How helicopter parents can hurt your students' job search

Helicopter parents, defined by their well-intentioned—but excessive—involvement in their children's lives, are now butting into their adult children's job searches, Corinne Purtill writes for Quartz.

About 31% of employers have had a parent apply for a job on behalf of their child, while 15% have fielded complaints from parents during the hiring process, according to a 2007 survey of 725 employers from Michigan State University's Collegiate Employment Research Institute.

"No employer is going to think this [behavior] is okay," says Alison Green, author of the popular blog Ask a Manager. In fact, more than a third of employers find parental intrusions in the hiring process "annoying," according to a 2016 survey from OfficeTeam.

These intrusions can also distract from a candidates' legitimacy, says Casey Newton, an editor at The Verge. Overbearing parents can make a candidate "look like a child," he warns.

Most students aren't happy with parental intrusions in their job search process either, Purtill writes. More than 90% of recent US college grads would not want their employer to send their parent a copy of their offer letter, according to a 2013 study from PWC.

Students who do welcome high levels of parental involvement may develop a "tremendous sense of entitlement," warns Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former dean at Stanford University. Overinvolved parenting undermines students' ability to succeed on their own, Purtill argues.

Colleges and universities are no strangers to helicopter parenting. As recent grads face a tougher labor market and rising student debt, parents may (understandably) feel a greater urge to help, Purtill writes.

Universities can be large, complicated, and intimidating for both the parent and student. Here's how universities are helping helicopter parents feel more at ease:

  • Ryerson University sends out a regular parent newsletter to highlight campus events;
  • Ryerson and Queen's University host parent information sessions to address what they can expect from the first year of college;
  • Queen's and Université Laval devote a section of the website to cover parents' questions and concerns; and
  • Ryerson explains to parents how a child's right to privacy changes after they turn 18.

While the students of helicopter parents have an overabundance of support, many first-generation students don't have family members to guide them through college or the job search process.

"We are used to students having more support than they did in the '90s and a decade ago," says John Hannah, a director in student affairs at Ryerson. But, he points out, "we need to make sure we even the playing field for students who don't have the parental support" (Purtill, Quartz, 1/23)

Related: Ease the transition to campus for first-generation college students


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