my coworker is pushing me to hire her daughter

A reader writes:

I am hiring for an entry-level position. The daughter of our front desk manager applied for the position. Her resume was great, but her cover letter had two words misspelled, including in the company name. The position requires proofreading and careful data entry. I emailed her to let her know that she had great potential, but was not right for this position.

Her mom just emailed me: “Would it be possible to reconsider her for an interview? I think that if you are willing to give her an interview, she will be a good candidate. I know if you ask other staff, they would say the same thing. [Other staff member] actually forwarded the job announcement and [another staff member] came over to suggest I let my daughter know about the job. I hope that you will give her another chance.”

I had many applications for this position and I really cannot interview an applicant who I know I will not hire. I also want to try to maintain a cordial relationship with the front desk and all these other staff members who apparently love her daughter.

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My employee gives me constant unnecessary status updates
  • How can I get feedback on my management from an employee before I leave?
  • How should I follow up on an introduction?

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. EPLawyer*

    If Mom is already interfering to get her an interview, then what will she do about any negative feedback to her work?

    You would be doing Mom a kindness to explain how she is actually harming her daughter’s chances, not helping.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Definitely. We hire a lot of our staff’s kids (teenagers) at my company for seasonal jobs and the team that manages them is exceptionally clear with the parents that communication about their child’s employment is between the child and their supervisor.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed – I worked someplace with a lot of family connections between employees – and there were policies about what you could discuss with the non employee or their manager.

        The one exception was “child/parent is out sick and is too sick to make a phone call.” That one seemed like common sense – and I think was used twice in the three years I was there.

    2. Observer*

      Based on the follow up the OP provided in the letter, I can see why they wouldn’t want to do that.

      They were pretty explicit that they were not going to have any further communications with daughter either.

    3. ursula*

      I have had to navigate having a parent and child working in the same workplace before. As a hiring manager now, I would avoid putting the rest of my staff in a situation like that except in very exceptional circumstances.


    #1 I wonder if it is something to mention to your own manager. I used to work for a government agency where nepotism was a huge no-no, so we would have reported this type of thing when it happened as a cya for ourselves.
    Alternatively, if they are especially pushy and if you think you wouldn’t experience too much backlash, you can certainly send them an email for documentation purposes. “Hi Angie, I just wanted to follow up from our call earlier. I spoke with my leadership who confirmed that we cannot circumvent our current hiring practices for family of current employees. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to X.” <But this could be seen as slightly passive-aggressive, so I would only do this if they aren't taking no for an answer.

    1. Frickityfrack*

      Yeah, that would be an even bigger issue than the lack of proofreading for me. Having a parent who works at the same place isn’t always an issue, but if she’s already trying to interfere, it doesn’t bode well for her staying out of things in the future. God forbid OP had to discipline the daughter in any way.

      My first government job was a temp position at the same agency my dad worked for, but all he did was say, “Hey they have an opening in [different department], here’s how you can apply,” and then stayed out of it. I would have died of embarrassment if he ever tried to intervene like that.

    2. Smithy*

      I think the nepotism thing only works when it’s actually true. Lots of companies have no rules against hiring family members (even are family businesses), or the policies are far more limited to management lines.

      Far too often there are hopes of clear cut rules existing as a way to side-step uncomfortable situations when they’re really not applicable. Because while the federal government and lots of employers do have policies to prevent nepotism, they don’t actually prevent family remembers from both working for the same employer completely. Federal government hiring practices are certainly very regimented that make this kind of involvement far less effective, but in no way means you would never see spouses or parent-child both working in the same agency.

      1. Ellen*

        my current job hired my daughter. I in no way said boo about it- we have different last name- I ONLY asked that if my boss chose not to hire her to give HER feedback on how she could improve her interviewing skills. later, once she was hired, my daughter and I had a conversation. I treat her as a coworker, she largely does the same. she does call me mom. she has free access to my work bag (with menstrual stuff, Tums, psin killers and spray deodorant). otherwise, I treat her as I would any other inexperienced and young person. it is working ok. nursing home/food service/pandemic included? she is doing great.

  3. Peanut Hamper*

    #3: Are you not asking for feedback during you 1x1s? This is standard at my org. “What can I do better as your manager?” and “What can we do better as a company?” are always asked.

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      Sure, but Alison’s caveats about employees not feeling comfortable or safe to be honest still apply. I’ve had one manager in the past that I’d have answered those questions honestly without hesitation, and (unsurprisingly) that manager was also the one who wouldn’t get any negative feedback from me. The others I wouldn’t trust to safely answer that question honestly, so they’d get hedging at best and a lie at worst.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        YMMV. It depends on the culture that your company has.

        I should add that I get some pretty honest feedback about my responses, and that does help build that culture of trust.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      Its really no different asking regularly than asking one time. Most employees are absolutely not going to be candid in a situation where the person asking has the power to affect their employment.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yeah, it is actually different than asking one time.

        There is a huge difference between making this a survey question (here is a question, here is a response) and making it part of an ongoing conversation. If all you want is a response, then yeah, you’re not going to get good information. But if you make this part of a conversation by asking follow-up questions like “what would that look like?” or “how do you think we should implement that?” or “interesting idea–can you tell me more about that?” and then honestly responding, this can be done.

        And most importantly, as a manager, you need to follow up on this. You need to do more than just tick a box on a form; you need to make this part of an ongoing conversation.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          What you are describing is materially different than asking a person for feedback on management style.

          That is normal regular check-in stuff. And ya I absolutely agree that is something that should be happening regularly.

          Asking someone how you can be a better manager, like OP is wanting to do, will likely never get you an honest answer whether you ask it regularly or once.

  4. Choggy*

    Wish we had a follow up to this one to see how it all went down. Your decision, about someone who would be working for you, is being completely ignored. I hope all turned out well and you got your employee and the daughter found something that suited her. Mom’s interference is definitely a red flag here, she’d be in your office all the time about her daughter if she were ever hired.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Oh yes I want an update. I hope that Mom was told a very firm no (even better if the “no” included “oh yeah, and by pushing her candidacy you are actually torpedoing her chances of ever working at this company”) and that she didn’t try to make life miserable for OP thereafter, but I have a feeling things ended up messier and more annoying than that.

      No matter what, I hope OP didn’t have to hire or even interview that person.

  5. Boolie*

    #3 I think mitigating the reluctance to be candid could be as simple as praising the employee for her work. “It’s been a pleasure working with you and I’d be happy to recommend you going forward! If you could write a recommendation for me, what would you say? I value your feedback and would like to take it with me in my new role.”

    1. Cookie Monster*

      I wouldn’t use this wording: “If you could write a recommendation for me, what would you say?”

      It sounds as if you assume OF COURSE she’d recommend you as a manager and would be expecting only positive feedback. I’d stick with Alison’s language.

    1. Nikki*

      Many, many people get jobs in part because they know someone at the company who can vouch for them. That’s why networking is so important when you’re trying to find a job. I’m not sure it’s all that different if the contact is a parent vs. a friend, neighbor, etc. as long as the applicant is qualified and the contact isn’t using undue influence to force the hiring manager to hire someone they’d rather not hire. It didn’t sound like that was the case here, just that the mom was asking the hiring manager to reconsider but not throwing around her weight or anything.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        But the asking her to reconsider is trying to use influence – the mother is trying to leverage other employees’ (supposed) opinions of her daughter, too. If she wouldn’t intervene for a candidate she wasn’t related to – like, if she wouldn’t say, “I know the typo in Total Stranger’s letter put you off, but there’s something here that suggests potential” – then she’s absolutely trying to use her own influence as a current co-worker to get her daughter hired.

        Networking or being referred to a job by someone else isn’t the same thing as benefiting from a friend or family member exerting pressure on the hiring manager/committee. The fact that this mother isn’t saying “or else” doesn’t mean she isn’t trying to pressure the OP.

        1. Clisby*

          +100. There’s nothing wrong (to me, at least) in the parent letting a child know about an opening. There’s a lot wrong with the parent trying to interfere in any way with the hiring process.

        2. Felis alwayshungryis*

          Yeah, I can imagine a situation where – let’s say – someone is talking to the office cleaner and mentions that their high school daughter is looking for work, and the cleaner says “awesome, here’s my number, get her to call me”.

          But trying to overturn a rejection that was made for legitimate reasons is quite another story.

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I think a parent is definitely much more problematic than a friend or neighbour owing to their built in bias that would be so much greater than the friend’s/neighbour’s, but putting that aside for a minute: once the candidate has been rejected, I wouldn’t want a friend or neighbour telling me to reconsider any more than I would want a parent telling me to reconsider. I’ve made my professional decision based on my knowledge of all the candidates; why do they assume they know better than I do?

        When you haven’t worked with someone in a professional context, the extent to which you can influence the hiring decision pretty much ends at connecting them to the hiring manager, whether that’s passing along a resume or connecting them via email or whatever it is that makes sense in the hiring context.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        I think it is different because the mom is not unbiased. It is reasonable to consider somebody for a job because somebody they have worked with vouched for them – that’s more an unofficial reference – but a mom is not a valid reference and getting a job because of your mom is a lot closer to a form of nepotism or something similar than to “I got a recommendation from somebody who can vouch for their work.”

        A mom can’t vouch for them. Even if they did work together, a mom is likely to be biased and would find it difficult to fairly assess their own child’s work.

        Even if the mom isn’t trying to force the manager to hire them, it either gives them an advantage, in which case it’s unfair and somewhat problematic or it doesn’t, in which case…why do it?

        Yeah, it happens a lot but that is what makes it a problem. If it were just one person, it wouldn’t be that big a deal but when there are a sizeable number of people who have family connections to jobs they want and might use that to get an advantage over those who don’t, that is an issue. This seems very much the sort of thing that leads to the “jobs for the boys” and the “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I know the latter gets overused by people who are angry at not getting a job and want to imply it must have been unjust, but I have no doubt it happens and people acting like this mom probably contribute to it.

    2. ferrina*

      I think it depends on the kind of help. Sharing a job opening at her company? Great. Mentioning to the hiring manager that your child applied? Eh, that’s usually okay (and can be expected in some industries). Bugging the hiring manager? Noooope. And yeah, it can hurt your career to be labeled the nepobaby, but if you are just starting out, it can get your foot in the door (and that first job is often the hardest to get).

      I had the opposite problem- my parents refused to help me with networking or job searching. I got editing help on my resume, and that was it. It sucked when I had trouble finding a job and my parents’ response was “do it on your own! that’s what I did!”

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I feel this. There’s making a connection and then there’s “give my kid that job.”

  6. Grits McGee*

    For LW#2- I would firmly encourage anyone in this position to seek out this kind of supervisory feedback from managers, peers, or other third-party observers. A current report with any kind of sense of self-preservation is not going to be fully candid.

    My generally wonderful supervisor asks me every annual review if there’s anything she can do to improve as a manager. The honest answer is “You tend to interrupt me with a solution before I’ve finished fully explaining a problem, and your solutions are often wrong, which puts me the awkward position of having to contort myself around without directly disobeying your instructions.” The answer I actually give is “No, I really appreciate how much autonomy you give me to get my work done.”

    If you absolutely must get feedback from Jane, frame it as “Do you have any advice for me, as a report, for how I can manage more effectively in my next office?’, or something along those lines which allows for oblique criticism without making Jane feel like she’s calling you out for your inadequacies as a supervisor.

  7. Tesuji*

    #2 seems like an obvious situation of someone whose previous manager wanted exactly that level of micro-management, so the employee’s just doing exactly what she thinks she’s supposed to do, not having been told otherwise.

    Which is kind of making me side-eye the LW a bit. The concept that not everyone has the exact same management style shouldn’t be a strange and unusual idea, right?

    There’s nothing in the letter indicating that the LW has ever had a conversation with the employee about her preferred level of communication, so her getting so frustrated at someone communicating too much feels incredibly out of place, especially as it sounds like her go-to plan is to quietly fume over it and then probably explode on her at some point, rather than just… having a conversation.

    1. rayray*

      I had the same thought. I worked for an extreme micromanager and it’s been over three years since I left that job and I still catch myself occasionally doing things like asking for permission when it’s not needed or telling my manager about steps I am taking. It is really, really hard to unlearn. The micromanager I had was so insane, I had to develop coping mechanisms and one of those mechanisms was to stay ahead of her as much as possible and to ask permission constantly and document absolutely everything. To be honest, I do try to see the positive in some of these learned skills but it’s still hard to let go of feeling on edge or worrying about getting yelled at if I did something wrong (no matter how minor or easily fixable).

      I think some people – especially those who have been in their jobs or companies for a long time – forget that other workplaces operate differently so people will have different behaviors or ways of doing things out of habit.

      1. ferrina*

        Yes! I had a boss who decided that she didn’t want any updates, then got mad when she didn’t know what was going on. She never told me what information she needed, so I had to just drop random tidbits of information in every conversation and see which one she wanted. It made for a really weird conversational style, and it took me a couple years to unlearn when I got a new boss. LW should also reflect on how clear she’s been about what info she needs, and what info she doesn’t need (and also what her direct report should be the expert on)

      2. umami*

        Ugh, my predecessor was an extreme micromanager, and one of my direct reports was so accustomed to getting constant feedback that it was … challenging to mentor her out of it. My a-ha moment was when she came to me for advice on a project she was working on for her master’s, and she expressed frustration that the professor wasn’t answering her myriad questions about the assignment. That’s when I realized it was a ‘her’ problem, not a ‘me’ problem. She couldn’t really function without there being a ‘right’ way something needed to be done, so I started coaching her more on coming up with her own ideas and trusting her own judgment instead of coming to me to problem-solve for her.

    2. BubbleTea*

      I would advise LW2 to say “I don’t want this level of detail” rather than “I don’t need it” because the latter might mean “it’s great if you can, but not essential”, and could be interpreted as “this is a requirement but I’m pretending it isn’t”. The former is a lot clearer that it means “please don’t do this”.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Need v. want is a very good distinction to make.
        OP must be clear that employee needs to stop doing it both for OP and for her own reputation.

      2. umami*

        Heh, I usually just stop them and say ‘cliffs notes, please!’ if I don’t need a bunch of detail. Just tell me what I would need to know if my boss wants an update or if this thing starts going south. It’s sometimes hard to explain why sometimes you DO need a lot of details and sometimes you don’t when situations can be so different.

  8. Cmdrshprd*

    For Letter 4, assuming the company/person that OP was introduced had a public application site of jobs to apply for, would it be okay for OP to just submit their application info even if the person does not respond to the two week follow up?

    Either by using the applicant portal, or if they advise people to just apply via email.

    1. Artemesia*

      My good friend asked her cleaning person if she would be available before then doing the ‘connecting email.’ I think it was rude of the person who started this process to send this connecting email without first touching base with the person at the organization the OP is interested in. Now there is the awkwardness — and certainly this person not responding to either of them is the answer. I would think even one follow up might come across as pretty pushy; certainly no more than one.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Rude and naïve.
        I’m wondering if the person who connected OP is used to connecting their network members with peers instead of potential employees.
        More used to sending emails like, “Bob, I’m sending you contact information for Jane who is also a Llama groomer. She works at Llamazon and is a good person for you to know. She’s cc’d on this message. You can reply directly to her.”

  9. anon36*

    Am I the only one who isn’t able to access the article due to it being behind a paywall (well, not technically a paywall, but it’s asking me to register before I can read it)?

    1. Rick Tq*

      Removed — please do not post ways to get around paywalls as they are how I and other writers get paid for our work. – Alison

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Alison I feel like you should pin that to the top of these posts.

        I swear someone does this every single week. Maybe it would help.

        1. anon36*

          Ok… From what I could tell it was only asking for my email, which I don’t like giving out since it makes my inbox spammy, so that’s all I was trying to avoid. *shrug*

          1. Cmdrshprd*

            I think @Fluffy Fish was talking about the comment from Rick Tq on how to get around the pay/email wall.

            My unsolicited opinion, is create a second/fake spam email. I have one and use it for anything that asks for emails like this or other things. Give us your email get a free water bottle, give us your email to sign up for our rewards program, etc…. For me it works great they can send all the junk emails they want and I don’t have to even look at it unless I am really interested in a potential prize I can check at my leisure.

            1. Fluffy Fish*

              Yes. I was talking about Alison adding the do not tell people how to get around the paywall message up top in the nice little blue box she can do.

    2. NeutralJanet*

      Inc allows you to access a certain number of articles for free before you have to register to read more. Alison posts 99% of her content here for you to read for free, but if you want to read 100% of it, you’ll have to pay.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        The account is free. I read 100% of Alison’s content and I’ve never paid a dime.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I registered, got their daily emails. Still was limited on reading. It was weird, not what I expected.

          1. PhyllisB*

            What annoys me is that I have to do this nearly every time I try to read Inc. I haven’t had to pay anything, but if I’m in a hurry I don’t like having to go through a whole song and dance.

  10. I should really pick a name*

    For #2
    It’s a good idea to seek this kind of feedback while you’re on the job, not just when you’re planning to leave.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yep, totally agree. Good managers should always be open to feedback.

      And if that feedback can’t be implemented, you also need to be honest about why it can’t be.

  11. Melissa*

    I thought, Well two typos isn’t that many. And then I read that one of them was the name of the company, lol.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if mom wrote it. Who knows, maybe daughter doesn’t even know mom argued on her behalf. My father has done worse behind my back.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I’m really wondering how much mom had to do with it, particularly because of the disconnect between the resume and the cover letter. Without the mom being involved (if Alison just got a letter reading: “I got an application. She has a great resume, but she spelled our company name wrong in the cover letter. Would you interview her?) I could see the possibility that the resume is a static document and the cover letter was customized and didn’t have the multiple phases the resume has been through.
        But because the mom is SO up in this, it’s sketchy.

  12. Fluffy Fish*

    #3 – that fact that you likely wont get candid feedback has been covered.

    So assuming you wont get the feedback you are looking for whats’ a person who wants to manage better do? well you feel like you haven’t been a great manager. so that means you already have at least an inkling of what you could have done better. You don’t need your employee to validate that.

    And it is a bit concerning that you feel like you haven’t been a good manager but apparently didn’t do anything about that while actually managing. If that’s the case, that’s very important to recognize as you go into another supervisory position.

    Being open to doing better is wonderful! Truly bad managers dont generally have that impulse. If you’re open and honest with yourself, I think you can probably come up with areas for improvement and things you would have liked to do differently.

  13. HonorBox*

    I went back and read the comments from the original post #1 and appreciated all of the information the OP shared related to the position and the number of more-qualified candidates they had. It sounds like the daughter had no idea that mom was pushing the way she was, and appreciated the feedback OP shared.

    Knowing the background, I’d just say this. First, I get that typos happen and I’m often willing to overlook something minor. This position needed great attention to detail, so I understand why the proofreading errors were disqualifying. Also, I’m much less likely to overlook someone misspelling the name of the company in their cover letter. That goes triple when the applicant is related to someone who works there. Second, this is a great reminder that it is worthwhile to have someone else glance over your application materials before you send them if you can. Even if you’re a great proofreader, when you’re reading your own writing, you know what you meant and your eyes may not recognize a misspelling, poor word choice, or incorrect use of a word (their/there/they’re, for instance). Third, parents absolutely need to let their children do things for themselves most of the time. If my child is having a problem at school, I’m going to coach them on how to address it themselves. If your child has opportunity to work in your workplace, let them make the application themselves and don’t try to call in favors. Not only is it potentially problematic, as we see highlighted in this letter, it doesn’t help them learn how to navigate things when you’re not able to do it for them.

    1. Artemesia*

      I was on a search committee for a VP level position in finance at a newly merged organization (I was sort of the token rep of the lesser organization in the merger). One candidate misspelled the name of the organization throughout the materials — a common misspelling that shouts ‘I wasn’t paying attention and don’t really know this organization.’ I said that this should be disqualifying for making him a finalist. The rest thought it was ‘just a typo’. so at great expense he was flown in as one of the finalists — and was a laughable disaster. He clearly did no homework and was, well just odd. I tried not to smirk; it was hard.

  14. Michelle Smith*

    LW4: Have you actually applied for any of the jobs at that potential connection’s company? If you’re interested in working there, don’t make the potential connection do all the legwork for you to find a job that’s a fit for your background. Go on their website, search around on job boards, and apply to a position or two that feels like it would be a good fit. Then you can mention in your follow up email that you’ve applied and look forward to speaking in the future if there is a potential match in what you have to offer and what they need.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      OH, and be aware that the jobs that you’re a good fit for may not be the ones that potential connection is hiring for! Just because someone works at the company doesn’t mean they are involved in all aspects of hiring for every role. I’ve had people reach out to me for job related connections when my team wasn’t hiring and had to redirect them to our careers page.

  15. Katherine Boag*

    I got a 404 for the related link in the answer to #1. Not sure if this is something you can resolve Alison, but wanted to let you know.

  16. Immortal for a limited time*

    Hellooooo, conflict of interest. Even the perception of a conflict of interest (such as among other staff) is a conflict. If this LW is at a loss as to how to explain this to the applicant’s mother, then this workplace has a bigger problem with a lack of written policies and codes of conduct.

  17. The answer is (probably) 42*

    For #2 another solution might be to encourage your employee write this stuff down, rather than update you every time. It sounds like she wants to make a detailed accounting of how she accomplished her tasks, but she can do that without notifying you every step of the way. She can micromanage herself- that way if she’s worried that you’ll demand a detailed breakdown, she has it ready for you. And even if you don’t, it might be helpful for her later on to revisit how she achieved something in the past if she’s encountered obstacles in a current task.

    1. metadata minion*

      Agree — they could even put it in a Google Doc or similar so the LW can read it, which would make a nice reference for the weekly meetings anway.

  18. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (hire my daughter!) – “The facts haven’t changed, so my decision hasn’t changed.”

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