This section talks you through all you need to know about interviewing nanny candidates. Park Slope Parents has all you need to know about how to filter applicants through the phone, what you need to ask in the in person interview and how to glean information from refernces.
Interviews are a tricky combination of objective answers and subjective/emotional judgments. Remember, you want to base your conclusions on fact, but your gut can tell you as much or more. In fact, most parents say that their emotional reaction to the candidate is the key factor in their decision to hire a Nanny. However, it goes without saying (but we'll say it anyway) that it's important to carefully screen the people you are interviewing even if they seem perfect for the job. “Better safe than sorry” is better than, "I guess I should have done…..."
Here’s how we advise you to go through the interview process:
- Quick phone interview with the Nanny Candidate to request an Application
- Review the candidates, narrow down those who fit best with your needs and pass the first gut check
- Interview the references to make sure the fit is good for the family
- Review the candidates based on the References
- Interview the Nanny candidates
- Evaluate the candidates
- Final Interviews to review the Work Agreement
- Job Offer
Just a few explanations about how we put these questions together. Over the past 9 years we've seen and heard about situations such as Nannies who give fake references, Nannies who pose as PSP members to post recommendations about themselves (which led to using a dedicated Nanny Post Moderator), Nannies who create email addresses for their employers without their knowledge, references who give glowing recommendations to not so great Nannies because they are in a tough financial bind and need to 'unload' their Nanny, and candidates who give their interview to someone else to help out a friend. You name it, we've seen it.
While we feel that the overwhelming majority of people applying for Nanny positions are legitimate, wonderful people, our job is to prepare you for those few people who might be trying to work around the system and take advantage of new parents who don't know the ropes. We will give you ways of double checking references, asking pointed questions of references, testing the waters with job candidates, asking squirmy questions of candidates to see the way they handle themselves and more. We give you these resources so you can feel confident in hiring the person who will be in your home and with your child(ren) almost as much as you are with them.
- Move beyond yes/no questions. Get references and candidates to tell you stories about their experiences; direct yes/no questions do not give much info and interviewees find them hard to answer. "Can you give me an example" can be a good way to solicit a story.
- Ask personal questions. Find out about their own family and whether they have children of their own. This is not like a typical job interview where all personal information is off limits. Since you are hiring a domestic worker in your home there are many questions that are illegal to ask in the workplace ARE legal in this circumstance. Don’t be afraid to assess someone’s physical and emotional ability to care for your children. Questions of religion and politics should still be off the table unless you require certain religious considerations for the care of your child.
- You'll get better as you go. You also may find some of your notions about what you want in a Nanny doesn't fit reality. For example, you might start off thinking you want a caregiver for your newborn who has worked for a family for several years, figuring that means she is great. After a few interviews, you may realize a Nanny who has most recently cared for older kids and has no kids of her own may not be the best match for a newborn.
- Silence is a powerful response. If someone doesn’t answer a question or doesn’t answer it in a way you feel is not complete, give them longer to answer the question or ask for further information
- Ask really tough questions about what they want and are looking for. Try to make them be brutally honest about the perfect situation and try to only consider those that fit with yours.
- You want your child present during at least part of the interview to see how the two interact. But don't be too worried if the child seems unfriendly -- a Nanny candidate is just a stranger to them, after all. It might be more important to notice how the caregiver negotiates the situation.
- Rethink professionalism. Remember that some Nannies have been advised (by former employers) to be as professional as possible so make sure you don't write off a gem for trying to be professional!
- Trust your gut. If you have met with someone who seems perfectly nice but you just don’t think they would be a fit for your family’s needs, listen to your instincts. Admittedly the stress of hiring a nanny can make it hard to “hear” your gut, but ultimately you will know the difference between your nanny jitters and someone who is not the right candidate.
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: "Many times when we were interviewing, it wasn't even the answer so much as the thought process that went behind it, the enthusiasm in answering, whether there was hesitation, etc -- tells you a lot about a person and how they will interact with your kids!"
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: "I found it incredibly telling how [Nannies] related to my child during the interview. I think you can tell a lot when they immediately get down on the floor with them or start engaging them and when they ignore them and keep chatting with you. It's obvious that some people are just delighted by kids."
Talking on the phone with the candidate can help you get a better feel for whether or not you want to meet with them in person. Many people who have told us that longer phone interviews are awkward, don't tell you that much about a candidate, and make you feel obligated to invite someone out for an in person interview even when you know the person isn't right. Therefore, Park Slope Parents advises you conduct this quick phone interview to screen candidate availability and request an application, and then, if you feel like it, do more in-depth interviews with the references or candidates as a next step.
During these quick interviews you can verify some basic information, check their availability against you needs, test whether you “click” with them and request their application. This can help you weed out less serious candidates or those who may not have the skills to fill out an application (if that's important to you). Think of it as Speed Dating except with Nanny candidates. If you have 5 minute calls with 10 people you may find that you click with and want to pursue more contact with half. Think of the time savings compared to the typical 20 minute interview.
This initial phone interview is meant to be less than 5 minutes and designed to answer the following questions:
- Can the candidate fulfill the job requirements?
- Do you like the Nanny's overall tone and attitude
- Is the candidate willing to fill out the Job Application (and if not, why not?)
It's likely that the Nanny will ask to schedule an in-person interview. Do not feel obligated to interview everyone you talk to on the phone. You may feel like you should, or that they just spent time talking to you that you somehow "owe" them. Like the rest of the job market right now, there is more supply than demand and you have the ability to be picky. Feel free to say at the onset, "I'm doing an initial interview now and have many people who I am calling. I'd love to have you fill out an application. I will call you back if you made the first cut and I would like to speak more." While we feel it is only polite to tell serious candidates who you are not going to hire that you choose another candidate, these initial applications and initial phone interviews can be so numerous that it's very time consuming (one person went through 60 applicants) to follow up with everyone who is interested in a job with you.
NOTE: Phone interviews can be awkward. Some people (Nanny or potential employer) are great in person but not great on the phone. Having someone bullet questions at you on the phone can surely make anyone feel on the spot. So keep this in mind so that you don't let great ones get away by not following up.
You will want to screen for a few basic requirements based on your job description in order to save time interviewing clients who wouldn't be able to do the job. You can get candidates who may not be able to start when you need, are not willing to work at what you can pay, may not be as experienced as you'd like, not have the flexibility you need, may be allergic to pets, etc. One PSP member who posted an advertisement for a Nanny with twins experience was surprised to find that many Nannies had no experience with twins at all. A quick check of their experience can help you narrow down the right candidates.
Remember, this is a check-off interview, not an in-depth one. Mention this at the beginning, and use your good communication skills when you start the conversation by saying, "Is this a good time? I only need about 5 minutes." Try to stay on task and remember that you can talk about their experience with potty training at a later time.
- How long have you been a Nanny?
- For how many other families have you worked long-term as a regular Nanny?
- How old are the children you've taken care of in the past?
- When can you start?
- What are the typical hours and days of employment that you expect?
- The days and times I need coverage are _________. Can you work those days/times?
- (If important) What kind of flexibility do you have with scheduling? What other obligations do you have that might limit your flexibility?
- Discuss any after hours, travel, nighttime or other information the candidate needs to know about in order to determine whether they can fulfill the job.
- Are you open to being paid on the books?
- What salary do you expect?
- Are you willing to work at $X/hr or $Y/week for Z hours? (This will help you eliminate candidates you can't afford)
- If you are looking for a Nanny with certain skills such as language, sign language, twins, CPR training, special needs kids, newborns, etc., this is the time to ask.
<<Insert any special skills questions here>>
- Discuss if cleaning, cooking, or other miscellaneous housekeeping tasks are expected.
- Mention if you have pets and inquire whether that is an issue for the candidate.
- Mention if the job requires any strenuous physical activity (For example, carrying a double stroller up to a 4th floor apartment) and inquire whether that is an issue for the candidate.
- Do you think that you could fulfill the responsibilities of this job?
- Are you willing to fill out a job application so that I have a better idea of your background? Do you have an email and I can send you the application? (You can use this email to do Google and Facebook searches to find out more information about the candidates.)
- Are you still interested in the job?
"Once I receive all the applications I'll be making an initial cut since there are a large number of people who I'm reviewing. If you made that initial cut then you'll be hearing from me. Thank you very much for your time."
After you have conducted a phone interview with your prospective Nanny and received the Nanny Applications, it's time to narrow things down and find your gem.
Go through your applications, narrowing down the ones that look (and 'feel') good to you. When looking over written responses, consider the following:
- Does the background fit with my needs?
- Do the days and times work well or is it trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.
- How does the candidate communicate and express herself on paper?
We advise that the next step is to contact the Nanny’s references and screen through the candidates via the references before meeting with them. Checking a Nanny's references is one of the most important parts of the Nanny hiring process. Beyond finding out if they employer felt that the Nanny did a good job, it's also important to determine if her past and current job responsibilities mesh with what you would be expecting her to do and the reasons the current situation is(was) working. You also want to find out what the working situation was for the Nanny. Was she given 7 weeks off a year because of a lot of family travel along with Metro Card subsidy and big raises and bonuses? If so, she may be used to a cushier job than you have to offer and can make offer. This might not be a deal-breaker, but you should know what conditions she's been working under because her past history will impact her future expectations.
GOALS of Interviewing References:
- Does the parenting philosophy of the reference mesh with what is important to me?
- What is she used to in terms of pay, vacation, paid time off and responsibilities? Is what I'm offering going to be enough for her?
- Is this candidate someone you feel like you would want to hire?
- Is this reference legit?
(REMEMBER: Once you interview the references, compare answers of the reference and Nanny on the employer's occupation, the Nanny's salary, names and ages of the kids, etc.)
NOTE: Some people do this in the reverse order; meet the Nanny, then check the references. This can and does for work many people. If this feels better to you, feel free to skip to the next section on Questions for the In-person Nanny Interview and return to this section later.
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: "I found it best to interview the references. If the references sounded good (meaning they clearly were the employer and had actual useful information to offer) then I would meet with the Nanny."
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: "All references have wonderful things to say about their nannies. References are not necessarily good indication of good fit with your family."
Keep in mind that some Nannies may be leaving jobs for people they don't like (with the feeling being mutual). A contentious Nanny/Employer relationship can lead to a less than glowing reference for a fabulous candidate. Some employers are demanding, insulting, and disrespectful. (Yes, some Nannies are as well.) If you get conflicting references, it may be due to personalities. The key is determining if the candidate is a good match for your family, not the former employer’s family. So contact at least 2 references if your first impression was a good one. Once you do that, you can pursue in-person meetings with the Nanny.
Case in Point: One PSP member loved her Nanny, helped her find another job with what turned out to be Cruela DeVil. Nothing was going to make her new employer happy so making sure to vet the reference is an important part of the process. Asking questions about how many Nannies the person has had can help you flesh out what type of employer you are dealing with.
Case in point: One PSP member hired a Nanny who received RAVE reviews, especially for her ability to help around the house with cleaning. It turned out that that Nanny was a great house-cleaner but didn't really interact with the kids at all. Clean house, bored kids. That worked with the former employer (whose philosophy may have been that kids need to amuse themselves), but it did not with the new employer. So finding out what the reference believes are the most important tasks and comparing them to yours helps you find out if you will like the Nanny.
Park Slope Parents Tips for Interviewing Nanny Candidates' References:
Ask for Stories. Have the references tell you about specific situations they may encounter with your family. Finding out how the Nanny handled such as potty training, sleep training, and even how she adjusted into that family can help you see if the fit might work. Remember that every family is different, and what was great for one child might not be right for your kid.
Do your Homework. Search for the references on Google/ Facebook/ LinkedIn/ Craigslist. Also review the references’ posts on the Classifieds and Advice List. You can tell a lot about a person by the questions they ask and the answers they give. If you suspect they might be a helicopter, over-worried mom it can help you contextualize the Nanny and what her role in the household might have been.
Check your Circles. Find out if you have mutual connections, for example a teacher, tutor, sports club, or any other contact that might be able to talk to you about both the Nanny and their former Employee. Ask the references what classes the former Nanny used to take their kid to and then confidentially ask the class TEACHER how the Nanny behaved with the child. Research is essential. It makes no sense to spend months selecting the perfect stroller only to turn around and make only 2 calls about the person who will be co-raising your child. Of course you can do all this and still end up with a lemon, but you'll cut your chances of doing so and hopefully end up with a gem. There are many lovely caretakers out there."
Meet the References in person if you can! Offer to buy the reference a coffee or meet up at a local playground. Having a face-to-face meeting can help you decipher a lot about what the Nanny's had to deal with on a daily basis and what their family environment might be like. Additionally, just suggesting a meeting can help you determine a reference's legitimacy. If you are worried that you might have been given a fake reference (see warning signs here, and point 2 below <link>), asking to meet in person can also be a good test to gauge accuracy. If a false reference has been given, they probably won't want to meet you in person!
Be on the lookout for Hidden Agendas. Sometimes a reference may feel guilty about their Nanny's termination or may want to 'unload' the Nanny for financial reasons. As a result, they might hesitate in offering any negative feedback or criticism. Expect to always be reading in between the lines of what they tell you. During your conversation, if you notice any hesitation or the referee skirting away from a potential problem at any time, point this out to them and simply ask them why they seem reluctant or avoiding giving a direct answer to the question.
Find out what salary (or hourly rate) the Nanny was paid. It’s important to know what the Nanny was making at her last job. Compare that to going rates in the area, and if the reference says gives a figure that seems much too high, you could potentially looking at fake or alternatively, you've caught your potential Nanny in a lie which surely isn't a good thing! It also allows you to see if the Nanny will have an expectation that you can't meet.
Listen to how the Nanny is described. There is a big difference between an enthusiastic parent whose beloved and favorite Nanny has left for one reason or another, versus a friend who is posing as a referee and is giving a hard sell and pitching the Nanny as a perfect candidate.
Be on the alert for fake references! A Nanny with little or no prior experience might recruit friends or family members to pose as a prior employer. While it may be difficult to recognize one at first, there are some signals to watch out for. Make sure this person did actually employ your candidate as their Nanny and double-check what your Nanny told you with things like the dates/ages of kids, when care was provided, and even their names.
Tell the reference your wish list. What are the ideal qualities and tasks you are looking for your Nanny to perform? Write down the important things you see your Nanny doing with your kids and ask the references for examples of these qualities that help you see if the candidate fills your wish list.
Discuss your lifestyle and living situation. For example, if you have a pet, ask the referee how the Nanny was around animals. Or, if your family is really busy and hectic, you might need someone who is organized and punctual, so ask the referee how the Nanny kept to a schedule.
The reference interview covers the following areas:
Employment Basics (Does the Nanny have the experience you are looking for?)
Pay Rates/Vacation (What are her current pay and vacation expectations and will this be a step down?)
Employment Situation (What was the Nanny's work situation like and what is she likely to expect in the future?)
Personality (Does she have the type of personality that will jell with your family or might the relationship be a bit contentious?)
Social Scene (Is this a Nanny that knows the territory or will she need to acclimate? Is she a bench warmer Nanny?)
Job Responsibilities (Is she doing the types of things I am expecting or will this be more work –and money- than she's doing now?)
Transitions (Has she been good at transitioning children through different phases of their life?)
Work Agreement (Is she open to having things in writing to keep things clear?)
Job Execution (How well did she fulfill her job? Are there any red flags that make me think she's not fabulous?)
Parenting Philosophies (Is she open to my ways of parenting?)
Overall (Is this a person I'll want to know all my life or is she just an employee? Which am I really looking for?)
With these thoughts in mind, realize that you don't need to ask ALL of the following questions. Some of the questions depend on the situation-- if you are hiring a Nanny you don't know and who you have little knowledge of the reference you should be as thorough as possible. If the reference doesn't want to spend much time with you it may be that she's not 100% in love with the Nanny but needs to have her hired so she doesn't feel responsible for paying her.
When you make the call
You should ask the reference up front if you may speak to them more than once and see if that's okay. (If it's not, or they put suspicious qualifications on subsequent talks, it might be a red flag.) You may find that more questions come up as a result of the meeting with the Nanny you want more information about.
You learn a lot by just letting the references talk without prompting at first. Finding out what the reference says (and doesn't say) about the Nanny is an important part of the process. Also make sure to double check the details of their references’ post if you found her via a “Nanny Available” post online. Before you start bulleting the following list of questions at them (by all means don't feel like you need to ask each and every one of these questions), start with a very general, open-ended question that leaves the reference able to openly discuss the Nanny. You should also follow up most questions with a "Can you give me an example of this?", "Can you remember a time when this happened?", and "Tell me more."
Tell me about your Nanny and the things that you think I should know about her.
- How long have you known the Nanny?
- How did you find your Nanny?
- What was the date (month/year) she started working for you? (Cross-check this with the Nanny's application)
- How long did the Nanny work for you?
- How many children did the Nanny care for?
- From what age to what age did the Nanny take care of your child(ren)?
- Is the babysitter currently taking care of your child?
- Why did she leave? (It is amazing the different sides of the story you can get with this question!)
- How many hours did the babysitter work? If regular, what was the schedule?
- How many of her references did you check before you hired her? (Note the Names of the other references and double check these). Why did she leave her other jobs?
- What were the things that her references said about the Nanny that made you want to hire her? Have you found these things to be true? Were there any things she felt short on?
- Was she flexible in her work schedule or did she work only the hours you set forth? Did she ever work alternative days?
- Did you have a trial period?
- What was the employment situation?
- Were you at home when she was caring for your children or were you gone? How often? How was that situation? (Probe this specifically if you plan on working from home as some Nannies are better than others with parents around).
- Do you work? What do you do and where do you work? (Cross check to see if the Nanny knows these things)
- If you were gone during the day, did you ever check on her? Did you ever find her doing anything unexpected?
- Did she take your child(ren) out much? Where did she take them?
- Is she up on things like the story-times and the days that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is free?
- When you hired her did you have any reservations about her? How were these resolved?
- What was the Nanny's beginning and ending pay rate?
- How many hours did that cover?
- Did you give her a raise or change her pay?
- Did you give her bonuses? If you don't mind me asking, how much were they? Do you think this was above what other people were paying?
- Did you pay your Nanny overtime? Under what circumstances?
- Did she ever work nights for you? Travel with you? Do weekends for you? (If no ask, Do you think she would be open to it?)
- How many vacation days did she get?
- Did you give her vacation of her own choosing?
- Were there any issues about vacation or time off that were uncomfortable or had to be negotiated?
- What was she like as a person? For example, was she warm, strict, upbeat, or energetic? Quiet, patient, outspoken? Can you give me examples of how she was ____?
- Why did her personality work with your personality? With your child(ren)'s personality?
- What did you see as her strengths?
- What do you see as her weaknesses?
- Did you ever feel intimidated by your Nanny?
- Did you ever feel like she thought you were being too soft, mean, lenient, easy, spoiling?
- Would you describe her as a hard worker? Can you give me an example of this?
- Is she the type of Nanny who will read to kids willingly? Can you give me an example?
- Is she active with your child? That is, would she go down a slide with them? Or is she more hands off and lets them learn to play and amuse themselves?
- Is your Nanny neat? (Do you care?) What does the house look like during afternoon/evening hand-off? What about the diaper bag? Did she keep it well stocked?
- Is she structured or unstructured? Does she make things up throughout the day or does she already have her week planned on Monday? (OR Did you structure things for her?)
- No employee is perfect. If there was one thing that you would have liked your Nanny to do (or do more of), what was it?
- Is there anything about her personality or her lifestyle that you accept but don't really like?
- Does she keep to herself as an employer? If she saw one of your friends at the park would she sit and visit or do her own thing?
- How did she handle conflict? How about pressure? Stress? Ask for examples.
- What age children do you think the Nanny is best suited to take care of?
- How did you know that she didn't like a decision you had or was unhappy about something?
- What is her family like? Have you met any of her family members?
- Does she have children? How many and what are their ages?
- What does she do in her spare time?
- Does she have Nanny friends she hangs out with?
- Does she ever watch other people's children for other Nannies while she's watching yours? (Did she get paid extra? Did you ever pay her extra?)
- Do they ever meet/hang out at your place? Has this ever been an issue?
- Are you FaceBook friends with your Nanny? Has she ever posted anything that you were uncomfortable with?
- Does she seem to have a lot of "drama" in her life?
- Does she get along well with the other mothers and Nannies who may live in your building, at daycare, or who are your child's friends' Nannies?
- Do you think that anyone would describe your Nanny as one of the Park Bench Warmers who go to the playground with the children and sit in a circle with the kids strapped in their stroller? (How can you be sure your Nanny wasn't like this?)
- What kinds of activities did the babysitter do with your children? Give me an example of "a day in the life of _____"
- What additional duties did she perform for your family? Did she do any cleaning or errands? Laundry? Dishes? Were these part of her regular duties or did she only do these things once in a while? (Do you feel you paid her more for doing these things?)
- Did you expect her to come up with her own play dates or did you arrange these?
- Did she do things like text you updates or photos throughout the day? Was that something you wanted or asked her to do?
- Did she help you find a replacement if she was out sick? (Did you ask her?)
- Did she help you do things like tell you when you were almost out of something for the baby?
- One of the older Nanny Compensation Surveys results show that 28% did not agree with the statement: I feel 100% confident that our Nanny would know exactly what to do in case of an emergency situation. Have you had any emergency situations?
- How comfortable did you feel about her/his ability to handle an emergency? Did she/he ever have to react quickly to a medical problem or other issue? How did that go?
- Do you have an Emergency Plan? What was it?
- How was the transition when she started working for you? What types of things did you do to make sure that it was working? How long did it take? Was there a lot of crying? A little?
- What was the morning hand-off like? Did the Nanny ask questions about how your child(ren)'s night was? What you did over the weekend?
- Did your Nanny help you through any kid transitions such as potty training, sleep training? Do you feel she respected your desire to do things a certain way? Can you tell me the story of how you did things and how she handled things?
- Did you have another child when she was working for you? How did you’re the situation change in terms of pay, responsibilities, etc.? Tell me about the transition.
- Did you have to transition to a full-time or part-time daycare/preschool situation? Tell me about that and what you did in terms of responsibilities, pay, and the like.
WORK AGREEMENT/ NANNY CONTRACT/ LEGAL ISSUES
- Did you have a Work Agreement, Nanny Contract, or other written statement? Why not? Was there anything about it that came into question?
- Was she willing to sign one? Do you think she would be willing to sign one?
- Did you do a background check on your Nanny? Did you find anything?
- Do you know if she's authorized to work in the U.S.? Do you have any reason to believe that she is not?
- Was the Nanny punctual?
- Was the Nanny reliable and dependable? Can you give me an example of when she was/was not?
- Did the Nanny miss work for illnesses? How often and why?
- Did she have any health problems that limited her ability to do her job?
- How often was she sick? Did she take many sick days or personal days? How much time lead time did she give you?
- Did she ever bring the kids home later than you expected? Why?
- Did she complete all aspects of her job requirements? (Such as laundry, kids' dishes, etc).
- Did she ever go above and beyond what was required of her without being asked?
- How well did she/he follow directions?
- Were there things about her/him that you weren't happy with? Can you give me some examples?
- Has she done anything that makes you doubt her trustworthiness?
- Do you know her to be a smoker? Do you know if she drinks?
- Have you ever had friends (or strangers) tell you that your Nanny is wonderful?
REFERENCE'S PHILOSOPHY OF CHILDCARE/ RESPONSIBILITIES
(Knowing what kind of person the Nanny worked with will help you determine if this Nanny is the right fit philosophically for you)
- What are the things that you feel are important for the Nanny to do? For example:
- Do you organize play dates or do you want the Nanny to do that?
- Do you prefer for that the Nanny play with your child(ren) alone or do you prefer that your Nanny foster friendships with other kids?
- Do you want the Nanny to read to your child and actively teach your child(ren) things or is it more important that the Nanny play with your kids?
- What were your policies about things like sleeping and TV? Candy? Sleeping in the Stroller? Was it okay for the Nanny to run errands while at work? Taking your child(ren) on the subway?
- Did you ever have any differences in parenting philosophies? If so, what were the differences and did these differences ever cause conflict?
- Are you the type of person who wants to have updates about the child(ren)'s day with a daily log or texts or are you more hands off?
- Do you expect that your Nanny should be doing something while the kids are sleeping?
- Do you feel the Nanny supported your wishes on things like sleeping, eating, and discipline? Do you feel she did these wholeheartedly (you were on the same page) or did she do these things begrudgingly (or at all?)
- Did you ever feel like she didn't support your parenting choices? How did she communicate (or not communicate) this?
- How was this Nanny compared to others you've had?
- Do you think you will stay in touch with her after she stops working for you?
- Will you invite her to your child(ren)'s birthday parties in the future?
- If you had to do it over again would you hire this Nanny?
- If you would rehire her, what would you have done differently in the relationship?
- Do you recommend that I hire this person to be a Nanny for my children?
- Is there anything else I should take into consideration if I am going to hire this person?
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: "If you're hiring a Nanny for the first time, do yourself a favor and do not rely on references alone. Do background checks, ask SPECIFIC questions of former employers (was she ever late, did she call in sick a lot, is she trustworthy, what method of discipline did she use, etc.) and most of all, follow your gut.
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: "My big regret was not checking the Nanny's "Most Recent Employer" references. My Nanny provided outstanding references but for families she worked with over five years ago. I later found out that her recent references would not have recommended her, and I would not recommend her either going forward."
3) The First In-Person Interview
If you are happy with your initial phone conversation, their Nanny Application looks promising, and the references are glowing, it's time to meet your candidate face-to-face. This is when you can really cover deeper issues and find out about the Nanny's background to determine if you have found a match.
Goals of the Nanny Candidate Interviews
- Ask tough, sometimes unanswerable questions that are useful to determine the candidate's character
- Double check the accuracy of past answers
- Get a gut feel for someone who rises to the top; someone who feels like the one who will be a great fit for your family.
- Get information so you can begin to formulate the 'offer' you would be willing to make in terms of compensation and paid time off.
Much like interviewing references, it is important to let the caregivers talk at first without much prompting. What they say and don't say is an important indicator of what type of Nanny they will be. Also, as with the reference questions, pick and choose the ones that are best suited to your family and your needs.
Park Slope Parents Tips for Interviewing Nanny Candidates:
Ask for Stories about their experiences. Have the candidate tell you about past situations they have encountered during their past jobs. Find out the different ways the Nanny has tackled things like potty training, sleep training, and even separation issues. This will give you a sense of whether or not they have the experience you are looking for as well as their opinions about different transitions.
Get the Nanny's expectations. There are a lot of families who have been able to treat their Nanny's to a high paying, high benefits job. If that's not you you'll need to make sure that the candidate is okay with a lower salary. Many would swap a lower salary for a great family to work with, but if there's a threshold they need to make to survive in the big city, you need to know if what you're offering is a non-starter.
Listen to how the Nanny describes the children they've worked for. If the caregiver describes children as well-behaved, nice, and proper vs. rambunctious, creative and free-spirited you can get a sense of what's important to them and how they might influence your child.
Tell the Nanny your wish list. What are the ideal qualities and tasks you are looking for your Nanny to perform? Ask your Nanny if she feels it is realistic? (Note: this is the same list you talk to the references about).
Be honest with the candidate about what you're like as an employer. Do you like things "just so"? Do you need a lot of hand holding or do you want someone who will follow your rules and your philosophies of parenting? Are you scattered and forgetful so you'll need to be reminded about things you've talked about? Let the Nanny make an informed decision as to whether she wants to work for you before you hire her.
Consider having your initial meeting in a public place. Meeting in a public place, like a quiet coffee house or café, protects your family’s privacy and also avoids having nannies coming in and out of your home.
Check the ID of each Nanny Candidate. While it may seem overkill, this is one area where we've heard lots of stories. One Nanny was due to have a part-time interview with a family and since she really wanted a full-time job she gave her interview slot to her friend who was also on the job market. While the chances of this happening are slim, and we think that the vast majority of candidates are honest and trustworthy, double-checking will help you not have to second-guess that you are doing your due diligence to help your family make the best choice.
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE NANNY INTERVIEW:
On Being a Nanny (Ice Breakers)
- What would you like to tell me about yourself?
- Why do you like being a Nanny? Tell me some of the things that make your job fun.
- How did you get involved in childcare work? Why have you chosen this type of work as opposed to other types of work? Do you have any other career goals?
- What age children do you like taking care of best?
- When are you available to start working?
- What is your availability in terms of days and hours?
- What is your flexibility in case we end up getting caught up at work?
- Would you be able to work late nights? Weekends? Travel with the family if needed?
- Where do you live? How will you travel here? How would you get to work? (Is the Nanny reliant on the MTA or a ride from someone they know).
Past Work Experience
- Tell me about your past work experience. (Double check it against candidate's Application), the jobs you've had, the ages of kids, etc.
- How many total families have you worked for?
- Tell me about the best child you ever took care of. Describe the worst child you ever took care of. (This question gives you insight about the attitudes of the Nanny about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behavior.)
- Describe your jobs and why they ended.
- What additional duties did you perform for your past jobs? Did you do any cleaning or errands? Laundry? Dishes? Errands? Were these part of your regular duties or did you only do these things once in a while? (Do you feel you were paid her more for doing these things?)
- What were the arrangements you had with your last employer in terms of hours, benefits, pay, etc.? (Probe working nights, weekends, travel with the family, raises, money for additional kids, other benefits like MetroCard, raises, vacation).
- How many paid holidays and vacation did you get? Did you get vacation of your own choosing?
- Did you miss any work for illnesses? How often and why? Do you have any health issues that would limit your ability to do your job? Were you able to help find someone else to cover for you?
- No employer is perfect. If there was one thing that you would have liked your last employers to do (or do more or less of), what was it?
- Do you think all your former employers would all give you a positive reference? Why or why not?
- Tell me about the work style of your past employers. (Was it hands-off, you having lots of freedom, or did they have certain ways they wanted you to do things? Did you feel you had a great relationship? Tense one?)
- Have you stayed in touch with the families you've worked for beyond seeking references? What types of things have you done with the family?
- Have you had reviews of your performance in the past? How have those been?
- What are some of the arrangements or rules in other households that you think work well?
- Which arrangements or rules haven't worked for you?
- What experience do you have with parents who work from home? What are the things that have worked in making sure that you feel able to do things without feeling spied on?
- Have you had a situation when you transitioned from more full time to part time? How was this transition handled monetarily and responsibility-wise?
On the Job Experience
- Which infant carriers have you used to carry babies? About how old were the children when you stopped using them?
- Have you ever done sign language with a baby? Is it important to talk to a baby under 6 months old?
Dream Job (and dream employer)
- What is your idea of a dream job?
- What qualities do you look for in an employer?
- Were there any things about your last job you'd like the next job to have? Not have?
- What do you feel is not your job? (What are the things that you do NOT want to do in your next job?)
- What household tasks, if any, are you willing to perform (i.e., laundry, dishes, shopping, cooking for children, other cleaning tasks)?
- Do you have any pet peeves about parents or children you've worked for in the past?
- How feel about working with me at home (if applicable)?
- How do you feel about my involvement in keeping an eye on how much she's eating, sleeping, etc.?
- Describe the job requirements and pay you are offering. Does this seem reasonable?
- Are you open to writing down an account of my child(ren)'s day?
- Are you open to texting me or sending me photos of things you do throughout the day? (I would of course help you pay part of your cell phone bill if it's something you are willing to do).
- Are you legally authorized to work in the U.S.?
- Do you want to be paid on or off the books? Why or why not? (For a guide on how to pay on the books, see here)
- What would you expect to earn per hour or week?
A Day in the Life
- Give me an example of a typical day of work for you. What would a typical day involve with a child my child's age?
- What would you do with my child on a rainy or cold day?
- What types of baby gadgets have you used with the other children you've been with (Prompt for Bumbo seat, baby bottles, nose aspirators, etc). Which ones have you found to be useful? A waste of money?
- Do you know your way around Brooklyn? Manhattan? Park Slope? (If you hire a Nanny who has not worked in the neighborhood you live in then there will be a learning curve to know where the story-times are held, the music classes, etc. You may need to show the Nanny the ropes). Do you know where things like story-times are and the days that the Botanic Garden is free to the public?
- Do you know any other babysitters in the neighborhood that you would see regularly if you worked for me? Who are they? What are the ages of the children they take care of? (Get names and names of their employers if you want to be extremely thorough).
- How do you feel about play dates with other children? Are you open to play dates arranged by the parents?
- Do you ever watched other people's children for other Nannies? (If so, what were the details?)
- Do you ever hang out at the park together? Do you hang out at one of the employers' houses?
- Do you think that anyone would describe you as one of the Park Bench Warmers who go to the playground with the children and sit with their kids strapped in their stroller?
What kind of Employee are you?
- Do you feel you are regularly on time or do you have a tendency to be a bit late? (Will you be upset if I am occasionally late coming home from work?)
- Are you the type of person who wants to do your own thing, giving a verbal recap at the end of the day OR someone who would prefer to have their employer give you the things they would like you to do? Can you give me an example?
- Have you felt supported and respected by your past employers? In what ways could they have done more to appreciate the job that you do?
- Were there situations when your former jobs were stressful? How were they stressful and what did you do about to deal with the stress?
- Do you consider yourself outgoing or do you keep more to yourself? Why?
- Do you tend to do only what is agreed upon or do you take the initiative to do other things that you haven't discussed? (e.g., clean out the refrigerator when the baby is asleep)
- Have you worked for people that are a bit of a controlling type, wanting you to follow her rules precisely and who got upset if you tried to do something a different way that you felt would work just as well? (If it has been tough, ask, What adjustments have you had to make to have a good working relationship with the person?)
- Would you describe yourself as a "Sporty" Nanny (sliding down the slide) or more of a "Hands-off" Nanny (letting kids learn to play by themselves or with their friends)?
- Do you like to give your ideas and opinions about the way things can be done? Have you found that parents you have worked for are open to your suggestions?
- Do you prefer a relationship that this strictly employer/employee or do your past employers know details about your life outside work? (It will always be a little of both, but if you don't want to be chatty with us or have us ask you about your personal life outside work, we can arrange things so that we are both comfortable).
- Would you describe yourself as neat and organized?
- Are you laid back about things in your house or does everything have its place? How have the people you've worked for dealt with cleaning the house and how have they involved you in this process?
- Do you tend to keep to yourself? If you saw one of my friends at the park would you sit and visit or do your own thing?
- What are your thoughts of developing a routine? Do you think it is important? If so, how would you establish a routine in a child(ren)'s schedule?
- What are some of the strategies you've used to handle a crying baby?
- Have you ever taken care of a colicky baby? Tell me about that.
- How would you handle a temper tantrum in a grocery store if a toddler was insistent on you buying candy and you saying 'No"? Does your behavior change if it's a temper tantrum they throw at home?
- Sometimes there are parenting decisions that parents make that you might not agree with. Can you give me an example of a time when you might not have totally agreed with a parent's decision? What, if anything, did you do about it?
- How you handle conflict?
- What methods of limit setting or discipline do you find effective for this age? Have you used time-outs?
- What would you do with a child who refuses to take a nap?
- What is your opinion of sleep training and having kids "cry it out"?
- What would you do if the child hits? Pulls hair? Bites? Have you taken care of kids who did these things?
- What are your views on discipline? Do you believe in spanking and time outs? Have you ever slapped or spanked child? Grabbed them too hard to leave a mark?
- What would you do if you disagreed with me about a childcare issue? Have you dealt with that before?
- Have you ever suspected that a child in your care was being sexually molested by someone?
- What if my daughter asked you to keep a secret? What would your response be?
- What would you do if you saw a child fondling himself or herself?
- How would you handle a situation of this nature?
- What ideas do you have if my toddler decided to start crawling out of the crib?
- How do you feel potty training should be approached? How have you helped children with potty training in the past?
- What are the types of things you've done with your former families that helped get through some tough stage of their life such as potty training, sleeping, or eating?
- How do you feel transitioning from the bottle should be approached?
- Did you have to transition to a full-time or part-time daycare/preschool situation? Tell me about that and what you did in terms of responsibilities, pay, and the like.
Discuss the following (preferably in writing via a Work Agreement):
- What experience do you have in reviewing and negotiating a Work Agreement with past employers? Have you ever signed one? Are you okay with reviewing and possibly signing a written Nanny Work Agreement?
- Have you ever had a background check done on you? Would you be okay having me do that?
- Discuss in advance policy on your vacation time - would it be paid at full rate, part rate or not at all
- Discuss which meals (if any) you would provide for your sitter
- Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
- Were there ever any emergency situations that came up when you were taking care of kids? Tell me about it? Did you have the authority to make decisions for the child(ren) if the parents weren't available?
- Was the child ever in the hospital? Did you go to visit them?
- Did the family you worked for have an Emergency Plan in case something happened?
- Do you know how to use a fire extinguisher?
Their Past: Family Life
- Tell me about your family. Do you have siblings? How is your relationship with them?
- Tell me about your childhood and your current relationship with your family. How were you raised?
- What did your parents do for a living?
- Are there any drug or alcohol problems your family’s background?
Their Present; Personal
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have children? What are their ages? Would you plan on bringing your children to work with you? Who takes care of the kids when she's at work? What types of things do I need to be aware of if you get the job so that you can continue to be a good mom to your kids?
- Issues with pets? Allergies? Other health conditions? Dietary restrictions?
- Do you drink? How often do you drink?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
- Do you have CPR or First Aid training?
- Can you swim?
- Can you drive? Do you have a car?
- What is the highest level of education you've completed? Have you ever taken child development or education classes?
- What television shows do you enjoy watching? What shows have you watched in the last few weeks? What are you favorite channels?
- What types of music do you listen to?
- What are your favorite foods? What do you like to eat for lunch?
- Do you like to read? Do you mostly read fiction or non-fiction?
- Do you read the newspaper? When do you read the paper?
- Do you belong to any organizations outside of work (Church? Parades?)
- What do you like to do in your free time?
Future Job Requirements
- Do you ever care for more than one family's children at the same time? How do you feel about the possibility of doubling up occasionally?
- Are you willing to take our child to gymnastics/activity groups, which may or may not require your active participation?
- Are you willing to supervise friends of our child who are invited to our home while you are in charge? (Do you expect to get compensated for this?)
- Are you comfortable reviewing and assisting with homework?
- Are you okay transitioning in a few years to a more part-time childcare and part-time housecleaner arrangement?
- How do you feel about working with me at home (if applicable)?
- How do you feel about my involvement in keeping an eye on how much she's eating, sleeping, etc.?
- What are some of the arrangements or rules in other households that you think work well?
- Which arrangements or rules have and haven't worked for you in the past?
- What qualities do you look for in an employer?
Discuss your child(ren)
- Tell your Nanny their ages and current developmental stages
- Talk about the kind of personality you believe your child(ren) to have. Also discuss how other people (grandparents, other Nannies) have had different relationships with your child.
- Discuss any special needs and requirements including sleep, food, routines, friends, appointments, house, etc.
- Talk about your child(ren)’s interests and activities
- Talk about family philosophy and the basic ground rules you expect in regard to childcare? Here's where PSP members come down on the topic of different policies and how many are 'okay' with certain behaviors. (NOTE: What you want your Nanny to do and what others do are not really related, but we want you to see where people in general come down on these issues):
73% Watching TV while child(ren) sleeps
60% Using the computer/Internet while my child(ren) sleeps
58% Napping while my child(ren) naps
40% Running her personal errands while on duty
33% Personal calls on our home phone
30% Giving treats to the child(ren), such as ice cream or candy
29% Unlimited personal calls on her cell phone while watching my child(ren)
24% Taking my child(ren) shopping just to shop
21% Inviting friends or other Nannies to our house (NOT a play date situation)
16% Taking my child(ren) to visit friends or other Nannies (not a play date situation)
13% Taking my child(ren) to the Nanny's home
8% Taking care of other child(ren) (e.g., Nanny's friend's child(ren)) at the same time
6% Using the computer/Internet while my child(ren) is awake
5% Watching TV while my child(ren) is awake
2% Listening to headphones while with child(ren)
Discuss family values
- Discuss your child(ren)’s eating habits and rules (are treats allowed? If so, how often and when).
- Talk about modes of discipline and what you would expect your Nanny to do in general and specific situations.
- Discuss your parenting style (e.g., do you sleep-train?) and how you see your Nanny fitting into that.
- Go over household rules -
- These are just a few to consider:
- No smoking
- Must watch child at all times if in the bathtub/pool
- Must watch child at all times if outside
- Are boyfriends or friends of the Nanny allowed to enter the home or interact with the children?
If you are serious about a candidate it's not a bad idea to include a skeleton of a Work Agreement when they leave the interview. That way the Nanny has a clear idea of what the pay, vacation, sick days and job requirements will be for the job. You may also want to schedule a second interview for the finalists, this time with your family present (if your children and/or partner were not already). In any case, a second interview can allow you to ask the things you didn't think of the first time. (Go over the Contract at this point). This is a good opportunity to also discuss the aspects of the Nanny Agreement that will be important to your employment situation. Here you are able to see if there are any deal breakers that may potentially get in the way of a hire.
c. Evaluating Candidates
You may be thinking the hard part is over: you have compiled a shortlist of what seem to be great, qualified Nannies. It is important to take your time and not rush your evaluation - as tempting as it may be. Your decision is crucial. There are many things you need to look at and ask yourself when you evaluate candidates. And there are no short cuts to selecting a Nanny! There is no easy way to finding the right match, so take your time and don't rush any of the steps Park Slope Parents has outlined for you.
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: "I had a really good gut feeling about our babysitter (that we'd click and that she would be good with my daughter) and interviewed a bunch of others. I just didn't have the gut feeling about the others. I think the gut feeling is absolutely the most important thing as long as it's backed up by all of your other basic requirements."
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: “Trust your instincts when hiring a Nanny. A Nanny becomes part of your intimate day-to-day life and has a huge impact on the development of your children. Be patient with the process of hiring someone. Being able to freely communicate is key!”
Job Expectations: the clearer you are in knowing what you need and want in a Nanny, the easier it will be to eliminate candidates. Park Slope Parents has put together an evaluation checklist including questions to ask yourself:
Do the qualification match with the family?
- Does the Nanny have the right experience to match what you are looking for?
- Did you verify all the basics:
- Start date and days worked?
- Compensation Package (time off, holidays, cab ride home)
- Does your candidate have the skill set needed to do the job, but more importantly, do the job well?
- How did the candidate respond to your list of requirements? Was there any hesitation on his or her end?
- Remember that your childcare situation may change (for example, school and increased extracurricular activities). Have you addressed future working scenarios and potential changes/transitions with your candidate?
- Was your candidate punctual? Was he or she on time to all the scheduled interviews? If your candidate cannot even make the interview on time it is a bad sign!
- Was your candidate neatly dressed and presentable? Did she wash her hands when she came in to the house?
- Did your candidate come prepared to the interviews? Did he or she bring any materials like a notebook? Did she ask you questions about the job?
- How did your candidate interact with the family? Did they seem engaged, warm and interested in the baby? Did it seem sincere? Is she comfortable holding your baby (if applicable). (NOTE: Some candidates may be shy at first, but try to gauge their eye contact and body language as indicators of a good communicator)
- Did the Nanny ask questions? Were they based mostly on things like pay and hours or did they also ask questions about your child(ren), your work, and the household details?
Do your due diligence! Have you done all your homework and covered all the potential problems?
- Have you checked with all the possible references you can? Are there any holes in her job story?
Did you carefully go over the Work Agreement with the candidate? Were there any reactions to what was presented, and if so, what might those reactions indicate?
- - Did you go over all on the job expectations, and the nitty gritty of the Work Agreement. Have you covered potential problems and issues such as:
- If the Nanny has children will she be bringing them to work on occasion? Does she herself have adequate childcare?
- What will you do if the Nanny (or her children) is sick and unable to come to work?
Finally, it is important that you trust your instincts and listening for subtle danger signs! What is your gut instinct telling you?
Before making a final decision: Sleep on it!
Sometimes a candidate can look great on paper, and logically is a perfect hire. But for some reason, you worry she’s not the right one. Don’t discount that feeling. You’ve been told a thousand times to follow your instincts when it comes to your baby, and just about every baby book you've read has told you that if you don't do it their way that you're doing it wrong. It's no surprise that you're conflicted about who you are hiring, but go with your gut. Sure, you’ll worry no matter who you hire. But there are normal, is-she-feeding-him-the-same-way-I-do worries, and then there are deeper, more gut-level I-just-don’t-feel-right-about-this worries. Don’t feel bad. Keep looking.
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: “Am I comfortable leaving my baby with this woman for 10 hours a day, every day, from Monday to Friday?”
PSP recommends you establish a "trial period" for you and your babysitter to see how things go and how you get along. This period can also serve as a transition period for your child. It also gives BOTH parties the ability to end the relationship (as difficult as it would be to go back to the drawing board) if it's not working out without the feelings of guilt that happen if there is NOT a written trial period. Realize that some Nannies won't like this because they would like to feel more secure in their new job, but it really is the best for both parties!
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE:“There's only so much you can find out during an interview. It's important to try out the Nanny for a day or two, and to trust your instincts. If you feel there's something about the Nanny that's bothering you, it [probably] won't change. In fact, chances are that the feeling will only grow stronger. Also, it's important that you speak with references whose babies cared for by the Nanny were of about the same age that your baby is. Because a Nanny is great with a 1-year-old doesn't mean she'll be great with a baby.”
Making an offer and the final negotiations with a Nanny include a job offer and a discussion of specific terms of employment. It is imperative you and the Nanny have a clear idea of each other’s expectations coming out of prior interviews. Issues such as pay, overtime, hours, vacation days, holidays, household duties and rules should be discussed initially in the interview to make sure each party is amenable to the terms of employment. The final negotiations should be just a matter of routine since you’ve discussed these up front.Be careful to discuss pay in hourly rate terms, understand your overtime situation, and when paying on the books be careful to differentiate gross pay (before tax deductions) and net pay (after tax deductions or take home). The paycheck and hourly rate calculator on a website like HomeWork Solutions Inc.’s can help you with the math and give you the detail to share with the nanny.
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: “We hired our Nanny when the economy was good and so were generous with pay and perks such as MetroCard and paying for a cell phone (she didn't have one). When the economy tanked we had to cut back on hours and began to resent those other payouts a little bit. Also she had gotten used to her phone and resented it a little when I switched to a cheaper plan with fewer minutes, etc. I think if I had to do it all over again, I would have been more conservative in the beginning. I might had negotiated paying 1/2 of her MetroCard since we were laying out money for the phone or gotten the cheaper phone plan to begin with. It's easier to add things later than to take them away. And I think I would have been more clear-cut about how vacations and personal time work. In the end we pay our sitter for 52 weeks of work a year regardless of how much time we or she takes. And I'm not sure if that's typical or overly generous on our part.”
• Make sure your references offer a detailed description: “Ensure strong references. Discuss all details of schedule and day's plan and expectations. Be sensitive to transition moments for children- from parents to Nanny and back again. Be clear to Nanny and children about who is in charge and when.”
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: "My opinion, which is by no means an expert one, is to hire a Nanny who has a similar parenting style that you guys have. You are essentially hiring a second you, a person to be you when you are at work, so they should have roughly the same child rearing style as you do. Not just with [whether or not a baby should cry it out, but with other things too. I'm a non smoker, so my child's caregiver will definitely not be a smoker. Listen to your gut, it's usually a good indicator of the right choice. Hope that helps!"
Final negotiations with a Nanny include a job offer and a discussion of specific terms of employment. It is imperative you and the Nanny have a clear idea of each other’s expectations coming out of prior interviews. Issues such as pay, overtime, hours, vacation days, holidays, household duties and rules should be discussed initially in the interview to make sure each party is amenable to the terms of employment. The final negotiations should be just a matter of routine since you’ve discussed these up front.
Trust your gut. While references might be glowing, if you don’t feel right about a hire, don’t do it. If you aren’t feeling right about someone you’ve hired, find another caregiver.
Now that you've made an offer (and hopeufully have a new Nanny), let's get on with the Orientation and New Relationship!