Don't bring your mom to a job interview

June 7, 2011: 9:40 AM ET

"Helicopter parents" are getting too involved in their kids' job hunts, and it's getting on hiring managers' nerves, says a new survey.

By Anne Fisher, contributor

One parent buttonholed a hiring manager at the grocery store to ask him to hire her child. Others barge into job interviews, or call afterwards to find out why Junior didn't get the job or, if he did, to quibble over work schedules or pay.

If you do any entry-level hiring, you've probably dealt with at least one "helicopter parent." According to a poll of 1,300 managers by staffing firm OfficeTeam, the same folks who stepped in to "help" with science fair projects, book reports, and college applications (and who then proceeded to do all the work themselves) are increasingly trying to take over their kids' job searches too.

"Most of these parents mean well," notes Robert Hosking, OfficeTeam's executive director. "But they can derail their son or daughter's chances of getting hired, because employers start to question the applicant's independence and maturity."

That's not to say that parents should back off completely, Hosking adds: "Moms and dads can be tremendously useful behind the scenes, as coaches." He sees five ways for new grads to enlist their parents' help:

1. Tap into their network. "A parent's friends and colleagues can introduce you to employers and alert you to opportunities you might not hear about in any other way," he notes.

2. Have them give your resume the once-over. In addition to spotting typos or other errors, "your parents can help you make sure the most valuable information about you is highlighted," says Hosking. A neophyte job hunter might not realize, for example, that having headed up the drama club or the lacrosse team in college has any relevance to a job search -- whereas Mom or Dad might point out (rightly) that it's evidence of a knack for leadership.

3. Do a test run. "Conduct mock interviews, where you practice the answers to common interview questions," Hosking suggests. "Ask for constructive feedback on your answers and delivery."

4. Compare your options. "Use your parents as a sounding board about potential opportunities," he advises. "They can provide a different perspective and bring up points to consider as part of your decision that might not occur to you."

5. Get encouragement. Looking for a job is tough. As your biggest fans, your parents can give you the pats on the back you may need to keep going.

And how should hiring managers respond when a helicopter parent swoops in and tries to be too "helpful"?

Resist the urge to snicker, sneer, or call security, says Hosking: "Politely say something like, 'It's great that you want to help, but we really need to deal with applicants directly.'"

Then hope Mom or Dad will go away quietly.

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About This Author
Anne Fisher
Anne Fisher
Contributor, Fortune

Anne Fisher has been writing "Ask Annie," a column on careers, for Fortune since 1996, helping readers navigate booms, recessions, changing industries, and changing ideas about what's appropriate in the workplace (and beyond). Anne is the author of two books, Wall Street Women (Knopf, 1990) and If My Career's on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map? (William Morrow, 2001).

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