Nanny Interview Questions

Received Friday, May 18, 2007
I am currently interviewing for nanny jobs in several neighborhoods of New York City. I've gotten these interviews through two different agencies, both whom have run extensive background checks on me and checked all of my references.

My ideal family is one with two or more children where both parents work, so these are people who have had nannies in the past and (for the most part) are familiar with the process of interviewing a nanny. Because of that fact, I can't help but be totally flabbergasted by what I've experienced so far. There always comes a point in the interview where the parents ask if I have any questions for them (no family has failed to directly ask me that). They seem shocked when they realize that I do in fact have multiple questions for them. I usually ask:

1) What is your discipline style and in what situations do you expect your nanny to adopt your methods and in what situations do you feel there should be different styles between nanny and parent?

2) Was there a time when you were disappointed with the level of communication between yourself and your nanny? How did you handle that?

3) Has there been a conflict in the past between one of your children and the nanny? If so, how did you handle it?

4) What do you like best about your current nanny? What do you like least?

I get the feeling that the parents don't like the fact that I'm interviewing them, but that's the reality. I think that when I get the shocked faces from parents I'm correct to immediately count them out as potential employers, but I thought I'd ask for opinions on here. Don't parents understand that their potential nanny is interviewing and sizing them up in just the same way that their evaluating her?


Anonymous said...

I would dig you, and you would dig me. I have my NANNY BIBLE which would answer any question you care to ask, guaranteed.

Alas, I love my nanny and she loves me, so I won't cheat on her with you.

Good luck on your search!

j said...

Employers lie all the time. Have you ever once had an employer say "the last nanny left because I was a bitch". It does happen, you know! Some people are suited to manage a crate of pigeons, let alone people.

Anonymous said...

good for you..ask questions....the more the better....if they can't handle it let them go.
take your time, you will find the best one for you
good luck

Anonymous said...

3:02 - I love it! You won't cheat on your nanny! That should be added into Nanny contracts!

hedgetoad said...

I believe that most potential nannies don't ask questions like that or come to the interview prepared. It may be that they haven't come into contact with someone who truly wants things to be professional.

I probably wouldn't automatically count any parent out because they were stunned by the questions, but make a mental note about their inexperience with this level of professionalism. It isn't necessarily a bad thing - everyone is a "first-timer" at some point and maybe they're looking to move up on the professional scale.

Anonymous said...

and there you see why some parents go out of their way to hire subpar childcare workers. they have this thing about being the one in charge. god forbid the nanny ever asks one question! those people-ew my skin just crawls. the best people to work for are happy, confident and generous people. I don't play games.

Anonymous said...

in any kind of job, Know what you are getting into!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the original poster that the interview is a 2-way process, since you are looking for a good match. I would be probably be one of the flabbergasted parents - not because I don't welcome those questions - but because it would be very out-of-the-norm. In past nanny interviews, whenever I've asked if she had a question for me, it was always about pay or benefits or if she can use the car, etc. I only had one nanny that asked me any questions about child-care issues. She asked me how my child naps, etc. And she's the one I hired (among other reasons), but I really appreciated that she was professional and cared about finding a good match between her and my caregiving styles.

mensa mom said...

A smart employer would welcome these questions!

bree said...

I'm laughing my ass off at this, because I have been in the same situation. I was actually interviewing clients for my home daycare and had to be very selective in who I was taking since it was only two clients. One mother who was impressed with me (of course, I'm awesome :))wrote me an email and told me that she decided that she definitely wanted to bring her child to me because I was soo wonderful and exactly what she was looking for and that she and her husband wanted to fill out the paperwork right away. I reminded her that I still needed to make a decision between her and another client and that I would let her know by the end of the week.
I never heard from her again!
Yes, they want to be in charge. Well we as professionals should not let them: it should be a partnership.
Go sister: you are doing it exactly right!!!

meg said...

Having just hired a nanny recently, I was told by the agency that this nanny left her last position under unfortunate circumstance. There was a personal issue in the home, not of the nanny's cause and the nanny chose not to deal with it. Her former employer's flipped out when she left. The agency told me this but still provided the number and said, "I have no idea what they will say to you, but I think you should call them". I did. I spoke to the father at length and then the mother phoned me back later that evening (I had not requested the call). Each of the parents took turns in railing this nanny. She was lazy, slovenly, cash funds were not accounted for, she stole groceries, she mistreated the family pet, she screamed at the children, she was unreliable, she lied. I could go on and on. I should have recorded the conversation. The amusing story is that the nanny had worked (or should I say "stuck it out" with that family for 2 years and 4 months and for no other reason then her attachment to two young children who needed her. I didn't ask the obvious question ("why did you have such a reprehensible person in your home for over two years?"). Instead, I called the nanny up and invited her to come and spend a week with us on a trial basis. That was three years ago. She is now attending nursing school in the evenings. A greater treasure, we could not have unearthed!

If I were a nanny, I would ask for references from the former nanny or nannies. If the employer said it ended on bad terms, I think the nanny should say, "yes and I will keep that in mind when I speak with her".

It should be a two way street. And if the nanny that works for us now had the luxury of speaking to her predecessor (who was there only 4 months-she never would have taken the position).

The OP said...

Thanks 6:10, I never really thought of asking for a reference from a former employee. That's a great idea.

Anonymous said...

When I go on an interview I ask similar questions. I also ask how long the last nanny was with them, and why she left. Of course if she left because of negative things about the job, they won't tell you that, but since they aren't expecting the question, you can tell a lot by how they react. If they rave about her, and are sad that she is leaving, they are probably great to work for.
Keep asking your questions. If they are put off by them, you don't want that job. It is so important to find a compatible match with your work family. There are wonderful families here who want a professional nanny, and will be happy to find you. Good Luck!
UES Nanny

The Happy Sahm with PT help said...

rule of thumb for a friend of mine who placed nannies with LA celebrities for 9 years. Never, ever go to work for someone who doesn't have something good to say about their last nanny. The only exception is if she was with them for less than a year. The longer the nanny was with a family, the more nice things they should have to say about her. If they don't- this is a red flag. Would you want to replace a nanny who was fired for no reason after 3 years of dedicated service, who was never allowed to say good bye to the children, write them a letter, etc?
Think about it.
Save yourself the hassle.
The years you waste working for tyrants and toxic people-
you'll never get them back.

Anonymous said...

I always ask similar questions when meeting a new family - even if it is just an occasional, as-needed position. By asking them it shows the parents you are confident and are going to stand up for yourself. It also opens the door for a relationship with great communication from both parties.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with the Happy Sahm. Having bad things to say about your prior nanny, or not being able to speak well of her is is not evidence that you are a bad employer or toxic. Sometimes you think you have an incredible nanny and then something happens -- maybe she was lying to you all along and you were too naive to spot it. Maybe, because you didn't have a nanny cam, you didn't realize that she was one way when you were around and completely different when you left.

Or maybe the nanny grew complacent or disgruntled and started pushing you too far because she assumed you would never fire her since your child loved her so much.

Finding out several years in that your nanny is no longer (or perhaps never was) the person you believed her to be is awful enough without someone else branding you as toxic and couseling new prospective nannies to stay far away from you.

Anonymous said...

I somewhat agree with 12:06
It doesn't mean you are a bad employer or toxic. If it takes you SEVERAL years to find out that someone isn't who they seem, I would just assume you're stupid.
I mean, seriously. Come on!

I think the Happy Sahm's was applying her comments to thinking people. If the would be nanny spoke to a former nanny who did nothing but bash and insult her boss and she-the nanny had been there for years- she too would look like an ass.

They're really cannot be that many ass backwards nannies and mommies out there. Heaven help our children!

zzzzzzzz said...

Is 12:06 speaking from personal experience? Another disgruntled employer? A fawning dependant?


Anonymous said...

Happy Sahm,
I think that is stellar advice. And even if you don't intend to talk to the nanny, I think you will be able to tell a lot by the reaction that the parents have when you ask.
I interviewed with parents once and they had 3 children, under 4. The children were out with their nanny during the interview so the mother brought out some photo albums. The entire house was cluttered and their were pictures everywhere. The nanny had been with them for 6 years and had a death in her family and was moving back to Jamaica to care for her mother. They spoke lovingly of the nanny and said how she was family and yadda yadda yadda. I looked through the albums and around the house. Not a single remnant of their so called beloved nanny. I did see a picture of one of the baby's standing for the first time and say about 1/3 of a black hand in the picture. And that nanny lived in, worked 6 days a week and had been there since the birth of their first. Actions speak so much louder than words. I passed on that position. Maybe they were used to having a nanny who doted on them and thier children and was perfectly content to be treated like a nobody. Not for me.

sensible sue said...

if there was a bad nanny experience or a bad employer situation, that isn't abnormal. things happen. hopefully the people moved on with dignity. either way, the nanny should be able to provide you alternate childcare references and the family should be able to provide you alternate babysitter references.
Neither should be permitted to use family members as references. When it works, it can be awesome for all involved. Choose your nanny very carefully. And if she's good, then treat her like with respect and appreciation.

Anonymous said...

This is hardly a question to get bent out of shape over. If everyone would just be nice and be honest- the world would be such a beautiful place.

Anonymous said...

Yes, if it takes you that long to figure out you don't like your nanny, you can count yourself stupid.
I think the main issue is that if you are not satisfied with an employee, they should know that you are not, so they don't use you as a reference. If you never fire them and keep them on for an extended period of time until they give notice and then after the fact talk trash about them, it makes you a jerk.
After a year of service to a family who actually was horrible, only after I quit did they have anything negative to say about me. Luckily I had half a dozen other stellar references to use and I was lucky enough to be told by a third party what they were saying about me behind my back.
So many wacko parents out there consumed by their own guilt.

Anonymous said...

anonymous at 12:06,
you actually bring up another worst case scenario for a nanny.
Never under any circumstance work for a family in which the mother is the perpetual victim. You know these types, right? They are the victims of the fact their husband has to work or that there children have needs or that there nanny is good or that the dog needs to be fed. It is a rare combination of neediness and "woe is me". It medical speak, I would say beware of someone prone to gaslighting:
"The other person may deny that certain events occurred or that certain things were said. You know differently. The other person may deny your perceptions, memory and very sanity." I think a psychologist should write a book for nannies so they can evaluate the mental stability of their employers before they take a job. Especially if they are going to live in.
In short, never ever work for someone who doesn't take responsibility for his or her own actions. Because just by being in the role of a nanny you avail yourself to becoming a scapegoat. So watch out!

Anonymous said...

I can just imagine those 2 Ohio girls asking their Hampton's families any of these questions.
Nannies are in many places regarded as necessary evils, workhorses that should be seen (working efficiently) and not heard. Never heard. When I was just out of college, I was offered 2x what would I would have made as a teacher to nanny for a family in Westchester County, New York. I have never regretted that I said, "no thank you".
It seems to me that even if nannies are not treated like indentured servants, that when it is time for them to be on their way; they are treated like criminals. And yet they are required to offer their hearts up to the children they care for? And for what? So they can be crushed by the employers?
I deal with parents in emergencies and parent teacher conferences. And that's more than enough!

Anonymous said...

A nanny quitting can be very upsetting, and the employer may react with a range of emotions: sadness for the children if the relationship has been a happy one, resentment for the hassle and inconvenience, anxiety about finding a good replacement, anger that it is the nanny making a decision that affects them if they are controlling, or guilt if they know they haven't treated her well.
If you are interviewing a nanny who quit, as opposed to being let go, and the employer sounds vindictive, I would keep these things in mind.
A Nanny

Anonymous said...

well said. "guilt if they know they haven't treated her well".
End things amicably. It shows class. Apologize and move on to better places. Your children will respect you more for it in the long run. Especially if the nanny was good to them.

Anonymous said...

When I hired my current nanny, I strongly suggested that she speak to my former nanny. I have nothing to hide, and would be pleased if my former nanny scooped her on any bad habits I may unknowingly have. I am into full disclosure when it comes to my employer/employee relationship.

as said...

I completely agree with 1:24. Even though my relationship with the nanny wasn't as strong as it once was, there was no doubt how much she loved the children and wanted a new nanny to work out. I knew i could count on this nanny to pass on not so much my bad habbits- but my pet peeves. So I wouldn't have to deal with things like nannies who wear perfume, or get non emergency personal calls on my phone line. I also like my space, even though I have a live in and the former nanny was able to convey that to the new nanny in a way that was not at all insulting.
My oldest is 14 and my youngest is 3. We have had a handful of nannies, but have had continuity and still hear from each and every nanny. The second nanny I had, I came to loathe and actually fired her after 8 months. She was great with the children, so we still send her a birthday card and a holiday card every year. I think that teaches children a wonderful lesson about how to treat people.
Then again, what do I know? My first husband (with whom I had no children) was a guest at my wedding and had Thanksgiving with us last year!

Anonymous said...

You're right: what do you know?
I think, personally, that sending a birthday card to someone you loathe is teaching your children to be fake, like you.
No wonder you got dumped.

as said...

Why do always make a mistake in assuming I am dealing with people of normal intelligence. Let me break it down for you very specifically. The nanny was wonderful to my children and she was a wonderful nanny. She and I had a personality clash. This is not unusual. I tried to deal with it but in the end, I could not. I loathed having her in my home. My children were very sorry to see her go. I send all of the nannies birthday cards every year and holiday cards because they were all good to my children. I don't know what my children realized about why we decided to part ways. I did it amicably- you know for them. And although I came to loathe her while she was in my home grating on my nerves, she is a very sweet person who is much more tolerable at a distance.
But even if she were not, I would never be one of those parents that teaches their children that people are discardable. I want my children to grow up and know what real love is.

AS said...

AS here
I meant to address that to 1:43.

Cara said...

I don't really understand how you can call someone you "loathe" and who "grates on your nerves" a very sweet person.
That is just completely contradictory. I'm sorry but have to agree with above poster: you sound like a phoney baloney!

H said...

Cara, have you ever had a friend and thought "we should share a place"? Do you think that in the history of the world, there have been no situations where friends were lost because the intimacy of living together required a higher tolerance than the casual friendship?

I get what the OR is saying. My nanny is amazing with the children, the type to step in and defend another child in addition to taking care of ours (4 yrs now). I work in NYC. When I was home on maternity leave, she was on my very last nerve. It had nothing to do with her being a bad person. I know some wonderful people, but I wouldn't want to invite them all to come and live with me. If my nanny had been a live out, she would have been out of site after she was "off" but the nanny was such the type that she worked late and extra- always trying to be helpful. It was sweet and yet I found her irritating. Not always, but enough. Our relationship was probably salvaged by the fact that I returned to work after 7 weeks home. And I don't mean that just from my perspective. I am sure she likes me much more when she doesn't have to deal with me all day long every day! We have different ways of doing things and I am more than certain that some of my notions grated on her too.
Thank goodness, she is still here though. I think I may have one of the best nannies in the state of New York.

-a nanny said...

This person in question (the mom who said she sends birthday cards to the nanny she loathes) fired her nanny! She said the nanny was a great nanny and the kids loved her but she fired her. And now she sends her birthday cards.
Sorry, but she sounds screwed up to me!

Anonymous said...

The mom who sends the birthday cards to the former nanny probably has the children do it! Didn't she say she is still in contact with her first husband? Who can you people make that a bad thing? Sounds to me that the person is more likely sand than not sane. What would you prefer? That the children ask about the nanny that they liked and was good to her and the mothers answers "no, she be bad. don't mention her name"?

Anonymous said...

11:50 You sound like you need to go back to elementary school. I hope for your sake English is your second language.

Anonymous said...

9:51 AM
That is just rude. So what if someone is ESL, or didn't have the opportunity to get a good education. They should be able to express their opinion without snide comments on their grammar or syntax. This is not an English class.
A Nanny

Anonymous said...

Can you be my nanny? You sound thoughtful and intelligent.

Anonymous said...

I think that it's great that you interview the parents. Whenever I interview for a nanny I let them know what I'm looking for in a nanny, I tell them about our family and the children. Then I always give them the opportunity to ask me any questions that they may have. I'm always surprised that they never seem to have any questions at all for me. If I were a nanny and was interviewing for a nanny position especially for a live-in, I would have so many questions for the family.

So good for you for asking questions. It shows that you care and you are interested and picky about the family that you work for. It shows that you are not just interested in the money aspect of the position.

Louise said...

What a fantastic nanny you will be .I wished you worked for us .After 20 years of running a nanny agency in Australia I know that first thing a nanny needs to have is demonstrable childcare experience and rapport and the second thing is enough assertiveness to hold to her own moral and childcare convictions.You have both .
Some parents even now do not understand the important role a Nanny has in the day to day play and development of their children in their care .

S said...

What a terrific response.
"assertiveness to hold to her own moral and childcare convictions."

What advice would you give to a nanny who is struggling in a situation to hold true to her own convictions regarding how children should be treated while working alongside an abusive (emotionally, mentally) parent?