and tasks. Again, the ones who don’t realize the disconnect are probably not the sharpest or most professional anyway, and no one’s parents should be involved at any point, but especially if you’re referring to unpaid interns, the idea is that it should be primarily for the benefit of the intern.

      1. jasmine*

        “Again, in theory, interns aren’t supposed to help with any essential or vital tasks for for-profit companies…”

        That restriction only applies if the interns are unpaid. If you pay them a legal salary (above minimum wage), they can do work that benefits the business. I started my career as a paid intern writing computer software that was part of the company’s product.

    4. Mike C.*

      If you aren’t paying them, then the law basically says an internship is for the benefit of the intern, not the company.

      1. Joey*

        Which I believe is almost always crap. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an unpaid internship that wasn’t an excuse to not pay someone for work that the company wanted done.

        1. Stephanie*

          Every once in a while, I see a posting for one that’s like 10 hrs/week and designed for a college student just to observe how the company’s run.

          But definitely after living in DC, I saw way too many internships that were basically unpaid entry-level jobs.

          1. Felicia*

            This. I know that these unpaid internships that are the new entry level job are technically illegal, but they are super common. The company isn’t supposed to be benefiting from an unpaid intern but they always get a lot of benefit while providing the intern minimal training. I guess that’s what happens when entry level jobs are scarce, you get at least 100 applicants for every internship and internship laws are never ever enforced.

        2. bridget*

          We take unpaid interns from law schools. They almost always cost us money, time, and resources, not the other way around. It takes more time to teach someone how to do something, let them take a crack at it, give them feedback, let them have another try, and then fix it up to put it in usable shape, than it would be to just do the thing myself. But we give our interns substantive work; they aren’t running for coffee or filing.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Y’all, Muriel didn’t say the internships at her company are unpaid. Plenty of internships are paid, and if these are, then none of this would apply.

      1. Onymouse*

        Oh gosh, I missed that! I guess my brain couldn’t process the idea of someone receiving pay and thinking they didn’t have to contribute to the company :O

        1. Muriel Heslop*

          Yes, we pay them and very competitively. And, they are earning clinical/professional hours necessary for their certifications so the reward is even greater.

          My point was that the parents that call seem to feel their children are “owed” the internships and don’t seem to recognize that we are not a charity distributing internships out of goodwill. Internship fairies, if you will.

  12. scarydogmother*

    “I don’t want to be judgmental …”

    Can I ask why? If you have anything to do with screening and managing people, judging them professionally is not only called-for, but necessary.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I almost included a paragraph on that in my answer but ended up taking it out. But: Yes. Hiring is about assessing and judging. It’s good in this context (and many others, frankly).

    2. OP*

      This is a good point. I ultimately meant that I want to give people the benefit of the doubt and not assume something negative that may not be correct. Better wording would be that I aim to be objective and only use facts to make decisions.

  13. Turtle Candle*

    I wholeheartedly agree with this advice, both for the reasons stated and for one more: when I was in college, some of my friends’ parents did this not only not at their behest but against their wishes. (They were some hardcore ‘helicopter’ type parents.) It wasn’t that the kid was too shy or lazy to do it themselves–it was that the kid *didn’t want the parent to do it*, and the parent insisted anyway ‘for their own good.’ (In some cases, this was because the student and their parent disagree as to how to go about the job search, or the parents were under the misguided impression that they could do a better job at it than their child. In others, it was about the jobs themselves: child was applying for positions in Industry X, parent thought that Industry Y was better and was going behind their child’s back to do it.)

    In those cases, the parent wasn’t listening to the child’s “please don’t do that,” because the entire reason they were doing it was that they didn’t think their child was savvy enough about the real world. But they might have listened to a hiring manager’s “please don’t do that,” or at least there’s a greater chance.

    (This is also why I’m hesitant to assume that “parents doing something for their kids that their kids should do themselves” is a problem with the kid–in the cases I was aware of, it was very much a problem with the parent, but the Kids These Days label still got slapped on some of ’em. I’m sure sometimes it is lazy/shy/whatever young people, but sometimes it’s just that the parents are radically overinvolved and won’t back off.)

      1. Mints*

        My new response to millenials bashing is boomer bashing (flip the headline): Boomer parents refuse to allow adult children independence during job search; undermine them by calling prospective employers

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, this. I will admit I did actually get a job this way once though. I was in my early 20s and applying for jobs. My father offered to proofread my resume for me, and without telling me, passed it along to someone he worked with who’s wife’s company was hiring in my field. I was furious with him at first, when he said “oh, by the way, you might get a call from Company X about Job Y,” but since it was more of a “using my network” thing than a “parents applying for jobs” thing no one knew my father had sent in my resume without telling me first, and I didn’t tell them until I’d been there a while and the woman who turned in my resume got the referral bonus – it became a running joke.

    2. Jennifer*

      I have a mom like that (she seriously broke the roof of my car on Mother’s Day because she refused to take my “no, it’s not broken, DON’T TOUCH IT” multiple times for an answer), but even she has had nothing to do with my job searching.

  14. A Bug!*

    I see this surprisingly often in my legal work, where I’ll get a call from someone’s parent looking for a lawyer to help their child with a legal issue. Rarely, there’s a really good reason for it, but by and large it’s an excellent predictor either of a disinterested client who’s going to require micromanagement, or a parent who is going to be more involved in the file than the child is. (Or both!)

    Basically, when a parent is calling on behalf of a son or daughter, the message is that the parent puts a higher priority on the task, whatever it is, than the child does. And it just looks really bad if someone puts a higher priority on managing your own life than you do.

    1. Student*

      My parents did this once. They filed a lawsuit against my aunt without my knowledge and against my wishes while I was at college.

      I had an angry discussion with my parents once I found out, and I went in person to explain the situation to the lawyer and make it clear that I wanted to be contacted personally about the case, and did not want him going through my parents to make decisions if they were doing this in my name.

      The asshole lawyer ignored me and only consulted with my parents. At the end, I forced them all to settle instead of pursue the case further, and then found out my parents had agreed to a ridiculous fee structure that gave an enormous share of the settlement to the lawyer (I asked early on what the fee structure was, and my father lied about it). I also made it clear to my parents that if anything like this ever happened again, I would be taking them to court over it immediately instead of indulging them.

      1. bridget*

        Yikes. This is a really poor ethical decision on the part of the lawyer – to the point where he could face discipline from the bar. Attorneys are supposed to follow the instructions of their clients, not the people who are paying for the service, and if they do, it’s a conflict of interest.

      2. A Bug!*

        Aaaaaaaaa no no no no no no no I’m so sorry you had to deal with that.

        Were you legally a minor at the time so that they were able to do that without committing fraud? Your comment has just made me so angry, legal aspects aside, but it’s possible that your parents acted fraudulently, and it’s possible that “your” lawyer committed misconduct in either taking the case at all, or managing it the way he did.

        Of course you might just want to put it behind you and forget about it, but if you haven’t already considered it, you might want to place a call to the bar association or whatever body grants law licenses in the lawyer’s area. They’ll usually have a department that deals with complaints, and you can explain to them what happened to you so they can tell you if the lawyer was acting appropriately from a legal sense. If not, you could lodge a complaint. It probably wouldn’t get you any compensation, but it’s right and just for shady lawyers to be held accountable for their misconduct.

        1. Student*

          No, I was not a legal minor at any time during this lawsuit. The case went on for several years, and I was 22 when I finally put an end to it. My father had even brought up the idea of suing my aunt at one point before he filed the suit, and I had told him very clearly that I did not want to be part of any lawsuit.

          My parents definitely, knowingly committed fraud. I seriously considered just taking them to court the moment I found out about it, but I made a poor judgement call and allowed it to proceed (and eventually came to my senses and ended it).

          In the lawyer’s (meager) defense, my parents misrepresented the case. My parents had mislead the lawyer into thinking that I was a minor. I was rather angry that the lawyer still didn’t contact me about case details after I gave him explicit directions to do so, along with contact information and an explanation that my parents had initially deceived him.

          In the end, it’s still mostly my own fault for allowing the case to proceed after such an inauspicious beginning. I should’ve put a swift end to it and threatened all involved with legal action immediately. Scam me once, shame on you; scam me twice, shame on me. My parents tried to get me to give my portion of the settlement to them so they could “redecorate the kitchen”. I gave it to my little brother instead to fund his college tuition, minus some travel expenses I had incurred in the course of making court-related appearances. And then I promptly stopped associating with my parents.

          1. Ruffingit*

            HO LEE CRAP. Wow, I am sorry your parents did this to you. I cannot blame you one single bit for not associating with them. I cannot even imagine. This is such a betrayal on so many levels.

            Feel free not to answer, but what in the world did your aunt do to you that caused a lawsuit? I’m thinking car accident or something. I just can’t imagine what would make them think it was OK to sue someone on your behalf, especially another family member when you had asked that they not do so.

            Also, loving that you gave the settlement to your little brother. Rock on! Your parents must have been pissed when you gave nothing to them. Do you associate with your parents at all now? If so, it must have taken years of therapy.

            GAH. This whole story is horrid particularly because, as a former attorney, your lawyer did some seriously shitty things here and that is so not even close to OK.

    2. Anx*

      Perhaps it’s because the parent is paying for the lawyer? And perhaps because there’s presumed suspicion for youth more often than middle aged people in many scenarios?

      1. Jennifer*

        Yeah, I read that and thought “the lawyer’s going to obey who’s paying him.”

        1. Student*

          In the end, the lawyer was paid primarily out of MY settlement award and not by my parents. I didn’t know that at the time, because my parents directly lied about it when I inquired. Had I known that they agreed to pay him a percentage of the settlement instead of a continuing fee, I would’ve certainly put an end to it immediately once the lawyer failed to comply with my requirements to communicate with me.

      2. Ruffingit*

        Doesn’t matter who is paying the lawyer, the client is the one to whom the confidentiality and decision making power is owed. This is something many people get confused by because it is often a third-party paying the lawyer, but the power belongs to the client regardless.

  15. Meg Murry*

    I would change Alison’s wording from “We prefer” to “We require”. As in – your kid is NOT getting a job from us unless they contact me themselves. Period. “We prefer” implies that you sometimes make exceptions to that rule, which you don’t want to appear to do. If the information is available on the website, you can mention that to the parents, but I wouldn’t give them any other info than that.

  16. Allison*

    I know this isn’t what the OP is necessarily referring to, but the only time a parent should get that involved with their kid’s job/internship hunt is when they’re getting their kid in touch with people in their network. In other words, contacting people they know or have worked with who may be looking for interns or recent grads. That’s how I got my first internship, and I suspect it’s not uncommon.

    But parents contacting people they don’t know regarding job opportunities for their kids is weird. Not only does it make their look bad, it makes me wonder if the parental involvement would continue should their kid be considered or even hired. Growing up, I’d hear about parents calling teachers to complain about their kids getting bad grades, is that going to continue as my generation enters the workforce? I would wonder, would those parents contact me after the interview, should one take place? Would they try to get involved in salary negotiation? Would they contact me after their kid gets bad feedback or doesn’t get the raise/promotion they want?

    1. Joey*

      I don’t know. I never had the opportunity to use my parents contacts to get me a job/internship. But, from afar it seems a little bit like riding mommy’s coattails to get a job. Don’t you wonder if you could have gotten it without your parent calling in a favor. I know your own merits aren’t usually completely irrelevant when this happens, but its hard to imagine there wasn’t some unearned advantage. Its sort of reminds me of high powered people who give their family members jobs just because they can. Its hard to imagine that it just so happens that the people who get jobs this way are actually the best qualified.

      1. Allison*

        Woah, okay, I need to clarify something: it wasn’t a
        “formal” internship, I didn’t beat out more qualified applicants because there *weren’t* any other applicants. I’d been trying to get an internship, not getting anything, and my dad knew someone who ran a nonprofit and who could’ve used a little extra help around the office. And while I didn’t have a lot of professional qualifications, they did seem impressed with my work.

        And yeah, I was struggling to get internships that year, and I needed one, and this was kind of a last resort. But I did something similar for myself years later, when I got an internship with my district’s senator just by e-mailing the office and asking if they wanted an extra set of hands in the office. Not all internships have an application process.

        1. Joey*

          Honestly that sounds worse- an unadvertised internship created especially for you and prompted by your dad.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Just because a parent made the initial introduction between their kid and the employer? I’m in that position, and no, I really don’t feel weird about it — I don’t think it’s any different than if it had been, say, a friend or a former classmate or a distant cousin who’d been the one to call me up and say, “Hey, I heard about this opening that I think you’d love, let me tell you about it…”

      3. Mike C.*

        This is a rather interesting ethical issue to be honest, it really gets to the heart of privilege.

          1. Joey*

            It rings very true. I would imagine most minorities already know this. Its much easier to see when you’re on the losing end of the stick.

            1. Stephanie*

              IME, I definitely realized my network wasn’t as robust as some of majority friends and colleagues. While I grew up very middle class and both my parents have graduate degrees and white-collar jobs, I realized I had a lot smaller of a white-collar network. The majority of my extended family didn’t attend college and only a few work in white-collar professions where networking would be advantageous.

              That being said, I definitely use other networks (alumni, friends, so on), but family network isn’t so robust (which I’m realize is how lots of people get leads).

              1. Joey*

                Yep definitely a disadvantage, but I don’t have a gripe if it results in someone more qualified getting hired. Its obviously an advantage in terms of looking for advertised jobs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t just work harder to find those same jobs- the opportunities are still accessible. I only have a problem with it when I’m denied the opportunity altogether or it leads to someone less qualified being hired simply because of their connections.

      4. KellyK*

        It’s not any different from using anybody else in your network—friends, family, former bosses or coworkers. Yes, there are internships or entry-level positions that are completely unearned and created specifically to benefit a family member or an employee’s kid—but a lot of the time, it’s just a positive reference.

        1. Joey*

          It is different. Completely different. Your parents usually have a stake in your financial well being. And the person on the receiving end knows that. So essentially what they’re saying between the lines is “it would really help me financially if you hired my kid.”

          1. Joey*

            Real networking is more about finding a job where you will be the best qualified candidate in the pool. While that would be nice, your parents are more interested in what’s in it for you.

        2. Annie O*

          The other difference is timing. Having a parent get you in the door gives you a head start in the professional work world. If you’re a poor 18-year-old minority, what sort of network or references do you have? Certainly not the same ones as a rich kid of the same age. This is about privilege and opportunity – not hard work or merit.

      5. Anoners*

        Well, to be fair, this happens all the time in the working world (people making use of their networks/ clients/ friends/ family to get connectinons to get their foot in the door).

        1. Joey*

          I’m not arguing that. I’m just arguing that when it prevents someone from being hired that was more qualified it sort of defeats the purpose.

  17. blu*

    On a related note, there was an employee at my job who was applying to jobs on behalf of her daughter using her own employee log in/account and email. She either couldn’t understand or refused to understand why this was an issue and why her child needed to have her own login credentials and email account.

  18. soitgoes*

    We had a kid at my office who was clearly only there because his parents are friends with the owner and worked out a deal without asking the kid first.

    It’s all a residual effect of the Boomer-era ideal about being “well-rounded” and constantly scheduled with no real focus. This isn’t how millennials find jobs during a recession, but the parents think their kids are failing by not doing what they (the parents) would have done 30 years ago.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Oh yeah, my Boomer parents were big on me being in every extracurricular activity in existence. And of course every other nerdy kid was doing the exact same thing, so all of the organizations were stuffed to the gills with people who weren’t really focused on them.

  19. araminty*

    I used to run a very popular summer teen intern program at a small zoo, and without fail, every year, there would be hundreds of calls/emails from fond mamas. Granted, the situation was a little different, as we were dealing with kids 14-18, who often still relied on their parents to manage their schedules and provide transportation.

    So I put policies in place to standardize communication: initial contact from parents was gently rebuffed, by literally saying, “we will not proceed with the application until we get a phone call with the student personally.” We asked for a parent/guardian to accompany the kids during their first site visit/interview, then if they made it to second round interviews, we asked to see the student solo, and required that they wear business casual clothes. (And yes, we turned away applicants who showed up in school uniform or sweats!)

    These steps generally weeded out parents that were more invested in the program than their kids. But because we needed parent buy-in too, we struck a good balance, letting the parents see where their kids would be working, and showing them we were professional, and would act that way with their kids.

    1. LucyVP*

      I ran a very similar program (although at a art museum) and we had similar problems, even with teenagers.

      We had two programs, Ages 14-16 and Ages 17-19.
      I would occasionally give basic information over the phone for parents of the younger age group, but only basic information about the program and where to get an application. The older group had to contact me directly.

      I would explain to parents, sometimes at length, that this was not a just a program you sign your kid up for, this was an internship and we couldn’t evaluate their qualifications if we did not have direct contact with the applicant.

      Even after that, I once had a mom come to my office to pick up an application for her 14 year old son (which I didnt have a problem with) and then she proceeded to sit down and fill it out in front of me. I tried to stop her and explain that HE needed to fill it out and she just waved me off and said it was fine. I gave up and let her do it, but obviously it went into the NO pile.

      The worst part was this was not just a factual application. There was 2 pages of ‘short answer’ questions asking why they were interested in the program, what they hoped to achieve from the program, describe your experience with skills X & Y, etc. and she filled it out in the first person as him!

  20. Lisa*

    The only situation where this would be appropriate would be if the parent knew someone there and was reaching that way. But a cold call? Weird.

    1. De Minimis*

      My parents helped me get a couple of jobs in high school as far as reaching out to people or finding out about pending openings from their friends, but I still had to come in and talk with the manager/HR people on my own.

      1. LucyVP*


        My mom actually found my first 3 jobs through her friends and her clients, but she would only make the introduction I still had to interview and prove myself.

        By the time I was 17 I had enough work experience I was getting my own jobs.

  21. Artemesia*

    I am old and so have observed the issues of young people getting summer jobs and now internships from the early 1960s until the present. We criticize parents who try to hustle up opportunities for their kids — and I feel the same way BUT it has been my observation that the very best internships and jobs have always gone to the well connected.

    I have a wealthy very successful CEO fortune 500 relatives all of whose children have started their careers on the fast track to wealth — due to family connections. I have observed classmates when I was a teen right up to interns in the last few years who got the best summer jobs or now the best internships because of people doing their parents a favor.

    And I think this is even more true today than it was for my generation. The goodies in the US go to the children of the elite and middle class parents trying to intervene for their kids are doing what they perceive is done for the privileged. Heck look at how George Bush started in business — with millions from the family rolledex; Chelsea Clinton’s husband has his own hedge fund bankrolled by family friends. Any of our kids have those kind of opportunities?

    So while I would tell parents doing this that you expect young people to apply and manage the process themselves, I would not be too judgmental. Because the fact is, having well connected parents is the very best path to success. And while my wealthy relatives whose own kids have been handed the path to success (which they, to be sure fulfilled by working hard), their father is in fact self made — but his first job that set him on that path was given by the father of a fraternity brother. He was able to put himself through college because of that well paid job not available to just anyone who applied on their own.

    1. Tina Marina*

      What ticks me off is seeing well-connected parents hand off these very competitive internships to their kids as if it’s just a regular summer job at the mall. I have an uncle who works a Goldman Sachs, and he got his sociology major daughter a summer internship there. Those jobs are notoriously hard to get and pay very well.

      Which on its own is fine, I’m sure she did a great job and worked extraordinarily hard to earn every penny. But I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of finance students who were turned away for someone who has absolutely no interest in pursuing that industry and really, won’t get much professionally because of it.

    2. Addiez*

      I agree – while I think a parent applying to a job for a child is weird, a parent leveraging a connection to open a door for a child is very common and not bad to do.

    3. Observer*

      What you are describing is VERY different, though, than what’s under discussion.

      But, even in your scenario, if someone is an incompetent idiot, or just never learned how to do stuff in their own, all the “fast tracking” is not going to help.

      And, if you do NOT have that “fast track” to give your kid, then taking over her intern / job search is just going to really handicap them in the long term (and probably in the short term as well.)

  22. Manager*

    I managed a restaurant for 4 years and here is a classic scenario, mother and daughter come in, daughter sits down and plays with her phone, mother asks for an application, FOR HER DAUGHTER! Come on parents…you’re kids are NEVER going to get out of your house and become contributing members of society if this kind of behavior is allowed! I’ve also had to deal with parents are firing their children. Fortunately for me, I have no problem with blunt honesty.

    1. Jennifer*

      I honestly don’t think those parents WANT their kids to leave the house.

      I had proto-helicopter parents and growing up, everyone thought my parents were insane (well, still continuing today) because they tended to be overbearing and demanding and taking over things for me. But even they let me figure stuff out at college, especially since they weren’t in the same town as me. I am soooooo grateful I did not have to go to the community college in town–I’d never have been able to leave because I was so handicapped about learning survival skills from people who weren’t too thrilled to have me leave.

  23. Kerr*

    +1 to explaining to the parents. I don’t quite understand why a company would give out the information like it’s A-OK, and then hold it against the student.

    Beyond unmotivated or nervous kids, or helicopter parents, I wonder if the parents are considering their calls to be strictly information-gathering, rather than part of the application process that their kids should be doing themselves. Nobody would think twice about having a secretary call for more information about a company’s services or another business transaction. (I know, very different things. But maybe that’s the thought process?)

  24. Human Resources Manager*

    I do all of the recruiting for my company and lately the instances of this I’m getting are employees who are the parents of possible candidates asking me about their child’s application. I let them know that I only speak to the candidate about their application and if their child has questions they need to contact me directly. At my last employer where I also did all of the recruiting this happened often, with parents who were employees as well as non-connected individuals. I always try to shut it down immediately and I do not give the parent information; if their child is old enough for a job they are old enough to call me themselves.

    1. OP*

      Thank you, Human Resources Manager – I will be doing just this with these people and going forward!

  25. My Scintillating Pseudonym*

    I’m guessing there’s a small portion of these parents who are contacting you because their kid is afraid they’ll flub the call, with the rest being helicopter parents who do this all the time and drive their kids up the wall. Either way, I would call them on it. I would call them in a way that assumes they’re doing it without their kid’s knowledge, because either way they’ll (hopefully) be too embarrassed to do it again and this whole trend will crawl back under its rock.

    Every time this comes up I’m reminded of my co-worker’s stepmother. When my coworker was 18 she was living at home while in college and her dad wanted it that way, but the stepmother did not. One day she let it slip that she had called a roommate ad from the newspaper and that it was three older guys living together and she’d asked if they’d be uncomfortable having a young female roommate.

    If they would be uncomfortable.

    Always assume you’re dealing with a nut.

    1. Jennifer*

      The fun of helicopter parents is that they tend to make their kids feel stupid and incompetent and unable to handle a phone call on their own. Beats me how the hell they’re going to get jobs.

  26. Steve*

    Interestingly enough, I had the opposite happen to me when I was looking for an internship my senior year of high school. I had an interview with the company that my father worked for (a fortune 500 company and the largest employer in my city at the time), though in a completely separate department from his. After the interview, I let the interviewer know that I would be out of town on a school trip the following week, and as this was before I had a cell phone, I wouldn’t be able to respond to any potential offer until the week following. Well, they decided to make me an offer, and since I was out of town, called my father (at his office) to see if I would accept the job! My father told them he could not respond for me (rightfully so), and when I got back from my trip the job had been given to another candidate. Luckily I ended up getting a better internship at another company, which led to three more internships and which were a great springboard for my career. All-in-all, things worked out for the best, but I’m still amazed that someone thought that posing the offer to my father was ever appropriate.

  27. Flip the Question*

    You could also flip the script by asking (innocently) “Am I right, your son is looking for a position?” When they answer yes, you ask “So why are you calling?”

    1. Joey*

      Plenty of parents won’t get it. “Oh because he’s busy and Im just helping.”

  28. some1*

    I ran into this problem when I was a receptionist. I found it helped me to get indignant helicopter parents from getting defensive by pointing out that we didn’t talk to spouses or siblings either.

  29. JC*

    This seems so crazy to me. I am shy and always have been, but my parents were most definitely not the types to call employers for me when I was in high school/college. And guess what? I learned how to inquire about my own jobs then, which makes it less nerve-wracking to do it myself now as a 30-something adult.

    I can’t imagine what on earth these parents are thinking. I would assume that many of them work too and could realize what this looks like from an employer’s POV.

  30. John*

    It’s this generation of parents. Sorry, but way too many are overstepping their bounds, battling the high schools and teachers about every grade and every assignment, fighting all their kids’ battles, intervening with other parents when their child is not invited to parties and taking the lead in authoring college application essays.

    It horrifies me when my friends (who are some of these parents) tell me about this stuff. They say, “You don’t understand…the pressures these kids are under today are so different…” No, they’re not, not to the extent that justifies this behavior.

    They are doing a real disservice to their kids!

    To anyone who recognizes him/herself in this, please stop!

    1. Artemesia*

      I generally agree although I am mindful of the fact that the really good jobs and internships tend to go to children of the elite who fix them up in good opportunities.

      But the general hovering thing is really destructive to kids. I see it on travel forums all the time. ‘My child is going to study abroad — how to we get transport passes in Paris, or what should they bring or how can we arrange this and that.’ One of the reasons to send a kid abroad for a semester is so that THEY become more competent. My kid not only managed all this when she studied abroad but also arranged some wonderful excursions on weekends or breaks with other students and had the time of her life. Having Mommy figure out the Paris metro for you is simply lame and nurtures this idea that you are too incompetent to live your own life.

      1. Jennifer*

        And let me tell you from experience that learned dependence and being de-powered and feeling too incompetent to be an adult is a vicious cycle. I know some people who are never going to leave home. Fine by the parents, but the older you get, the more dumb and ridiculous you look to others and the more you have a harder time trying to catch up.

  31. unemplaylist*

    I hate this kind of thing. Sounds to me like overprivileged kids who grew up into overprivileged adults/parents who now think that they can pull strings for their overprivileged kids. Bleck!

  32. KR*

    I’ve worked in student services and advising for a large public university for years and run into over involved parents on a regular basis. It’s behavior that we strongly discourage at the college level and explain to both parents and students that the student needs to start taking responsibility for themselves. When I have a senior bring their parent with them to an advising meeting I wonder how they’re going to make it in the professional world.

    I would highly encourage you to not support this behavior and if you’re comfortable to explain to the parents that as an employer you prefer hearing directly from the applicants, because it shows the initiative, professionalism, and maturity required for the job.

  33. OP*

    Thank you all for the feedback – I apologize for chiming in so late – I’ve been at a conference this week and just returned after a 12 hour drive home.

    Alison and all – I will certainly mention this to the parent right away and appreciate the suggestion to be straightforward. This definitely sounds like the optimal solution!

  34. Laura*

    I wouldn’t even consider candidates whose parents contact you. If the student isn’t mature or responsible enough to contact you themselves, then they are not ready for the responsibility of a job. When a student is in college, they are pretty much an adult. They should be making the connections, not their parents. It doesn’t matter if they are “too busy with school.” Make time to make appropriate professional contacts.

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