Some families decide that hiring a nanny is the right choice for their childcare needs. The key, then, is to ensure you understand how to effectively screen and interview a nanny before hiring them to take care of your little love.
Why Choose a Nanny for Childcare
When it’s time for your family to choose childcare for your little love, there are several options—daycare centres, home-based childcare providers, and nannies. Each approach has its pros and cons; here are the benefits that families typically note when choosing to hire a nanny for childcare:
- At-home care provides stability to parents and children, helping children to thrive.
- One-on-one care fosters a sense of security in children and supports bonding with the caregiver.
- Children cared for at home are less likely to get sick.
- Parents can enjoy more flexibility and set the terms of the employment, as they are, after all, the employers rather than just the customers.
- If there’s more than one child in the home, a nanny can be more cost effective than a daycare centre.
What to Look for in a Nanny
There are a number of qualities your family may desire in a nanny, so it’s important to organize and specify these before looking at applicants. Here are some things your family should consider before beginning your search:
- Do you need a full-time or part-time nanny?
- Do you need a live-in nanny?
- Do you need an overnight nanny?
- What kinds or level of experience should the nanny have?
- What kinds or level of education should the nanny have?
- What household chores or other tasks do you need the nanny to do?
- Are there any personal philosophies or beliefs that are important for your nanny to have or share?
There are also a range of nanny types and specializations from which to choose:
- Newborn specialist nannies: These nannies have extensive training and experience in helping parents care for their newborns. This often includes 24-hour assistance during the first few weeks after coming home from the hospital and help with learning how to nurse.
- Temp nannies: Temporary nannies are just that—nannies who aren’t with your family long-term. This might be for back-up care, emergency care, or to fill in for another kind of gap, and these engagements my last a few hours, a few days, or weeks or months.
- Multiples nannies: These nannies have training and experience in handling twins, triplets, or more multiples.
- Sleep training nannies: Sleep trainers help parents tackle sleep training and often come equipped with tried-and-true approaches to creating sleep schedules and getting the whole household on a healthy, effective sleep routine.
- Governesses: For older littles, a governess is qualified to educate the child in the home full- or part-time. However, this type of nanny doesn’t typically help with household functions.
How to Do a Nanny Interview Screen
There are several steps to conducting an effective, thorough screening of a potential nanny—especially if you’re interviewing and screening on your own and not using an agency.
Perform a thorough background check.
Screening a nanny should begin with a background check. Not only do you want to ensure the applicant is who they say they are, but you’ll also want to see if there’s anything worth noting or asking questions about in their past—or present.
Request and review work history.
Not only should you know who prospective nannies have worked for in the past, you should speak to each former employer—not just those who are listed as references. If your applicant has work history unrelated to nannying—even unrelated to childcare—review that as well, which includes calling to verify work history. If there are any gaps in work history, note them and follow up with the applicant about them. Gaps aren’t in and of themselves a negative, but it’s important to understand why they’re there.
Interview thoroughly and thoughtfully.
Types of questions to ask during an interview may include:
- Background and employment questions:
- “Tell me about your family and childhood.”
- “What is your current position and why are you looking for a new one?”
- “What are you looking for in your next position?”
- “When can you start your next position?”
- “What are your salary requirements?”
- “What are your strengths? Your weaknesses?”
- “What are your professional goals, near- and long-term?”
- “What are your hobbies?”
- Childcare and knowledge questions:
- “Why did you choose to be a nanny?”
- “What do you think makes you a good nanny?”
- “What do you enjoy best about nannying?”
- “What do you find the most interesting about being a nanny?”
- “What do you find challenging about being a nanny?”
- “What kind of experience do you have with [a child your child’s age]?”
- Related abilities and tasks:
- “What household tasks are you comfortable doing as part of your nanny role?”
- “Are there household tasks you will not or cannot do as part of your nanny role?”
- “What kind of first-aid training and/or certification have you received?”
- “How would you handle [a type of emergency]?”
- “Do you cook?”
- “What would you cook for a child [your child’s age]?”
- “Can you drive, and do you have a driver’s license?”
- “Do you own a car, and if so, how large is it?”
- “What safety features does your vehicle have?”
- “What kind of car insurance do you have?”
- “Are you willing to drive the child places?”
- “Are you willing to run errands?”
- “Are you willing to babysit other children or supervise playdates?”
Ask open-ended questions whenever possible instead of relying on yes-or-no questions. Take plenty of notes—consider preparing a checklist of some kind, as well.
This step may seem like reviewing and verifying work history, but it’s not. Call each reference listed by an applicant and confirm how they know the applicant. Ask questions—and wait for answers. If possible, see if you can sniff out a third-party reference: someone who knows both the applicant and one of the references who can act as a cross-check.
Set up a second, working interview
If previous steps have gone well, this step is key to ensuring your nanny applicant will be a good fit. It’s also a good way for everyone in the family to wade into a new routine with a new person. Here are some tips for setting up and conducting a working interview:
- Choose a typical day. Help everyone start out on the right foot by choosing a day that will follow a typical schedule—avoid appointments, holidays, or any other atypical additions to the day.
- Shadow all day—but give everyone some space. Plan to be home during the entirety of the working interview, but don’t hover. Let the nanny show you how they approach daily tasks. Consider finding opportunities to leave the nanny with your little one one-on-one so they can both start connecting and feel more at ease.
- Keep it about the kid (or kids). Even if your nanny will be doing household chores or errands as a function of their employment, this working interview should focus on childcare-related tasks only.
- Take lots of notes. Instead of interjecting, take notes of things you notice, things you like, and things you’d like to adjust.
- Regroup, ask for feedback, and pay. At the end of your scheduled time together, sit down with the nanny and discuss how the day went. Ask them for feedback about how they felt the day went and how they felt about interacting with your child. Offer your own feedback and pay them for their time; a working interview should always be paid.
If you choose to go through a service or agency to find your family’s nanny, some of these steps may be handled for you. You’ll still want to do your due diligence, though, so ask the agency representatives and nannies for additional documentation as you deem necessary.
Red Flags when Screening a Nanny
While there are obvious warning signs that may crop up when interviewing a potential nanny, here are some specific red flags to watch out for:
- Unprofessionalism. Arriving late, dressing inappropriately, and asking to be paid in cash are all marks of an unprofessional potential hire.
- Lack of interest in—or clear dislike of—children. Children are the whole reason you’re speaking with the candidate, so if they don’t show an interest in your little one or seem to have enthusiasm for the work, that’s not a good sign.
- Lack of integrity. Ask your potential nanny how they might feel if you conducted drop-in checks during the first weeks of employment—how do they react? Can they speak to specific portions of their resume in a way that aligns with them being truthful about their experience?
- Lack of honesty. If your applicant won’t provide appropriate information for a background check or for you to review references, this is a red flag.
- Lack of self-esteem. Interviews are of course nerve wracking, but if your applicant engages in an unusual amount of negative self-talk, that may be a bad sign. Have their previous positions all been short-term—why?
Taking the time to find the right nanny for your family is key to ensuring a happy, healthy fit for everyone. Prepare with this overview, you’re well suited to transition to in-home care.