How and Why to Keep Your Cool With Helicopter Parents

By Robert Half August 15, 2016 at 1:00pm

The term “helicopter parents” has been around for awhile, but managers, here's something you should know: Hyper-involved moms and dads are still hovering over their kids.

Famous (or infamous) for their heavy-handed approach, many helicopter parents have graduated from voicing their opinions to sitting in on job interviews to contacting employers on behalf of their grown children.

In fact, Robert Half interviewed senior managers in the United States and Canada, asking them what they think of the practice, and more than a third (35 percent) said they find it annoying when helicopter parents are involved in their kids' search for accounting and finance work. Another third (34 percent) said they wish moms and dads would stay out of the job hunt, but they'd let it slide.

See more about how managers feel when helicopter parents are involved in the job search with this infographic: "Can My Mom Skype in for This Interview?"

In the survey, managers recounted the most unusual or surprising behavior they’ve heard of or witnessed from a job seekers' helicopter parents. Following are some of the amusing anecdotes:

  • "The candidate opened his laptop and had his mother Skype in for the interview."
  • "A woman brought a cake to try to convince us to hire her daughter."
  • "One parent asked if she could do the interview for her child because he had somewhere else to be."
  • "One mom knocked on the office door during an interview and asked if she could sit in."
  • "A job seeker was texting his parent the questions I was asking during the interview and waiting for a response."

Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when dealing with helicopter parents:

Yep, these helicopter parents are serious

The first time you receive a call from a parent lobbying you to hire his or her child, your first reaction might be to ask, “Is this some kind of prank?” and then hang up. While understandable, it’s not the best solution. Thank the person for the call, but tactfully explain that the onus of responsibility for making contact or following up falls solely on the job applicant or interviewee. You also might draft a friendly but firm response to use when helicopter parents contact you via email.

Putting hovering parents in their place can backfire

Meddling moms and prying pops have pushed more than a few managers to take a less-than-professional patronizing tack. Getting multiple phone calls or finding out that a parent attempted to go above your head is incredibly annoying. That being said, it’s important to remain polite and composed.

The problem with offering a blunt lesson in how the real world really works is that you’ll only be adding to your headaches. A parent who feels disrespected or brushed off is more likely to make a stink. In short, in an age of social media, you don't want to give a parent any legitimate reason to badmouth you or your company.

They have good intentions (in most cases)

While helicopter parents might come across as overbearing, their intentions are generally good. Do your best to be empathetic.

As strange as it sounds, many helicopter parents don’t realize they’re overstepping their bounds or potentially damaging their child’s career prospects. In their mind, they’re facilitating a win-win: assisting their son or daughter in landing a job and helping you recruit a high-potential new hire.

Old habits are hard to break, and “helping” their kids is all they may know. While helicopter parents might come across as overbearing, their intentions are generally good. Do your best to be empathetic.

Don't rule out a candidate because of a parent

Prying parents who wedge themselves into the hiring process will probably give you reason to pause. Is the applicant mature enough to conduct a job search on his or her own? If the candidate is hired, will the parent continue to intercede?

These are perfectly reasonable questions to ponder. But don’t rule out a promising applicant just because of a parent’s actions. Consider following up with the candidate to gain more insight. He or she might offer an apology or reassurances that the parental intrusions will cease immediately. You might even find that the embarrassed candidate had no clue the parent had made contact.

It’s also worth noting that some companies are taking a proactive approach to winning over helicopter parents. While you're recruiting, hiring and managing millennials, you may realize that for this generation, parents are often regarded as trusted advisers. Some companies encourage involvement by hosting orientation sessions for the parents of new hires and posting recruiting information online that’s specifically geared toward moms and dads. Some companies have even instituted Take Your Parents to Work Day.

You might not go that far, but you should prepare to communicate with helicopter parents. Sooner or later, one is going to fly into your airspace.

Seeking more advice on how to interview, write a job description, or even use social media for recruiting?

 

In case you're wondering what it looks like when a helicopter parent shows up at a job interview, watch this video!

Editor's note: This post was updated recently to reflect current information.

More From the Blog...