I want to quit my PhD and work at a large tech company. My mother is very against that, and she threatened to email the CEO of the company I'm applying for, and ask him not to make me an offer.

How serious of a threat does this present to my candidacy at the company? I just got a second round interview at the company, and my mother does not know the CEO personally.


The threat is very unlikely to work unless you pay attention to it, and let it get in the way of doing your best with the interview.

It might be better not to discuss your career plans with your mother, or with anyone who might pass them on to her. It is your career, not hers.


If it is a large tech company the CEO likely does not even read his or her own email. CEOs of large companies do not have the time to look through their own email so typically a secretary of some kind screens the email separating out actual business email from everything else. This includes but is not limited to:

  • People trying to get hired by directly asking the CEO
  • People's parents trying to get their son or daughter hired
  • Crazy emails that make no sense
  • Spam that made it past the filters
  • Phishing and spear phishing attacks
  • Death Threats

So it is highly unlikely that the CEO of the company would ever even get to see any email from your mother. She likely will get a nice precanned email thanking her for her email. Worst case is the email redirects her to HR or Ethics and they take her email seriously and investigate it. If the tech company is a good company they will get your side of the story before making any decisions, at which point you can diffuse the situation by giving a short and simple explanation like you did in the opening question.

However, despite this specific threat not likely going to materialize into anything meaningful, she can still try and try again using different avenues of attack. As a result you will need to make sure your mother does not get information like your hiring manager's contact information. If you have a chance in casual conversation with your hiring manager either between interviews or after you are hired, make mention that your mom opposed your decision. This can preemptively diffuse a situation before it had a chance to form.

Another aspect is stalling your mother until after you are hired, since she may give up after you have quit the PhD program. For example: asking your mom to give you some time to do some research on the company. Like checking to see if the company will help pay for PhDs since you may be able to sooth your mother's concerns by telling her this and that even though you are changing paths away from a PhD that there is still a possibility in the future that you can go back to it.

The ideal solution (if possible) is to go to the source and do everything you can to get your mom to trust you and let you make your own decisions (see Caleb's answer).

And one last random thing, which goes without saying: Whatever you do, do not quit your PhD until after you have a confirmed offer.


Sit down and talk to your mother. Tell her you love her, and you know that she loves you. Tell her you understand her concern and you know she only wants the best for you. And then remind her gently that you're an adult and that this is a decision that you need to make yourself. Point out that the kind of interference she's contemplating isn't likely to bring you closer together.

For a little levity, watch Everybody Loves Raymond, the "Lucky Suit" episode, with or without your mother.

How serious of a threat does this present to my candidacy at the company?

Probably not very serious at all. If a company is so spineless in its hiring that it would be swayed by an unknown 3rd party, you should find a better company to work for.

  • 1
    This seems to me to be a good response if the mother were giving advice and trying to talk the OP out of the OP's career decision. Threatening to try to sabotage the OP's job application goes way beyond that. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 28 '16 at 9:25
  • @PatriciaShanahan She's probably only threatening to e-mail the CEO because she feels desperate and powerless to make herself heard. Listening to and acknowledging her feelings could help defuse the situation. Unless she's a control freak who will stop at nothing to maintain power over her kid's life, but if that were the case the OP probably wouldn't have told her anything in the first place. – Caleb Aug 28 '16 at 16:06

To assuade your fears:

The CEO would probably not even read the mail, and delete it without a second look. Even if they would read it, it would only serve to ensure that nothing your mom says to them will ever be taken into any other account then "That crazy lady with whom we have no relation".


The company isn't hiring your mother. Unless she can suggest a serious reason that taking you would be bad for the company, and it's an argument you can't answer, I think her threat is vacuous, having no more significance than if she had written begging them to take you.

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