Protip: Don’t Bring Your Mom To Job Interviews

I read an article over the weekend that really disturbed me. I mean actually disturbed me, so much so that I found myself thinking about it on my commute to work yesterday and all the way back home in the evening and again last night when I sat down to pound out the blog post I owe Colin this morning. Could this be for real? Are Gen Yers actually doing this?

The article entitled Job Hunting: When Parents Run the Show from SmartMoney talks about getting a job in the new normal – or rather, looks at parents of Gen Yers taking this whole hand-holding thing way too far by writing résumés, hiring coaches and even trotting along on job interviews to make sure little Johnny gets that job he deserves.

As a manager, I cannot begin to tell you how doomed any candidate who brought his mom to our interview would be. I don't care what school he went to or how good his GPA was or how many volunteer opportunities he (or his mom) has included on his résumé, there's no way I would ever consider offering a job to an individual who thinks it is appropriate to bring his parents along on an interview.

I'm technically a Millennial but don't identify as one and Colin joins me in this weird vortex. Those of us born from '78 to '82 gets the unique distinction of Gen XY – we're latchkey kids with the cynicism of Gen X and the flippant attitude of Y who grew up on the Real World: San Francisco and mourned Kurt Cobain but were also trolling AOL chat rooms by high school (some of us with T1 connections in our suburban schools. Ahem.).

Not once in my adulthood did I ever dream of asking my mom to write my résumé for me (in fact, she often asked me to help her with hers) and I couldn't even imagine actually allowing her to come to an interview with me (especially now that she is dead, that would just be weird). Is this what it has come to, Gen Y? Really?!

When Kathleen McGinn's son Brian graduated from engineering school and moved back to her Milwaukee home, she knew he was motivated, but she worried about the long odds he faced getting a job in construction management. For a few weeks, she tried helping with his search but made little progress: "He's a 23-year-old man. And who wants their mother telling him what to do?" So she hired an expert to guide him through the process. Make that two experts. The first, a coach in Milwaukee, squired Brian to local networking events. The second, a high-profile consultant based in New York City, helped develop his resume and cover letter and prepped him for interviews. Within a month, Brian landed a job at a retail construction firm. The total tab? $4,500. But Kathleen says that these days, the expense may be unavoidable: "a built-in cost of an education."

Let me get this straight… a 19 year-old decides to major in construction management in a time when construction is seized up in this country and that's his mom's problem? What happened to making your own way in this world?

I'm all for parents being supportive and maybe I'm bitter because it was always assumed that I'd have to make it on my own but how is this person supposed to learn to network on his own with mommy setting up appointments and booking coaches? But wait, it gets worse:

The ultimate irony, of course, is that all this parental oversight can backfire with potential employers. Amos Marvel, chief operating officer at Hollywood video game developer Hidden Variable Studios, says he once came out to the lobby to greet a job candidate and discovered the young hopeful was escorted by his mother, who spent five minutes raving about the child's wonderful qualities. "It's a huge turnoff," says Amos. He also says he's been chided by parents when their children didn't pass muster. "You have no idea how talented my son is," one mother scolded. "He's been playing since Nintendo 64!"

So what's next? Parents accompanying their kids to the company Christmas party? Dad representing Junior at the office brain-storming session? The nightmare vision of helicopter parenting on the job isn't so far-fetched, says Marvel. He once picked up the phone to get an earful from a new hire's mother: Her son was working too many hours, and she wasn't happy. Marvel did his best to placate her and still hasn't mentioned the call to his employee. "It's an uncomfortable situation," he says. "I just kept it to myself."

I ran this by a friend in HR for a regional firm and got some encouraging news: this is not necessarily a problem in public accounting. "Accounting majors are mostly overachievers and get this type of support through being active in the system. Their system entails industry specific job fairs, mock interviews, and résumé workshops which are often led by the exact recruiters who want to hire them. Depending on the strength of the school, Career Services, Beta Alpha Psi, et al, fulfill the role of the mommies and daddies in this article," my friend wrote in response.

"I think we feel the effect of the Boomer parents more so once they [the 'kids'] actually arrive to the firm. I am wary of overgeneralizing an entire generation but these ‘kids’ often don’t have initiative. If their parents always told them what to do and where to be, they are lost if the firm does not provide them with similar structured guidance."

Can I please get some hiring managers to weigh in on this? Would you take a candidate like this at your firm?

 

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