Helicopter Parents May Ruin The Retail IT Industry

Written by Todd L. Michaud
January 21st, 2010

Franchisee Columnist Todd Michaud has spent the last 16 years trying to fight IT issues, with the last six years focused on franchisee IT issues. He is currently responsible for IT at Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky’s and Moe’s Southwestern Grill).

“Do you have any issues with me bringing my parents to my interview?” I have now been asked this question three times when talking to candidates for entry-level IT positions. The first time it happened, it really caught me off guard.

“What?” I asked. “Do you feel you would not be able to answer the questions on your own?” “No, that’s not it at all,” the interviewee said. “I think that I am more than qualified for the position. I would like for them to learn more about the position and the company.” The parents (I found out later) wanted to make sure that I was a worthy boss, that the position was worthy of their child’s attention, and that the company met their standards.

At the time, I was participating in a great training program called the Regional Leadership Forum (RLF) presented by the Society for Information Management (SIM). This class was made up of about 40 IT leaders from throughout New England. At the next class, I happened to mention the “bizarre conversation” that I had had with a candidate. I was amazed as others shared similar encounters with candidates. What I have found is a potentially scary trend in retail IT: It turns out that almost everyone is overqualified for entry-level positions.

My classmates and I had an active discussion about how on Earth we got to a place where candidates not only wanted their parents to attend an interview, but there was absolutely no sense of shame about it. To them, it was not a big deal.

And it’s not just the interview. We also talked about the downstream impact of hiring this type of candidate. My classmates talked about several longer term issues:

  • Entitlement: “I deserve more (pay/benefits/vacation/flexibility) than you give me.”
  • Promotion Impatience: “I have been here for six months; I think we should talk about a promotion.”
  • Feedback: The inability to provide constructive feedback without it becoming a huge issue. “How dare you tell me I’m not doing a good job!”
  • Beneath Me: “I want to lead projects, not do support. I am not available after 5:00 PM or on weekends.”

The term “helicopter parents” came up repeatedly. It refers to those parents who are constantly hovering over their children. They over-parent and over-protect their kids to the point where those kids rarely do anything without their parents’ involvement.

I brought up this topic at a recent dinner with several StorefrontBacktalk readers who are also prominent IT leaders. Their response was pretty intense: “Are you kidding me?”; “I would never hire anyone who asked to bring their parents to an interview”; and “Someday they’ll learn” were just some of the responses I got. The general consensus at the table was that “This, too, shall pass.” I’m not so sure.

In practice, though, this is a potentially huge issue. We’re seeing a new trend where some of these applicants are still living with their parents and, therefore, don’t need to take any job. They can wait around—rentfree—until the ideal position comes along.

The third time that I was asked if the candidate’s parents could participate in the interview, I agreed. I am now intrigued by the idea and want to understand what the process is like. I agree to let a young woman bring her parents to a first round interview. What happened at that interview stunned me.


9 Comments | Read Helicopter Parents May Ruin The Retail IT Industry

  1. Marty Says:

    While this is interesting to a Baby Boomer on the verge of retirement from IT, it is not surprising.

    My son (non-IT) was considering a promissing post-college stint in minor baseball a few years ago. He informed me, “If I don’t make the Bigs and have to take a regular job, it better not be entry-level.” My response (after the laughter) “Are you kidding me?” But he was very serious.

    While I don’t think I was an overly protective parent and my kids can visit me but NOT LIVE WITH ME, the attitude of the Millenials is very much all about entitlement.

    I coached my kids that they cannot expect to work for 1 company for 30 years like I did. However, on the flip side, I believe companies are going to have a hard time hanging onto those folks who they want to keep for 30 years.

    We BB’s are the last of a breed.

  2. wayne steiger Says:


    All I can say is God help us all if this is the case, I truely hope it is not a trend because if it is it holds the seeds of some really bads news for us all. My company as most depends heavily on competent, talented, and mature IT professionals and we look for new talent coming into the field, just because one has a degree does not make you qualified to lead.

    What shocks me is the attitude of the candidate and more so that any parent would expect a company to comply to such a request (not sure what disturbs me more the fact that a condidate would expect such a thing or that a parent would actually think this is normal), if I had not read it from Storefront I would have thought it was a made up story, what is this next generation thinking. What arrogance, they need to learn that one has to learn to walk before one can run, and to expect a leadership position before you know how to follow orders/ rules, give us all a break here, guess that is now old school.

    As the president of my company I will be making sure that any new applicant is not allowed to bring parents to any interview (this has not happen or come up, YET)

    Thank you for the heads up this is very disturbing.

    Wayne Steiger

  3. Evan Schuman Says:

    Editor’s Note: I can report, with sadness, that after Todd mentioned this trend, I have spoken with quite a few IT execs. Alas, it is indeed a trend. I told my 12-year-old daughter yesterday that if I ever ask to go on a job interview with her, she has my full backing to place me in the cheapest nursing home she can find.

  4. Bob LeMay Says:

    Mr. Michaud’s response to the candidate who brought her parents to the interview, after she indicated that she was looking for a leadership position, should have been, “No one qualified for a leadership position in this–or any other–company would bring their parents to an interview.”

  5. Cranston W. Snord Says:

    To paraphrase Gene Wilder in “Blazing Saddles”,

    ‘You have to understand, these are simple folk, new college graduates, proud and contemptuous, the common clay of the modern economy. You know, MORONS!’

    I like Bob LeMay’s answer, but it needs to go a step furhter. When asked if they can bring their parents, just tell them : “If you need to bring Mommy and Daddy with you to an internview, you’re too needy to work here. I don’t have time to manage you AND parent you. Perhaps after you’re potty trained, or once you’ve made the big move to solid food….”

  6. Chris Says:


    Agreed with others. I think people like this need to be quite LITERALLY laughed out of the office.

    Look them straight in the eyes, and tell them “I dont care if you are the president of MENSA and Fulbright Scholar with two PhD’s from MIT, entry level kids with their parents in tow, do not, can not, and will not, EVER be qualified to lead an engineering team without the work experience to empirically demonstrate ability and competence. That you DON’T know that is perfectly evidential of the fact that you are far below are hiring standards. Sorry, we’re looking for a professional; which you are not.”

    Maybe that will sink in.

  7. Scott Says:

    Please someone tell me this will appear on an episode of Punked!

  8. Lee Says:

    Given that IT people are stereotypically less socially aware, perhaps this trend makes sense. The parent (seems to usually be the mother?) knows that their technically gifted son/daughter has some people issues and wants to help compensate? While the trend might make some sense, I certainly agree with others that this is not a good sign.

  9. Evan Schuman Says:

    True, but it also simply be that the parents want to advocate for their children, the same way they’ve advocated for better grades since the earliest school days. The “throw ’em in and let them learn to fend for themselves” school of parenting seems to be in short supply these days. As a parent myself, not sure when–and how far–to go with this approach, but if you’re even THINKING about still being there with them post-college at a job interview, you’re way past the line.


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