Helicopter Parents Sabotage College Grads’ Job Chances, Managers Report

Posted By Terri Williams on September 8, 2016 at 9:55 am
Helicopter Parents Sabotage College Grads’ Job Chances, Managers Report

Most parents are more than willing to go the extra mile to support their children. But sometimes that extra mile causes more harm than good. A recent study reveals that instead of providing financial assistance, parents help millennials more by cutting the financial cords. Now, an OfficeTeam survey of senior managers reveals that well-intentioned but overzealous helicopter parents may jeopardize their children’s chances of getting hired.

When asked how they felt when helicopter parents are involved in the job search, senior managers responded as follows:

35% It’s annoying – job seekers should handle things on their own.
34% I wouldn’t recommend it, but I’ll let it slide.
29% It’s totally fine for job seekers to get help from their parents.
1% Don’t know/no answer.

To clear up confusion regarding what constitutes “helicopter-parenting involvement,” the hiring managers provided several humorous examples:

  • “The candidate opened his laptop and had his mother Skype in for the interview.”
  • “One mom knocked on the office door during an interview and asked if she could sit in.”
  • “I had one mother call and set up an interview for her son.”
  • “One parent asked if she could do the interview for her child because he had somewhere else to be.”
  • “A job seeker was texting his parent the questions I was asking during the interview and waiting for a response.”
  • “A father started filling out a job application on behalf of his kid.”
  • “Parents have arrived with their child’s resume and tried to convince us to hire him or her.”
  • “Once a father called us pretending he was from the candidate’s previous company and offered praise for his son.”
  • “Parents have followed up to ask how their child’s interview went.”
  • “A woman brought a cake to try to convince us to hire her daughter.”
  • “A father asked us to pay his son a higher salary.”
  • “Moms and dads have called to ask why their child didn’t get hired.”

Helicopter parents are funny – until they’re not

While those examples are entertaining, the situation may not be as humorous to a qualified job candidate passed over in favor of someone with less intrusive parents. Remember that 35% of respondents found this behavior downright annoying and 34% wouldn’t recommend it. That’s more than two-thirds of senior managers who don’t want parents lurking and hovering.

GoodCall asked Brandi Britton, district president of OfficeTeam, for more insight into the survey’s results.

Can helicopter parents really hinder a job search?

Absolutely, according to Britton, who says she understands that parents want their children to be as successful as possible. However, she warns, “Sometimes this can blind them to the fact that their involvement can be seen as inappropriate and unprofessional.”

When parents feel it’s necessary to be so engaged, Britton says employers may wonder if there are issues with the applicant’s maturity and independence levels. “Employers consider a lot of factors when making a hiring decision, so even one misstep could take a candidate out of contention, especially in a competitive job market,” Britton says.

Advice for job seekers with helicopter parents

Admittedly, there’s no easy way for job seekers to tell their parents to tone it down. But Britton says it’s important to be honest and set boundaries regarding the job search. “As a professional, you should take ownership of your career – you’re responsible for applying to and ultimately landing positions; that means you need to communicate to Mom and Dad that direct contact with potential employers is off limits,” Britton advises.

However, parents can serve a vital role behind the scenes. “Tell them that you’d love their help in reviewing your cover letter and resume, practicing for interviews, and expanding your network,” says Britton, who adds, “Mothers and fathers can also provide great general career advice.”

Recent grads find the job hunting process overwhelming, and Britton says it’s fine to ask for guidance, as a sounding board, and to provide a different perspective when considering a job offer. “There’s no question that looking for a job can be difficult, which is why it may be helpful to seek parental advice and support throughout the process to keep on track,” she says.

About some of that advice …

Helicopter parents sometimes may provide sound advice, but their counsel and recommendations also may be flawed, according to Rachel Annunziato, an associate professor of psychology at Fordham University. A former student recently applied for a position with someone she knew, and, Annunziato says, “My colleague called me to express concerns that the student was relying too much on misguided advice from her parents during the negotiation process.”

Annunziato tells GoodCall that well-meaning parents may offer advice based on their own experiences or knowledge, but if they’re not familiar with that particular workplace or profession, their suggestions and recommendations might be off target. For example, some experts recommend job-hopping for IT grads, but many parents tend to frown on this practice.

She adds. “A prospective manager could therefore be concerned that seeking guidance from parents about a particular organization is less effective than doing other kinds of legwork and wonder how this might relate to job performance.”

Another concern: Annunziato says parental involvement may cause the hiring manager to question the candidate’s interest. “Managers may question if the parent is pushing this option or if the candidate is genuinely enthusiastic.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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