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I had an interview with a potential employee who applied to our company. The interview didn't go badly, but the candidate came with her mother who waited in our waiting room during the interview.

I didn't know how to handle this situation and I tried to pretend that her mother didn't exist. I think that we will not hire her because of this.

I have two questions:

  • How should you handle this kind of situation?
  • I feel that I have to tell her that bringing her parent to the interview was not a good choice. What is the best way to say that?

Other information:

I am a software developer and I usually don't hold interviews, this interview was for an HR position.

I saw this as bad thing because it might seems to be that the candidate is not "autonomous".

I didn't ask why she was there, but why bring her inside? She lived in the city and we have underground/autobus/trains...

  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – enderland Mar 3 '17 at 17:25
  • May be they shared a ride together or may be after the interview they were going to lunch together. – Rolen Koh Mar 8 '17 at 3:51
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    I wouldn't want to work for a boss that wouldn't hire a candidate just because she brought a relative to the waiting room. – lvella Mar 8 '17 at 9:04
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    You are hiring a person for HR, just ask them in the interview "What would you do if a candidate brought their parent along for an interview?". – Samuel O'Malley Mar 16 '17 at 5:05
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    How would you feel if the candidate brought their spouse? Or their spouse and kids? Is it because the waiting person was a parent that this seems odd? – user70848 Nov 12 '17 at 20:14

15 Answers 15

303

I think that in these sort of situations you should inquire as to why the parent is there because:

  • A) You don't want to rush into making assumptions
  • B) It might be interesting to see how the candidate answers the question

There are a couple of reasonable explanations for that situation. Maybe they're sharing a ride to another location after the interview, for example. In fact, I would say hello to the parent in question, because it's fairly rude to pretend that they "don't exist":

You: Hello, I see you accompanied [Name Here] to the interview.
Parent: Hello, yes, she needed a ride, and that's what parents are for!
You: Well, it's been a pleasure to meet you. Are you ready to start, [Name Here]?

In this particular case, since you say that the interview did not go badly, you may want to ask the candidate back for a second interview and see how she handles it.

If it clearly comes across that this person needs to have their hand held, and exhibits a noticeable lack of self-confidence and emotional maturity (can't handle criticism, can't think of ways to handle stressful situations, etc.) then you may want to save yourself a headache and hire someone else. After all, you don't want this person's parents showing up to discuss her mediocre performance review with her supervisor (shiver).

Note: You can gauge how "autonomous" a person is with targeted interview questions. Read up various "situational" and "conflict resolution" type questions.

However, there's no reason to assume that this is automatically the case simply because the parent was in the building at the time of the interview.

  • 56
    +1 for pointing out that ignoring the other person is actually quite rude. – Heinzi Mar 6 '17 at 10:00
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    I would not talk to the parent about why they're here, I would ask the interviewee - they're the one who is supposed to be interviewed! Say "Hello" to the parent - fine. Anything more isn't appropriate. – AndyT Mar 6 '17 at 11:25
  • The line about the parent showing up for mediocre performance is, IMO, a non-issue at a workplace. It's outright trespassing. There are no real headaches here. If the employee can't get their parents to leave, then they earn some unpaid leave for the day. Any further trespassing activity and the police will be called. – Nelson Nov 13 '17 at 5:58
125

Different angle -

I am a software developer and I usually don't hold interviews, this interview was for an HR position.

I'm guessing you are in no way a hiring manager, but are writing up feedback for a higher up to use. In this case, you must write holistic feedback. Do not let this one fact about the candidate dominate your judgment. In particular, your feedback should not be: "the candidate's parent waited in the waiting room, and I don't know how I feel about that. Three stars out of five."

Review the candidate based on the content of the interview, and I would suggest offering a recommendation based only on that. Furthermore, add a remark that the parent's waiting in the waiting room struck you as unusual and that you would like the hiring manager to evaluate its significance. In this way, your feedback will be holistic but your evaluation will be specific, and this may line up with what is expected of you as a developer interviewing across departments.

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    Can you define or explain "holistic feedback"? Under the typical meaning of the word I'd take it to mean the opposite of your example: combining all information to arrive at a hire / no hire decision. – Lilienthal Mar 3 '17 at 15:57
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    I think the idea is - reveal all impressions, rather than simply give a yes or no, and leave it up to the hiring manager to decide whether any particular thing is a dealbreaker. Holistic may not be the right word. – SPavel Mar 3 '17 at 16:40
  • @Lilienthal added clarification, i.e. holistic feedback, don't be clouded by the thing with the parent, and evaluate more cautiously. – user42272 Mar 3 '17 at 19:19
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    @Lilienthal I think djechlin is using it more the way it's used in a medical context. Rather than focusing in only on one negative aspect (akin to a "disease," if you will), the OP should examine, evaluate, and consider other aspects of the interview to reach a better informed big picture. I can see how it wouldn't necessarily be clear, as this isn't really one of its formal definitions. But I wasn't really thrown or confused by it, personally. – jpmc26 Mar 4 '17 at 9:44
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    @jpmc26 & Lilienthal - djechlin is simply saying that as OP is only acting as a proxy for the hiring manager they should include as much detail as possible for said manager to judge the candidate on all aspects, not only on the negative judgement made by OP re: their mother. I believe "holistic" is a well chosen word as when making this type of judgement of worth every word spoken and action taken by the candidate is connected forming an accurate a picture as possible of their character. I'm not sure how/why the "medical context" would be more clear/accurate than the philosophical context? – eyaka1 Mar 5 '17 at 2:31
88

the interview didn't go badly, but the point is that this candidate came with her mother, who waited inside our waiting room during the interview.

I didn't know how to handle this situation and I tried to suppose that her mother didn't exist; I think that we will not hire her also for this motivation.

Why do you think this? I don't get why you think this is a bad thing. It seems like she got a lift with mum. You said you will not hire her because of this; what is it about this that you see as bad?

how to handle this kind of situation?

Simply ignore the fact the mother is there. It's completely irrelevant and certainly no reason to dismiss/reject a candidate that interviewed well.

  • 88
    Yes. If the mother had come into the interview room and proceeded to answer questions put to the candidate (yes, it happens), then that would clearly be a problem. In this case, though, the only relevant follow-up question might be "do you anticipate any difficulty arriving on time for work" (asking about transportation). – BradC Mar 3 '17 at 17:52
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    I honestly think taking their mother into the building at all shows poor judgement. It might well be as innocent as they were travelling together but simply look at the differing opinions on this post. It is obvious to me that some people would have a problem, be it socially or professionally, with the situation and not being aware of that is a big negative for me. It suggests to me an ignorance of the professional environment or a disregard for said environment or a total lack of judgement. Interviews should be treated as a pitch to clients. The mother should have waited nearby. It is weird. – eyaka1 Mar 5 '17 at 2:35
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    @eyaka1 The willingness to waste effort enforcing "professional" norms that serve no actual purpose seems like a downside, at best. Using waiting rooms to have someone wait, coordinating a ride, etc. are all simply pragmatic. Ignoring for the moment that it's absurd to read either of these into whether or not they brought someone who waited in the waiting area -- are you looking to hire someone who's going to play office politics instead of working, or someone who's going to get things done? I know which "pitch" I'd be interested in. – Matthew Read Mar 5 '17 at 20:55
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    @eyaka1 your opinion on how professional workplaces work is completely cultural biased, just as mine, and shouldn't be used as the absolute truth. Where i live, being accompanied by a friend, parent or relative ( be it wife, brother, uncle or mother) when going jobhunting is quite normal, they are usually there to give the candidate a ride, wait outside or in the waiting room ( that's what waiting rooms are for) and then proceed to take a coffee on the nearest café with the said candidate. They are usually also there to keep a look on the car parking ticket. fines are awful. – CptEric Mar 6 '17 at 8:24
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    @BradC Even in the case of transportation it might be unfair to expect someone who is without a job to own a fuel-consuming vehicle. The question is good, but the underlying assumption "they don't have a car so they will be late for work" should be considered carefully. They might buy a car or a bike or a scooter first thing when they get their first paycheck. – Emil Vikström Mar 6 '17 at 9:27
76

Frankly, unless you can relate it directly to the ability of your candidate to do the requirements of the job, OR some disruption to your office, it's really none of your business who the candidate showed up with.

Maybe they're travelling together today to run errands, and the interview was on the way between point A and point C. It might seem more reasonable for Mom to come inside and sit in an air-cooled office than to send Mom to the mall or Starbucks, or let her sit in a car for an hour. To some degree, we can take into account how your office is situated, and the line of business -- but at the end of the day, a waiting room is for people to WAIT in.

Had the applicant dragged Mom into the interview room, we'd have a different situation. Had Mom been someone with a behavior or outward appearance to cause alarm to anyone in your facility, again, a different situation. You didn't mention that either of these were the case. Accordingly, you can't assume anything about your candidate, or their relationship, from the fact that Mom sat in the waiting room; the only thing that you can assume is that, apparently, Mom needed to sit.

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    Completely agree. Its odd for sure, but unless the OP asks the candidate, all he's doing is making assumptions. For all he knows, they were just planning to go to lunch afterwards. – GrandmasterB Mar 3 '17 at 20:44
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    I agree with this answer, the mother needed somewhere to sit down, irrelevant why she was there. – Kilisi Mar 3 '17 at 22:34
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    +1 for "but at the end of the day, a waiting room is for people to WAIT in." Candidate didn't bring their parent to the interview at all, they left them in the waiting room. – RemcoGerlich Mar 4 '17 at 21:17
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    I understand the points made here. However, a job interview is essentially a "pitch to an investor" where the candidate is the product and the employer the investor. It is simply unprofessional to take your mother to a pitch. It doesn't matter how we feel about it on a practical, social or moral standpoint; professionally this is not acceptable. I disagree with you @codenoir that this doesn't say anything about the candidate. Look at the differing opinions on here, interviews are serious things and all these opinions should be considered. This shows poor judgement or ignorance of the workplace – eyaka1 Mar 5 '17 at 2:44
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    @ptomato: so the evidence is that the candidate has someone who looks like they're probably their mother, who came with them to the building but not to the interview. Interviewer didn't bother to find out anything else and specifically decided to act as if the person wasn't there. And now he wants to make the outcome of the interview based on that?! – RemcoGerlich Mar 6 '17 at 9:37
38

The candidate didn't bring her mother to the interview. She accompanied her to the location then stayed in the waiting room. Perhaps she gave her daughter a ride. Perhaps they just intended to make further use of a trip to the city. Can't she use your waiting room to, well, wait? This isn't a big deal.

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    Exactly this. During my last interview (as interviewee) I travelled with my father, as we were planning to go to a few stores after the interview. That's it; there's nothing to it. He waited in the car, her mother waited in a waiting room. It doesn't matter. – Stephan Bijzitter Mar 5 '17 at 20:21
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    That's true. But a company is a private location (and the one in the OP does not seem to be open to public), so bringing an uninvited stranger, whoever he/she is, is unprofessional. There is a big difference between having a ride with a parent and him/her waiting in the car, and bringing him inside the building without asking permission and/or any explanation. – Taladris Mar 6 '17 at 0:50
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    ^^ If the interview location was such a private place, how could the interviewee be permitted inside? Your comment doesn't make sense. All companies across the world have waiting rooms where people accompanying the interviewee or visitors of the pre existing employees could wait. So it is not a big deal that the interviewee was accompanied by her mother. – ViVi Mar 6 '17 at 10:43
  • @Taladris All of those things might possibly be the case, but you're simply assuming that they in fact are the case. The point of an interview is to gather information so you can make decisions on something other than assumptions. – David Schwartz Mar 6 '17 at 10:53
36

I once had this case, hiring a systems engineer. The guy came with his father, who waited, like in your case, in the waiting room.

I did not think much of it at the time, to discover later that he was actually in a hospital (for a cardio check), got the opportunity to have the interview, had his father bring him a suit to the hospital, drive him in and then back for the remaining checks.

So do not assume anything, his behaviour is a better indication I believe.

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    Well said. I have been the candidate in a very similar situation. I ending up working there for almost 5 years as an integral part of an awesome team. – Matthew Read Mar 5 '17 at 20:37
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Have you checked your interview guidelines? It is not unheard of to be told it is OK to bring someone along. In fact, check everyone who may have spoken to her as part of the process. She may have gotten to the reception area and the mother was explicitly told there was no problem coming in.

You seem to be making big assumptions about what the candidate was told. Check this before you judge them.

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    That's probably culture dependent. I have never heard of any such situation where I am living. – Taladris Mar 6 '17 at 0:52
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There are some unfortunate people who suffer from helicopter parents. Parents who simply can not stop to get involved in their children's affairs, even though the children are already far old enough to take care of their own business.

This is not the fault of the offspring. They might want to become independent, but their parents just won't let them. So you should not be too judgmental of these people. They are the victims. While helicopter parent victims might turn out spoiled and immature, it is unfair to assume that they all do.

So the next time you have an applicant who shows up with their parents, you might want to address the situation and ask them about their relationship with them. Maybe the mother isn't actually a helicopter mother and just provided a ride because it was convenient for everyone. Maybe she is one and the daughter is desperately looking for an opportunity to emancipate herself. Having a job which pays for an own apartment is an important step in that. Or maybe they are indeed totally spoiled by this kind of upbringing and aren't good for your job. But the only way to find out is to actually talk to the applicant about this.

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    This is all based on an assumption. – Xavier J Mar 3 '17 at 18:44
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    None of this sounds relevant to the job at hand though. – user42272 Mar 3 '17 at 19:38
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    How does the candidate's relationship with the parents have any bearing on the job he's being hired for? This seems like simple prejudice to me. You're hiring someone to do a job, not to judge their independence from their parents. Frankly none of this is any of the interviewer's business. – Ameet Sharma Mar 4 '17 at 10:13
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    It is relevant whether or not the employee can show up, be reliable, etc. in the absence of parental supervision/accompaniment. But a person waiting in a waiting room is not itself any evidence whatsoever of any kind of helicopter parenting, and shouldn't be used as a reason to ask someone about their personal relationships -- entirely inappropriate. – Matthew Read Mar 5 '17 at 20:32
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    Despite what other commenters are saying, I think this is a perfectly fair assumption. I have known many parents that behave like this. I suspect many other people are over-reacting to the term 'victim' (which in fairness might be a bit dramatic because it can have dramatic connotations) but it is somewhat accurate as the 'helicopter technique' can have long lasting negative side psychological effects on a child. – Pharap Mar 6 '17 at 19:46
8

I'm not a lawyer, do not know the jurisdiction of your location, and therefore cannot give you complete legal advice, but you might want to reconsider the ramifications of making this decision - you could be liable for a discrimination lawsuit.

You are basing your review of the candidate off the presence of their mother at the interview without any context - several people have given legitimate reasons they might be present at the interview, and some of them are medical concerns, but one could also make the argument that the concern stems from a perceived inability of the candidate to arrive at the job because of their age (or perceived maturity), which in some states (assuming this is in America) is illegal discrimination.

I don't know the jurisdiction of your location, but Ageism, even perceived, is grounds for discrimination in New York State. https://dhr.ny.gov/law#HRL296_3a_a

So not only for the sake of being fair to the candidate, but for legal liability reasons, I highly recommend you pursue the matter further before throwing this candidate out.

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    You need some evidence for legal liability other than not being a lawyer. – user42272 Mar 3 '17 at 19:43
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    @Zibbobz While age may be a protected class, perceived maturity most certainly isn't. There is a difference between not hiring someone for being too young and not hiring someone because they can't do anything without their parent. – David K Mar 3 '17 at 19:57
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    I think you're trying to say "anything other than the merits of doing the job should be a shot called by HR, who is legally trained to delineate relevant from illegal factors that come up." – user42272 Mar 3 '17 at 20:02
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    I'm upvoting, this shouldn't really be buried either way. – user42272 Mar 3 '17 at 20:14
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    I'm upvoting, this is the only answer that mentioning 'medical reason'. – Thariq Nugrohotomo Mar 5 '17 at 0:53
5

It would depend on the age of the candidate. If you try to hire a sixteen year old for his or her first job, yes, that person might not be completely autonomous. And that state might change very quickly once they are employed.

But if you want to know why the parent is there, the easiest would be to ask. And probably the best way.

  • This would suggest discriminating on the age of the candidate... – user42272 Mar 3 '17 at 23:01
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    @djechlin Discriminating is possibly a strong word for this case. For example if the candidate is too young to legally drive in the jurisdiction its much more likely they might ask a friend or relative for a lift. There are actually some practical issues that might be applicable for a candidate who could be a minor beyond simple discrimination. Though I do agree overall this should be a very minor point if considered at all... – Vality Mar 4 '17 at 1:53
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Contrary to my first answer, but this point needs to be made somewhere:

Do you want to test the candidate for her ability to follow business culture?

Waiting rooms are for waiting, for, you know, a few minutes. It's considered to be a burden to the company, via the receptionist particularly, to entertain someone much longer.

Furthermore, whatever the candidate's relationship with her parent may be, in interviews we try to demonstrate full separation of personal life.

So in the other answers (including my other answer, honestly) you are witnessing:

  • A bunch of answerers trying to say that it was probably not a problem to violate this business convention
  • Some answerers trying to point out that something is wrong with what happened, but falling for the red herring of considering the relationship between the candidate and her parent.

What is going on here is that it is wrong, as a matter of business culture, to use the waiting room area this way.

What the answers are generally urging you to avoid is holding this against the candidate via psychoanalysis of the candidate's backstory. This is a pure self-fulfilling prophecy: it's a problem because it's fishy, because the interviewer may find it fishy...

In my honest opinion it's far more likely the candidate is just probably young in her business career and has a totally normal relationship with her parent where this was the more convenient thing to do. You have a chance of making a solid hire for treating her that way.

But you have the option of penalizing the candidate for poor understanding of business practices. Simultaneously you should learn how to react when someone commits a poor business practice. It's your judgment call how this impacts her ability to do the job. Most answerers here are more of the culture of moving away from vestigial business traditions. In particular most answerers here would love to see a "common sense" approach to the waiting room take hold, namely that it is okay for someone's parent to wait there.

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    I just think it's poor advice. Since when is using a waiting room to wait an indication that someone doesn't understand business culture? The receptionist doesn't need to "entertain" them. The receptionist's job is to direct visitors. If the receptionist is aware that the person doesn't need to be helped, then they aren't being a burden. – David K Mar 3 '17 at 20:15
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    I wouldn't even say it represents US business culture. I've never worked anywhere (companies large and small) that couldn't easily tolerate half an hour (about the length of the interview) of somebody chilling in the waiting room. That's just enough time to read a magazine and go through recent notifications on your phone. – ognockocaten Mar 3 '17 at 20:17
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    @thedarkwanderer "US business culture disapproves of people having familial relationships." - [citation needed] – David K Mar 3 '17 at 20:32
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    I think this is a really interesting (and, among the current answers, novel) perspective. Bringing your parent to an interview is a violation of business norms, but is it inherently a bad or wrong thing to do? Maybe it’s the business norms that should change. In the situation at hand, OP is not obliged to “enforce” business norms. – bdesham Mar 3 '17 at 22:37
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    @DavidK I mean honestly I was instructed exactly this by a job training firm once. Don't be 15 minutes early, walk around the block if it kills the time. I guess I could add a citation. – user42272 Mar 3 '17 at 22:59
1

What does it matter?

You seem to be under the impression that the fact that the possible employee had his/her parent at the interview indicates a lack of maturity but that may very easily not be the case.

Why is it though that a parent bringing a child to an interview is more of a problem than a cabby bringing him? If the cabby was willing to wait an hour before taking the interviewer home would that have been a problem for you?

Even if the whole premise of your argument is true and this is one massive mommies-boy who will suck at the teat of his parents for the rest of his life, what does this matter? Are his qualifications and experience predicated on what you consider to be "mature"?

You are there to make a decision on whether this person is the ideal candidate for a job listing, not to make judgments on what you perceive to be a lack of maturity, if this is the type of thing that bothers you from a programmer then you are going to find it hard to find a candidate. Most programmers I know are a-social, borderline sociopaths with a god-complex dependant on the level of salary. Having mommy issues would be appropriate.

0

I saw this as bad thing because it might seems to be that the candidate is not "autonomous"

Short-sighted and a bit arrogant on your part, IMO.

Why not see it as a good thing: The candidate is open to taking advice from others who are older and wiser than they are - perhaps the mother is savvy and has experience in judging people, workplaces, etc.

Maybe you and the business were getting checked out by a smart woman, while you were doing the interview...

-2

This type of candidates tend to have:

  • Goodwilling personality
  • Well-educated
  • They will follow your instructions as their best will (like they do with their parents)

Their possible disadvantages:

  • Lack of self-initiatives
  • Co-workers tend to see them negatively

It is up to you, how you decide.

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    This is a massive barrel of assumptions. – Matthew Read Mar 5 '17 at 20:41
  • @MatthewRead It is a massive barrel of my life experience. – Gray Sheep Mar 5 '17 at 20:43
-6

I will break with the other respondents and answer emphatically that this is not something acceptable for an interview.

It may be reasonable for a parent to accompany someone during travel for any of the reasons that others have listed. However, accompanying them into the place of the interview is absolutely inappropriate.

This is clearly a candidate who has no ability to consider how their actions may be perceived. Any reasonable person should be able to see that a parent waiting in the lobby during an interview would raise red flags and arrange their plans such that their traveling companion can wait somewhere other than at the place of the interview. At BEST, this person has difficulties in seeing how his actions would be viewed by others and it should naturally be taken into account.

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    "This is clearly a candidate who has no ability to consider how their actions may be perceived." it's almost like you were there. – user42272 Mar 3 '17 at 19:42
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    When it's not reasonable to make any inference from an action, taking that action should not be expected to raise a red flag. This isn't a problem with the interviewee being unaware of possible perception, it's a problem with the perception being made against all reason. – user53718 Mar 3 '17 at 22:26
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    "This is clearly a candidate who has no ability to consider how their actions may be perceived." or maybe they don't care. I would count that a plus when there is nothing whatsoever wrong with the actions themselves – Bwmat Mar 3 '17 at 23:42
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    This depends on culture. In my country, it would be culturally insensitive to deny parents the right to sit in when you interview their child. I have, in fact, been asked ahead of job interviews whether I would like to bring a family member or support person to the interview. This was largely so that the interviewer could make sure there was enough seating available in the interview room. – Dawood ibn Kareem Mar 5 '17 at 2:05
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    @TOOGAM "Providing a different opinion" does not make it useful. "You suck, the interviewee sucks, and interviews are BS anyways" is a different opinion and yet completely useless. Making unwarranted assumptions and driving decisions off of those assumptions alone is terrible advice, and should be immediately discarded since it is not useful (even if better advice would agree that you should take a pass on the candidate). – Matthew Read Mar 5 '17 at 20:45

protected by enderland Mar 3 '17 at 19:15

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