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When Mom goes to your job interview

As baby boomers' offspring graduate from college and enter the workforce, their parents are getting involved in the job search.

By Giselle Smith Feb 14, 2012 4:39PM

Back in 1993, the Ms. Foundation for Women founded the "Take Our Daughters To Work" program to expand girls' perspectives on what they could become. In 2003, it was changed to "Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day."


Now some companies have instituted "Take Your Parent to Work," reflecting the increased involvement of baby boomers in their millennial offsprings' careers, according to NPR. Parents are writing their children's resumes, advocating for them with human resources managers and even showing up on job interviews.


Of course, parents have always helped their offspring land first jobs, whether in the family business, through Dad's Rotary Club connections or Mom's friend who works for a large corporation. But baby boomer parents are taking it to a whole new level. Margaret Fiester of the Society for Human Resource Management told NPR she's had parents call to negotiate salaries or terms of employment on behalf of their children -- and even to complain when their son or daughter didn't get a job.


A growing trend

These "helicopter parents" -- a phrase used a decade ago to describe moms and dads who were hyper-involved in their children's schooling -- chose their kids' day care and grammar school, carried that involvement through college, and now are seeking to be equally involved in the job hunt.


Michigan State University's Collegiate Employment Research Institute (.pdf file) surveyed more than 700 employers and found that 31% had received resumes submitted by parents for their children (some without the children's knowledge), 26% had been contacted by a parent to promote their child, and 4% saw the parent show up for the interview.


Some say this is just the new reality -- a natural extension of parenting that resulted in changes to the education system. Many schools now reach out to parents and allow them to monitor their children's educational progress (and attendance) online.


Neil Howe of LifeCourse Associates told NPR that boomers are "incredibly close" to their children -- which is not a bad thing -- and that employers might benefit from working with the parents. Post continues below.

Car rental company Enterprise Rent-A-Car has followed that path, and it's working, according to Marie Artim, vice president of talent acquisition. Acknowledging that parents are "an influencer," Artim told NPR the company sends them their children's recruitment packages and invites them to attend interns' final-project presentations. But they don't let them attend job interviews.


One benefit for the company, which is the nation's largest employer of new college grads, according to SmartMoney, is that applicants who have been coached by their parents often have stronger job-seeking skills than uncoached offspring. As SmartMoney reports:

(The uncoached) use the same casual shorthand to email a recruiter that you'd expect in a text message. They freeze in face-to-face conversations. And no one taught them standard interview etiquette.

"We've had occasions where their phone not only rings, but they answer it," Artim told SmartMoney.


Not just for the good of the kids

Of course there's an element of self-interest at work here as well. In the down economy, jobs are hard to find. SmartMoney says:

According to federal statistics, 14% of adults ages 20 to 24 are unemployed -- far higher than the national rate, which hovers near 8.5%. And even the well-educated are having trouble, with just 53% of recent college grads landing full-time jobs, according to a Rutgers University report.

As a result, many children have moved back home. For baby boomers, the prospect of housing and supporting their now-grown children -- for an indefinite time period -- may conflict with their personal plans.


San Francisco career coach Frank Burgoyne told SmartMoney it's a common scenario: Recent graduates move home, where their parents have an up-close-and-personal view of what 20-somethings call "job hunting" and feel they have to get involved or the kids will never leave.


Then again, too much parental involvement might do more harm than good.


Forbes contributor J. Maureen Henderson has advice for both parents and children about the trend, which she says sounds like something right out of the satirical website The Onion.


Doing for kids what they should do for themselves is no favor, Henderson writes:

Not only does it rob them of their autonomy, it diminishes their professionalism and agency in the eyes of authority figures (those doing the hiring and assigning the grades) and actually gives the job market edge to peers who have learned to do for themselves without parental intervention -- trust me, they exist and they're formidable foes. Your kids are competing with hustlers, risk takers, and door-kicker-inners.

Furthermore, over-helping your kids could hurt their self-esteem, she cautions.


Henderson doesn't let the kids off the hook either. She tells them they need to learn from experience, which includes a few setbacks along with successes.


"Your judgment only gets better if you use it. And using it involves making your own decisions and dealing with the consequences," she writes.


Readers react

The NPR story drew 260 comments from readers, most of whom were appalled.


"If a candidate needs public parental support, s/he isn't ready for a grown-up job," wrote "Sue Ann Kainz," who identified herself as an HR professional.


Several advocated removing any job candidate from consideration if parents got in the way -- "As an employer, I would have to disqualify an otherwise good candidate if they were unable to function as human beings without their parents," wrote "JC1530" -- while others urged employers not to penalize the adult sons and daughters of overprotective parents.


"It used to be known as 'spoiling.' Now, it is called 'overparenting,'" writes "Johnagno," in response to the Forbes post.


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