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Job Interview Nightmares — Mommy Says You Should Hire Me

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Job Interview Nightmare #1: Your mommy intercedes on your behalf.

This clip from Everybody Loves Raymond is comedy, obviously, but don’t think it couldn’t happen in real life.

Helicopter Parents and Job Interviews

I have heard many stories straight from my HR contacts about helicopter parents who barge into the job interview process to “help” their offspring.

Parents call hiring managers to recommend their kids, to ask for feedback on a child’s interview performance, to beg for another chance after a bad interview, and to chastise interviewers for rejecting their precious snowflakes (or even taking too long to make a decision).

I hope I don’t have to explain why it’s a bad idea for a parent to get involved in your job interview. The primary reason is that it makes you, the job candidate, look like a child.  This approach can also draw attention to family dysfunction that just makes everybody uncomfortable.

Yes, this issue tends to be a Generation Y thing. In general, Gen Y-ers were raised with very involved parents and some have trouble letting go when it’s time for Junior to sink or swim on his own. Of course, it’s even more embarrassing if you’re an older job seeker (like Robert in the clip) with a helicopter parent.

Generally, these misguided parental interventions are well-intended. If you’re a parent who wants to help your son or daughter get a good position in a tough job market, there ARE better ways. Generation Y employees already have to fight stereotypes in the workplace, so don’t make it any worse for your future superstar.

And if you’re a job seeker with an overbearing parent, please share this advice with Mom and Dad so that they know the best way to help.

Share Your Connections

The most valuable gift you can give to a job seeker is an introduction. If you’re the parent or family member of someone looking for a new job, open up your Contacts list and make introductions to friends and business colleagues who may be able to share job leads.

It is imperative that you do this in a professional way. Send an email or make a call, then let your kid take ownership of the new relationship. And when it comes to making the introduction, avoid something like this:

Howard, Can you believe my little Ralphie is all grown up? Remember when he ran naked through the church at your wedding? Anyway, I’d love it if you could hook him up with a gig as a trader. I’ll owe you one!

Instead, try to set a more promising tone with something like this:

Hi Howard, Hope you are well! I wanted to reconnect you with my son Ralph, who just graduated with honors with a finance degree from Stern. He is currently looking for a position in sales and trading and mentioned that he’d love to get your advice.

Share Your Wisdom

As a parent, you can provide guidance on job search essentials like how to network, how to handle an informational interview, and how to follow up on leads. But you must let the job seeker take the lead.

Companies are looking to hire proactive, confident people with good communication skills. Let your child show that he can get and do the job without parental interference.

Know When to Step Back

If your kid seems to be ignoring all of your suggestions, it may be because it’s hard to be objective about advice from your parents. Sometimes they’re hearing judgment, nagging, or a parental agenda — even when you truly have their best interests at heart. It can also be hard for you to help if you’ve been away from the job market for a while.

If you have the budget for it, you may want to consider hiring an outside expert to help your son or daughter. As a job interview coach, many of my clients are parents (as well as spouses, siblings, and friends) seeking help for a loved one who needs help polishing their interview presence.  Sometimes, an objective third party can make a dramatic difference, even after you’ve “talked until you’re blue in the face, young lady.”

Don’t Be a Sitcom Mom

Whatever you do, don’t show up at the interviewer’s office with cookies and attitude, like Marie Barone, the queen of overbearing mothers.

Written by

Pamela Skillings

Pamela Skillings is co-founder of Big Interview. As an interview coach, she has helped her clients land dream jobs at companies including Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase. She also has more than 15 years of experience training and advising managers at organizations from American Express to the City of New York. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an instructor at the American Management Association.

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