Sunday 18 March 2018

Who'd want to bring their mum to a job interview?

Nigel Farndale

A recruitment firm has drawn up a list of blunders made by candidates in job interviews. There are some ripe ones, including the candidate who phoned his parents halfway through to say it was going well. But the crown must go to the young man who took his mother along with him.

Apparently, she did all the talking. “And what would you say was your biggest fault, Peter?” “He’s too much of a perfectionist.”

Personally, I would have considered it a mixed blessing to have either of my parents sitting in on an interview. I can just hear my father chipping in: “He’s bone idle, you know. And hopeless with money.”

But perhaps this is a generational thing. I remember someone congratulating my father-in-law on how well my wife was doing in the City, only for him to dismiss it with “I’m sure she just makes the tea or something.” (She was a vice president at Deutsche Bank, and still in her twenties.)

I think it is safe to assume the job spec of being a parent has changed since then.

Nowadays, it is all about bigging your children up and boosting their confidence and self-esteem, rather than worrying about keeping their feet on the ground.

School plays have become like a Soviet Union Party Congress circa 1950, with the first parent to stop applauding being taken out and shot.

As for school sports, well, they have become ferociously competitive, at least for the parents.

And it’s not just sports day – you should hear my wife on the rugby touchline. To paraphrase the Duke of Wellington, I don’t know what effect she has on the enemy, but by God, she frightens me.

She’s not as bad as Andy Murray’s mother, though. Imagine having her by your side in a job interview, fist raised, mouth open in what Munch would have called “an infinite scream”.

Generally speaking, I think mothers are not only more enterprising and competitive than fathers when protecting the interests of their young, but also more aggressive.

And a prep school headmaster tells me the mothers are much more intimidating than the fathers, although they both sound pretty bad. I once asked him if he ever socialised with the parents and he said: “God no! They’re the enemy!”

I suppose it is a basic instinct. The female lion is deadlier than the male when it comes to defending her cubs. Even sheep can be vicious when they think their lambs are threatened. I’ve seen a ewe not only stand its ground, but actually charge a sheepdog.

Still, parents here are amateurs compared to the helicopter parents you find in Scandinavia, where they are known as “curling parents”, the idea being that they brush all obstacles out of their children’s path.

In America, meanwhile, parents have become so pushy they have been known to ring employers to negotiate their children’s salaries.

With my father it would be: “You’re paying him far too much, you know. He’ll only waste it.”

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