I’ll never forget the interview that led to my first job, as associate editor at Campus Progress (which has since been renamed Generation Progress) back in 2007. There I was in a conference room at the organization’s Metro Center office in Washington, DC: Just me, my boss-to-be Ben Adler, then-associate editor Dana Goldstein, and my mom and my dad. The only rough spot was when my mom asked Ben whether he’d be okay with me taking the occasional long weekend to fly back home to Boston, because “I know Jesse gets homesick, and it would be nice to see him once in awhile.” Ben, being a good guy, gave my mom a warm smile and said that he was sure that could be arranged.

I had brought my parents along because, as a millennial, I derived all meaning from my parents and the endless stream of positive reinforcement they provided. I was very, very special, and whenever I doubted that fact, I called them. I called them six to seven times a day.

By now you’ve probably realized that I’m not telling this story accurately. The idea of my parents tagging along for my job interview was likely what tipped you off — it doesn’t pass a basic smell test. And yet several outlets are now reporting this as a thing that actually happens. It’s part of a growing and annoying trend of treating millennials as a uniquely narcissistic and incompetent generation profoundly different from all that have come before, and of ignoring the very real financial issues that are actually worth reporting on when it comes to young people today.

This particular example is an object lesson in how nuggets of truthiness get amplified and spread and by less-than-rigorous internet journalism. Here’s a clip from a Slate article this week penned by Brooke Donatone, a psychologist who treats millennials (subheadline: “Helicopter parenting has caused my psychotherapy clients to crash land.”), in which she bemoans the generation’s inability to get it together:

The Huffington Post and the Wall Street Journal have reported that millennials are now bringing their parents to job interviews, and companies such as LinkedIn and Google are hosting “take your parents to work day.” Parents went from strapping their kids into a Baby Björn carrier to tying their kids’ wing-tips.

Crazy! Let’s dive into the articles in question and see why all these millennials are bringing their parents into job interviews, which certainly must lead to some awkwardness.

HuffPo:

Pro-tip to millennials: You might want to leave your parents at home when you show up for a job interview.

Though this may seem like a pretty basic rule of getting-a-job etiquette, 8 percent of recent college grads brought their parents along to an interview, according to an Adecco survey cited by the Wall Street Journal. What’s more, a full 3 percent actually had their parents sit in on their job tryout.
Ah, okay. So HuffPo didn’t report that millennials are doing this, as Donatone suggests. It reported that the Wall Street Journal reported that millennials are doing this. And this 8 percent versus 3 percent thing seems slightly questionable.

Here’s what the Wall Street Journal article (which also noted that while “[i]t may be on the rise… parental involvement in the U.S. doesn’t begin to match countries in Asia and South America”) said about this “trend”:

A 2012 survey of more than 500 college graduates by Adecco, a human-resources organization, found that 8% of them had a parent accompany them to a job interview, and 3% had the parent sit in on the interview.

You know what? Let’s just jump straight to the source material, Adecco’s rundown of its survey:

But it’s not just cover letter and resume help that parents lend—they are also accompanying some grads to their interviews! Nearly one in 10 (8 percent) recent graduates say that a parent has accompanied them to a job interview, with 3 percent of grads saying their parents have actually joined the interview itself.

Jesse Singal is a 2013-14 Bosch Fellow in Berlin. He can be reached at jesse.r.singal@gmail.com.