“How to Select a Nanny”
Now I was never much of a writer in high school, college or at any point of my life, but I remembered that the three main components to any good paper are an introduction, body and conclusion. Through life experience, working for other nanny agencies and meeting many different families, I always try to remember those components. You must be wondering how writing a paper correlates with finding a nanny. Both everything and nothing.
As you embark on your journey to finding a nanny that fits your family, remember this process can also be broken down into three main components. Those you interact with in the first section will not always make it to the last and that is okay.
Typically, there are three main ways that families locate their nannies and babysitters:
1: personal referrals from families and friends
2: through online resources
3: a nanny agency
The most convenient of the three is to utilize a nanny agency, where you get the benefits and security of someone who has already screened potential applicants and asked the basic questions which might be either awkward for you to ask and time-consuming. This screening can include reviewing potential applicants criminal background, certifications, qualifications, references and other miscellaneous details about them. A good nanny agency will already have all that information available for you. In fact, a reputable nanny agency should let you feel like you know the person before you even spoke to them on the phone. This way your basics are already covered and you can focus on getting to know the person.
In any case, whether you're doing it on your own or utilizing an agency there will be a point where you have the opportunity to speak with the candidates on the phone. Ask and answer the following questions to yourself:
1. Did the candidate take the time and initiative to give you a call? Or to confirm your appointment? (Provided they already had your information.)
If you gave them a call:
2. Did they sound like they were waking up at 10 am in the morning?
3. Were they enthusiastic and excited to hear your voice once they realized who you were?
4. What was the background noise like, did they step out of the room? It is general courtesy to step out a noisy room; did they give an excuse that they were babysitting another family. Then that is also a sign that your child might not be their only priority while on the job.
5. Were they driving? In this case, many cars now have car phones, but it sounds like they were fumbling with the phone while driving that may be a sign of poor decision making skills.
Once you get them on the phone and you find that all signs are clear so far, that's when the phone screening process begins. I always suggest to have a few questions ready. This is the first interview, this is where you find out if they actually have the experience your looking for. You can intentionally ask them vague questions in order to see how willing they are to disclose information.
✓ Please tell me a little more about your past experience in childcare?
✓ What was something you gained out of a bad or difficult experience?
✓ Make sure they have experience with your age group, for example younger children may require more experience, while older children might have a higher activity level.
✓ Layout the basics of what the household will need: the times, the driving details, etc.
✓ If the introduction is going great, then don't forget to tell them a little bit about you as a parent and as a person and tell them about your children. Their likes and dislikes how they engage with each other and with new people. List your expectations in terms of household chores you would like completed. Show them the big picture as well. This helps any potential applicant to have a clear understanding of your expectations which is what you want otherwise the applicant may solely be focused on showing a strictly professional appearance. Professionals have their place, however in this case you're inviting someone into your home. By the time they get to your home for the actual interview they must want to be there as well, feel like they already have some idea of how your household operates.
A good phone screening should be at least 10 minutes. It's better to use 10 minutes today then to waste an hour tomorrow. While it is up to you to direct the conversation, this is your opportunity to hear from the potential candidate. Anything more than a half an hour on the phone is overkill and may leave you in an unflattering light. You can also ask for references before your in-person interview, however most caregivers feel comfortable providing references once they have met you.
The body which includes the in-person interview, checking references and the interaction with yourself and the children.
References are a great tool to utilize. You can generally get a good idea of who a person is after communicating with about 3 to 4 references. You want to get a complete feedback regarding the candidate, both negative and positive. No one is perfect, even what can be a perfect Nanny will always have a flaw, remember you want a complete picture. Just remember to be considerate of how much time you spend speaking with the reference.
Introduce yourself: Remember to be clearly identify yourself, the person that you are calling about and the reason for your call.
Ask for Facts: Ask about their relationship with the candidate. The reference may simply start talking and give you lots of useful information. However, just because a reference isn't a social butterfly does not necessarily reflect poorly on the applicant. In the latter situation be prepared with some questions that address your areas of interest.
Ask for Ethics: Ask about morals and values, such as please describe the candidate it in few words. Are they trustworthy? Honest? Responsible?
Common Sense Check: Were they able to handle everyday tasks while watching the children? What duties were they in charge of? Are they reliable? Do they take initiative?
Improvement points: what do you feel that she could have improved on or is there something that I should be aware of?
Timeline and Departure: This can be tricky, as a long time is good but does not always allow multiple views when you want more than 1 or 2 references. Short term relationship aren’t always bad, some family don’t need long term, and occasionally caregivers work for multiple families at a time giving them more experience adapting to different households. Be aware if a family or employee indicates the candidate had no commitment or the applicant has a “history” with different families and is reluctant to give you or the agency contact information.
Now to the interview, whether you prefer to conduct the interview with the kids in the house or without them is up to you, you know your home best. A great way of doing it is starting the interview with the adults, and having the children introduced halfway through. Perhaps they're being dropped off by the bus or a playdate is ending. It gives the opportunity of having the one-on-one time with the candidate as well as seeing some interaction between them and your children.
Things not to ask:
1. How old are you? Unless the applicant is a minor or is planning on serving liquor this can qualify under age discrimination.
2. Do you smoke? Under discrimination protection laws you cannot ask however you can use your nose. Alternatively you can make the applicants aware that your are hiring for a non-smoking position and if that creates any issue they can let you know.
3. Why are you a nanny? This can be seen as a very abrasive question and can throw the applicant off of it. Instead, try asking what has been your favorite part about being in childcare? What quality do you do think makes you a great nanny?
Look for goals and other outside extracurricular activities such as volunteering or if the applicant is a student or has ultimate goal in life. This will give you a sense of how long they are planning on sticking around and what kind of role model they will be for your child.
Finally, the conclusion, its time to make your decision. If the introduction and the body feels like it's going to be a great fit then it most likely will be. Finalize the wage or salary that you're offering in a contract or simply placed on paper. There should be a clear understanding on both sides. The last thing you want is a few months down the line the nanny seemed unaware that the position required something.