Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Adventures in Recruiting: My First Conflict with A Millenial Mother

Last August I posted about parents not doing their childrens’ bidding.  It is nothing new.  As long as I have been recruiting, well meaning parents have contacted me on behalf of their children, usually to help them get jobs or internships.  I always tell them that if their children are really interested, they should call or email me themselves to set up an appointment.  Most do.  Some do not.  But that is as much as I ever deal with the parents.  They generally get it and defer to their son or daughter.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted on one of the social network sites to "friend" someone.  The person was a retired client of mine.  We had lost touch years ago.  Her friend invitation came as a surprise, but I was happy to hear from her and “friended” her immediately.  Little did I realize she had an ulterior motive.

Several emails later she asked me to see her son.  As I always do, I told her to have him contact me.  I automatically assumed he was a recent graduate.  I was wrong.  I received a nice email and résumé from him.  I was surprised to learn that he was in his late twenties or early thirties and had been in the business for a while.  OK, I thought, so his mother is being aggressive.  No matter. 

Then, three days before our appointment, he emailed and apologized for the need to change the date because of a conflict.  Not a problem; it happens all the time.  We arranged a new appointment.

That same evening  I received a lengthy email from the mother.  She went into detail asking to change the appointment (obviously not knowing that it was already handled).  She explained the agony her son went through because he was committed to seeing me, but this other company could only see him at the very time of our interview.  And so on.

Frankly, I was taken aback.  An email from a mother like this was a first. Once contact is made with the son or daughter, I never hear from the parent, except an occasional thank you email.  But then I remembered Marion Salzman’s  wonderful 60 Minutes interview in which she talked about the millennials and how their parents do much of their dirty work (if you go to the link, stay to the end).

I wrote back to the mother and suggested, as tactfully as I could, that her son was a grownup and it was not appropriate for her to interfere.   I assumed that was the end.  Instead, she responded to me that she was just trying to make sure I understood and, in essence, did not hold the cancellation against her son.  She went into great detail.  I didn't respond.  Oh, boy!

By the way, the son, on his own, seemed perfectly OK, but the question is, how do I evaluate him?  If his mother would do this to me, what might she do with him at work? Is this amusing, sad or just something to be ignored?


  1. I suppose it comes down to him: Does he know his mom is doing this? And is he mortified? I hope so, because I'm mortified for him!

  2. Oy.

    This is a women that has boundary challenges at best.

    What Liz said. I would be MORTIFIED. And chances are, since she has your information, he wasn't involved.

    If that is the case and he's a good fit for the job, I would hope that you don't hold the interfering mother against this guy. BUT... make it VERY clear that you don't welcome her nose in any of your further business and that he doesn't need to bring a note from his mommy if he calls in sick.

  3. I'm cringing, imagining how Mommy might treat a future spouse/partner.

    1. He'll have a hard time getting or keeping a spouse if Mommy is this involved in his life.

  4. This is one of many such reasons that I had to get out of Residence Life and Student Affairs and an issue that my husband as a college professor has to deal with increasingly. I would not ignore it but be direct with him and let him know that he needs to make it clear to his mother that is not acceptable behavior and could, in fact, hurt his career down the road. She's not doing him any favors.

  5. To all of you who have commented: From something he said, I suspect he knew his mother was involved. I decided not to say anything to him because I didn't have an appropriate job for him. When and if I get such a job, I will have a discussion with him about his mother - before I submit him.

    I have had a number of direct emails and it would appear that this is really more common than I thought. Someone sent me a note about a parent calling the company and complaining about the size of her son's raise!

  6. As a recent (and mostly independent) college graduate, I was always amazed at how involved parents were in my classmates' college experience. It's great that parents want to be involved, but it's not so great when parents are attending job fairs with their senior students. I can't decide if it's parents not willing to cut the cord, or if these students really aren't going to do what they have to do in order to support themselves after college without Mommy and Daddy pushing them into being responsible. If that's the case, Mommy and Daddy need to be willing to let their kids make their own mistakes.

  7. To quote from John McEnroe....YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. (YHGTBKM).

    I always thought it would be great to have a Parent/Employer meeting yearly.

    "Yes Chris has been playing well with the client but sometimes he does not pick-up the check. We've had some discussions with him about this and yes he seems to understand.
    On the other hand Chris has been wonderful about getting tickets. The client was so so happy with his US Open tickets.
    All he wishes is that he would just make the type a little bit larger.

  8. This is cringe-inducing. But this isn't a "Millenial Mother," Paul, inasmuch as it's a Boomer mother of a Millenial.

    Between an ex-boyfriend who had no problem calling his children's colleges on their behalf (to say nothing of completely enabling them in their home life, such that they couldn't even toast themselves a bagel or turn on a dishwasher), and the one time a parent called my husband, a professor, about her child (he didn't return the call!), I'd say this is more a matter of the generation raising the Millenials.

    They don't realize that all this micromanagement of their children reflects so poorly on the job they've done, such that they have zero confidence in their progeny's ability to sort out their own lives--and this perpetuates behavior on both ends of the equation. This generation is the one most likely to have had nannies, private tutoring, summers "doing projects" in Costa Rica and every advantage that high-earning Boomers could provide them.

    I feel for the son. Perhaps another experience like this will help him understand he needs to emancipate himself in order to thrive.

    1. Actually, Alicia, I feel for both of them. You are correct in your assessment, but I know the mother very well and for a long time. She is way too old to be involved with a son who is in his twenties. She is a boomer, however. It is sad.

  9. If there is any way to decipher if he still lives with Mom, then there is your answer. If he does still live with Mom, it is his issue. If he does not live with Mom, then it is her issue...and with that I think you are good to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    1. @Anon: Very well put. I completely agree with your assessment.


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