Are parents calling and promoting the abilities of their son or daughter? Do you feel that the resumes you receive from college seniors were written by parents? Are you faced with irate parents demanding to know why you are offering their child such a low salary? Are benefits and salary being negotiated by mom or dad or both?
If you have experienced any of these or similar incidents, join the crowd, and if not, get ready to!
For more than three years, articles have been mentioning the growing influence parents are having on the schools, careers, and companies their offspring choose. A very simple Google search yields more than 1.5 million references to the term “helicopter parent.” College magazines, in particular, have been filled with discussions and laments over this rising trend.
A recent issue of The Wall Street Journal‘s Career Journal.com reported that, “The University of Vermont employs ‘parent bouncers,’ students trained to divert moms and dads who try to attend registration.”
Called helicopter parents because they tend to “hover” over their children’s every move, the parents of Gen Y have exerted great influence on elementary schools, high schools, and colleges. Their influence is now moving toward you.
Now that a significant number of Gen Ys have graduated from college and are entering the job market, this parent hovering is being transferred from the college admission arena to recruiting.
Gen Y are the most “parented” generation that we have seen. Since birth, these young folks have been protected, chaperoned, coached, and guided by their parents. Rather than shun parental influence, as most Baby Boomers did, they expect and even embrace the close relationship they have with their parents. They look to their parents to guide them in whatever choices they make and often call mom or dad to get their advice on even trivial matters.
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Technology has enhanced their ability to stay in touch. They can text mom for her opinion from almost anywhere or give dad a call on his cell phone, or shoot off an email. Staying in touch is easy as is the comfort of knowing that mom or dad will be there all the time.
I have heard stories from recruiter friends about parents calling to discuss benefit options and asking them for the pros and cons of each choice. I have even heard of parents showing up with their child for the interview and getting very upset when they were not invited to participate.
If you have run into any of these situations I would live to hear about them and will share them anonymously in a future column. I would also like to know how you have dealt with the incidents because I am sure we will see an increase over the next few years.
Meanwhile, here are a few tips on how to deal with helicopter parents:
- Establish some basic guidelines that you share with your college interviewees. Think through what involvement you are willing to accept during the recruiting process and make that clear to each student. I suggest creating a letter outlining where parental involvement is appropriate and where it is not in your organization and include that letter in your information packet to prospective candidates. I would also suggest talking with career centers to get advice on dealing with parents. After all, they have been doing this for quite a few years now!
- Communicate with parents early and frequently. When you interview a student, ask them about their parent’s role in the process. Some students will be quite upfront with the information and let you know how involved they feel their parents will be. Offer to send the parents a letter explaining the recruiting process if they will provide you the address. Also, think about offering a parent’s day at your firm to introduce them to what your organization does and to give them an idea of how employees work and are treated. Most parents are employed and will benchmark your organization against what they know and like. Opening yourself to inspection, so to speak, can ease anxieties and make the parents more supportive of your offer.
- Create a specific website or information page for parents. Some organizations, including the Southwest Corporation have created a specific website for parents. It provides information about the company, its history, values, and ethics, and how it treats its employees. Well done, a site such as this can be a powerful ally in the recruiting process and give you a competitive edge over any competing firm.
- Provide decision-making criteria and facts. Be very clear about how the offer decision is made and what the criteria are. The more specific you are, the less chance there will be for misunderstanding and bad feelings later. I suggest that you develop a list that states the criteria you use for decision making and for setting salaries. We are living in an age of transparency and people expect to know how decisions get made, even in areas like recruiting where decisions frequently seem to be made in mysterious ways.
These are just a few suggestions, and I welcome any input from you who have already been dealing with these issues. All of us will benefit by sharing our experiences and solutions before we get the angry phone call!