Who's sitting in on that Gen Z job interview? It's mom and dad

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  • With a slowdown and a job market flooded with talent, younger workers are turning to an unlikely source to help them with the competition: their parents.
  • One in four Gen Zers have brought a parent to a job interview over the past year, according to a new survey of nearly 1,500 Gen Zers by
  • Roughly one-quarter have had their parents submit job applications on their behalf.

College graduations are in full swing and so are job interviews for Gen Z candidates. But with a slowdown in hiring by many companies and a job market flooded with certain kinds of talent, some younger workers are turning to an unlikely source to help set themselves apart from the competition: their parents.

One in four Gen Zers have brought a parent to a job interview over the past year, and roughly one-quarter have had their parents submit job applications on their behalf, according to a new survey of nearly 1,500 Gen Zers by Another 13% admit to having their parents complete their human resources screening calls.

Overall, about 70% of the respondents sought their parents' assistance during the job search. Nearly half said they did so because they felt their parents' input on resume writing or job interviewing techniques were superior to their own. One-third said it was because they didn't know how to effectively communicate with hiring managers, and an equal percentage admitted to simply being unmotivated to get out into the job market.

But while asking mom or dad for help with writing a resume or engaging in mock interviews is certainly not new and can be quite helpful, HR leaders said, what's taking place today during the interview and even onboarding process goes way beyond that.

HR leaders interviewed for this story tell of parents reaching out directly to advocate for bigger raises for their Gen Z children. Others have received emails during the onboarding process with questions about the different medical and retirement plans being offered to their adult sons or daughters.

"It's good to see and hear of parents wanting to help their kids with the job search and mock interviews," said Paul Wolfe, former chief human resources officer for job site Indeed and author of the leadership book "Human Beings First." "But parents have to realize that they need to let their kids fly on their own in a job interview. The young person is the one we're interested in hiring, not the parent. We're trying to assess whether that candidate has the skills to do the job."

Out-of-date advice

Many Gen Zers are leaning so heavily on their parents during the job search for a number of reasons, experts said. Recent layoffs, especially in the tech sector, means there's more competition for every open role. The technology used by employers to sort and screen applicants makes it confusing to young people what should — and shouldn't — be on their resumes. And finally, many Gen Zers grew up in a world where mom and dad had, and still have, careers. As they look to find their own way in the job market, there's no shortage of parental advice (and involvement) on how it should be done.

The problem with that, said Stacie Haller, chief career advisor at ResumeBuilder, is that some of these parents haven't looked for a new job in 10 or 20 years. "If your kid needs help finding a job, get an expert to help them. You're not an expert just because you have a job," she said.

Haller recalls recently working with a Gen Zer to secure an interview for a temporary-to-permanent position at a company. When she went back to her connections to see how her candidate was faring, she was told that they never heard back from him after he was offered the job.

A follow-up session with the candidate — and his parents who were sitting in on the Zoom call — revealed that mom and dad told him he didn't need to get back to the company right away with his answer.

"I told them 'a $15 billion company isn't waiting around for your decision. They already filled the job with someone else,'" Haller said. "Parents have no idea how different the job search process is today from when they were doing it a decade ago or how they might be hurting their kid's chance at getting a job."

She acknowledges that frustration may be playing a role in parental over-involvement. With today's labor market, and talk that Gen Zers are not prepared because they started college remotely, parents are panicking, she said.

"The kid is still living at home, the parents have paid for some or all of college, so they just want them to get a job, get out of the house, and start their life and they figure they can help make that happen," Haller said. But having a parent at a job interview, "is not a good look."

Get to the 'why'

For CHROs and other talent leaders looking to hire the best young candidates, getting parents (mostly) out of the mix is a delicate undertaking.  

"I wish I could say I'm surprised by parents getting this involved, but I'm not," said Heather McHale, CHRO at OneMain Financial. When faced with a candidate coming to a job interview with a parent, or having a parent on a Zoom call during the interview process, she said the objective is to get to speak to the candidate alone.

"I'll politely ask the parent to wait outside the room or come off the Zoom so I can have that one-on-one conversation," she said. "You learn a lot about [the candidate] by their ability to take that next step."

Contrary to what most people may think, Wolfe said he doesn't believe that a parent accompanying their Gen Zer to an interview automatically takes that candidate out of the running. Like McHale, he would advise HR leaders to ask the parent to wait outside or drop off the Zoom call. But he would also have a separate conversation with the candidate as to why they felt the need to bring mom or dad along.

"You want to get at the why," Wolfe said. "You might hear that the candidate has dyslexia or it's a mental health issue. But you want to dig a little deeper to help you make the decision of whether to move ahead with a candidate or if you're too concerned and you're going to have to move on to another person."

He also points out that despite layoffs, some companies in service industries such as retailing and airlines, are still having trouble finding enough workers. They may not have the luxury of instantly writing off someone who needs a little extra support during the interview process.

And that gets to another development McHale has witnessed over her years as CHRO—and one that she doesn't think is going away anytime soon.

"We have a generation getting into the workforce now that likes connection," she said. "They want people to get excited about their decisions so their process is about bringing people along with them. That's their comfort level and as long as that's still there, we're going to see that kind of supported decision making in the years ahead."

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