When Helicopter Parents Hover: A Guide for Hiring Managers

What do hiring managers have in common with youth sports coaches, high school teachers, and college administrators? All these professionals are likely to encounter helicopter parents (parents who are hyperinvolved in their kids' lives, holding their hands through every stage of growing up, whether the kids want them to or not).

It should come as no surprise then that, as their sons and daughters enter the workforce, helicopter parents are "hovering" nearby to help them land the jobs of their dreams. Helicopter parents have been known to submit their kids' résumés, attempt to negotiate salary and benefits (see this funny video), and even show up to sit in on job interviews.

As surprising as this phenomenon may be to you, helicopter parents are a reality that today's hiring managers face.

Tips for handling helicopter parents

  • Be clear about compensation discussions. State in your application materials or job posting that issues such as compensation and benefits can be discussed only with an applicant. You may even stipulate that parents are not allowed to sit in on job interviews.
  • Recognize the parent's influence. Even though you want to discourage too-close parental involvement in your hiring process, realize, too, that a parent who thinks yours is a good company to work for will likely have an impact on the child's opinion of your workplace. To that end, some companies send the same recruitment package to parents that they send to the applicants themselves.
  • Be prepared for the job fair. If parents appear at a job fair to present you with a résumé, diplomatically inform them that, although you appreciate their involvement, you'll likely get a better impression of their son or daughter if he or she is the one submitting the résumé.
  • Handle calls from parents diplomatically. If parents call you multiple times or attempt to go above your head, remain polite and keep your cool. Offering a curt response will only add to your headaches. Parents who feel dismissed or disrespected — whether for legitimate reasons or not — are apt to let others know about their poor experience with your firm. In the age of social media, you don't want to give anyone cause to complain about you or your company.

What's actually going on here?

Assertive parents who insert themselves into the hiring process should give you reason to pause:

  • Is the applicant mature and self-sufficient enough to conduct a job search on his own?
  • If hired, will the parent continue to contact you and interfere?
  • Will the applicant be able to perform the duties of the job if she had the help of a parent to write a résumé or cover letter?

These are reasonable questions to ponder, but don't rule out a promising applicant simply because of a parent's actions. Consider following up with the candidate to gain more insight. He may offer an apology or reassurances that the third-party intrusions will end. You may even find that the embarrassed applicant didn't know a parent had interceded.