childs drawing of job interview dalle

Show The Nice Man Your Resume, Mason: When Parents Tag Along on Job Interviews

A recent front page article in the Wall Street Journal chronicles a problem that seems to be a sign of the times: Parents accompanying their kids on job interviews.

And calling their kids’ bosses to demand better treatment.

And showing up at their kids’ jobs to fight their battles.

These stories can seem apocryphal, but The Journal’s Te-Ping Chen dug up some jaw-dropping examples. One Seattle restauranteur recalled a co-worker whose mom asked the manager to let her son have Sundays off to watch football.

That idea got sacked.

A Dollar Tree shopper told The Journal she was going into the store one day when an angry woman barged past her. It was the cashier’s mom. A customer had given her daughter a hard time and the mom had come to give ’em hell.

But parents aren’t just intervening once their kids get their jobs. Some are lurking not so subtly on the sidelines when their kids have online job interviews. “You’ll sometime even hear them whispering,” one recruiter told the paper. And some are actually accompanying their kids to those interviews in real life:

“At Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Jeffersonville, Vt., parents haven’t only applied for summer jobs on behalf of their children, they frequently try and sit in on their interviews, too, says human-resources coordinator Sam McDowell. ‘They generally come in the door first, and their children come behind,’ McDowell says. ‘Sometimes it’s a little bit confusing about who’s actually there to interview.’” —Wall Street Journal

Reporter Chen chalks up a lot of this behavior to the Covid cocooning of parents and kids. But these problems were mounting long before the pandemic. In fact, here’s a Wall Street Journal piece by Sue Shellenbarger from 2006:

“Helicopter parents are going to work. From Vanguard Group and St. Paul Travelers to General Electric and Boeing, managers are getting phone calls from parents asking them to hire their 20-something kids.” Sue Shellenbarger

The problem starts long before that first job interview. It starts in a childhood, with adults organizing a child’s whole day: showing, teaching, saving, soothing the child all day long. Instead of learning to deal with risk, fear, snags and jerks, an adult has always been there to sort of pre-chew the experience.

Result? Kids lose out on learning how to deal with the confusion and drama  of everyday life.

If young people are arriving at college or work unaccustomed to frustration and misunderstandings, that’s a serious lack of experience. And if they don’t develop the resources to work through obstacles, molehills come to look like mountains.

And job interviews look like Kilimanjaro.

I don’t blame “helicopter parents” for overprotecting kids. I blame a culture so obsessively risk-averse it is forcing parents to helicopter. My goal is to get the whole culture to change.

Here’s how I frame it: Constant adult supervision, intervention, and assistance are robbing kids of the experiences that build resourcefulness and resilience. Kids need the chance to be ON THEIR OWN SOMETIMES, playing, roaming, taking risks, getting scrapes, making things happen, and taking responsibility. After all: How can you learn to solve problems if there’s always someone there, solving them FOR you?

How can you grow brave when someone’s always watching over you?

How can you become an adult when someone who gave you birth is calling your boss?

If we want our kids to succeed, we have to start giving them back some independence. At Let Grow, we’re on it! We’re making it easy, normal and legal to do just that.

It’s great that our culture wants to protect kids from danger! But it has gone too far. Always helping kids is hurting them.

Deep down, today’s parents know that.

And so do today’s bosses.

5 Responses to Show The Nice Man Your Resume, Mason: When Parents Tag Along on Job Interviews

  1. Common sense June 20, 2023 at 11:38 am #

    It’s really sad that the parents don’t realize that as soon as they follow(or lead) their kid into that interview, the chances of getting that job are zero. Or is that the plan?. This is why adulting classes are becoming popular. They literally don’t know how to care for themselves. And why chores are so important. My kids are in mid to late thirties and even they they and I were amazed at how few at college knew how to do laundry, shop, clean etc. or the number whose parents did their reports and “helped” them study, they had no clue how to do it. That’s not helping , it’s crippling.

  2. Mark Headley June 20, 2023 at 11:04 pm #

    Bravo, Lenore! By now, I figure many parents must be victims of helicoptering themselves, and hence unprepared for parenting or other life encounters. Crummy role models in some respects. Or mistakenly, desperately hoping they can compensate by helicoptering.

    As for interviews, etc., this is what I saw 20 years ago w/ my GF’s kids’ HOMEwork. It was dreadfully designed so that parents HAD to be there pretty much doing it. Yikes! I’m hardly surprised interviews would follow similarly.

    We need schools to cut it out. And parents should be looking to have their own lives too IMO. No hope for kids so long so long as there’s so little freedom, responsibility, savvy among adults themselves. So little playing, fun. My parents worked hard. Happily, they expected to have rewarding lives that didn’t turn almost entirely on us.

  3. Mark Headley June 21, 2023 at 12:46 am #

    How long before job interviews are conducted by parents of the company’s “interviewers”? Having no comparable experience I recall, it took me awhile before I learned to be a decent interviewer at my law firm. There are qualitites I assess well; qualities I don’t; or didn’t.

  4. Christopher Byrne June 22, 2023 at 7:55 am #

    I wonder what would happen if you said to these parents, “You have clearly done such a terrible job parenting that you have raised a child incapable of handling one of the most basic adult skills: presenting themselves well in an interview. You have, in a sense, crippled your child and made them completely dependent and basically unprepared for life. Shame on you.”

    I have a sneaking suspicion that wouldn’t go over so well.

    As I look back, virtually everything my parents did was intended to prepare us for life on our own. From dealing with setbacks, developing a strong work ethic, taking responsibility for our actions and considering consequences, winning and losing gracefully and being able to iron, do laundry and sew on buttons. In other words, they did their jobs, and in our later lives we developed relationships as separate adults, for which I will always be grateful, particularly now that they’re gone.

  5. Common sense June 23, 2023 at 5:48 am #

    Christopher..exactly. We have gone from raising adults to raising perpetual children, dependent on somebody else to take care of them. Whether that’s parents, sibling or the government. Most I know are incapable of taking responsibility for anything, it’s always some one else’s fault or problem. This is what happens when parents refuse to parent and schools refuse to see self esteem is earned, not given away with participation trophy’s. Your feeling got hurt because you didn’t win? Try harder next time and learn that not everyone is equally good at everything.