The Craig's List Conundrum

Received Tuesday, November 27, 2007- Perspective & Opinion
I'm the mother of a lovely baby girl who has been postponing going back to work for as long as possible but the time has come and I have to be back at my desk no later then February 1. After having friends and neighbors (and websites) share their agency horror stories with me, I have decided to conduct the search myself so I can have the absolute confidence that the process has been thorough, accurate, and satisfying to my husband and me (and safe for my daughter). However, after screening through the resumes I've received from my Craig's List ad, I really feel like there is no one in the area who fits my needs and expectations. I do not want to pay an agency thousands of dollars for something that I can do for myself but I also do not want to endanger my child - I WILL not endanger my child - by hiring someone under qualified, irresponsible, or undocumented. I would love feedback from nannies and employers on the best course of action for selecting a nanny - I have pages of questions and no one to ask them to. My ultimate candidate would be educated (or in the process of receiving their college degree), honest, and loving. I don't want a housekeeper, errand runner, chef, or personal assistant and I'm willing to pay a competitive hourly rate on the books (with a guaranteed minimum per week) with paid vacation and benefits so I'm not looking to take advantage of anyone - I just don't want to be taken advantage of either. Does anyone have a positive agency story to share (for once) or recommendations on how to self screen without getting suckered? This isn't about saving a buck, it's about finding the right person for my family, whatever the cost might be.

From the OP-11/28/07-I appreciate all the thoughtful and knowledgeable responses. I would much rather do a thorough search myself (for next to nothing) and reward the successful nanny with a nice Christmas bonus instead of paying an agency fee! I will explore the sites that I have not heard of and spread the word that we're on the hunt for a nanny. I especially appreciated the long responses as they seemed well thought out and were very informative. Thank you again.


Anonymous said...

there are free website and some that have you pay a small fee to acess the nannies on their sites looks for work- I like greataupair.com and there are more. They also provide a way to get background checks.

Anonymous said...

there are free website and some that have you pay a small fee to acess the nannies on their sites looks for work- I like greataupair.com and there are more. They also provide a way to get background checks.

Anonymous said...

I used to use enannysource.com when I was looking for a job. Its a great site!

Kate in PA said...

Word of mouth is also a great tool. Many, many families and nannies have been connected through friends, neighbors, etc. I personally found my current position through my charge's preschool teacher (whose daughter is one of my friends). My employer mentioned to the teacher about looking for a nanny, and the teacher was able to give her my number knowing I was looking for a job. It sounds like you've been talking to friends and neighbors already, but keep it up! Ask if they know of anyone that would fit your position. Perhaps someone you talk to may know of the perfect person! Good luck!

Caroline said...

As a nanny I had two good experiences on enannysource.com - it does require going through a lot of potential candidates.

My advice:
1) Decide how much money AND time you are prepared to spend on your search

2) Place an ad on one of the online websites, I would send out feelers to lots of 'profiles' and then leave this for 2 - 3 days before going back to check all responses at once

3) Have 5 - 10 prescreen questions to weed out some candidates through email (age, experience, education level, drivers license etc) - anything that is set in stone as a requirement for your family

4) Once you've narrowed down to 4-6 candidates then call and perform a phone interview with your more detailed questions

5) Meet any of the nannies that you like and be warned that if they live far from you, it might be neccessary to pay for the candidates travel expenses - possibly for more than one person (if you have many people you want to meet)

6) I would have two separate meetings with each candidate if possible - first one with you (and your husband if he is available), and then a second family interview where the candidate spends some time with your daughter (not alone with her obviously). you don't say how old your daughter is but the nanny should be able to demonstrate something age appropriate - you might even want her to change a diaper in front of you or prepare a bottle

6)Choose your prefered nanny and make an offer subject to a background check - your nanny will need to sign a release for you to get this done. If you want to use a web based background checker - then look at the consumer reports article at: http://www.consumers-guides.org/backgroundcheckreviews/?gclid=CP_EqeSy_o8CFQiaPAodQ1Oduw
If you have the money and the desire to be more thorough I would contact http://www.sterlingtesting.com/about/default.aspx - I have been the candidate on the other side of this check and it is exceptionally THOROUGH - they even checked the dates of employment at clients on another continent

7) Get those same neighbours and family to pop in on your new nanny unexpectedly or surreptitiously.

Good luck with the transition back to work - hopefully your daughter will grow up with a positive, powerful role model and develop lasting relationships with the other loving, caring people you hire to keep her safe and happy. The more people that love a child the better!

emily said...

I really don't know how much this advice will be worth to you, not knowing what area you're in, but I am a NYC nanny and I would not answer ads placed on craigslist. It's tough doing a nanny search, families want to screen their applicants for criminal records, etc. (which makes sense) but a nanny has to go on faith to a certain extent that the families she's dealing with are on the up and up. That's why I use an agency. Even though I'm aware that the agent I deal with is ultimately out for their own paycheck, I feel better with another person being involved with the family I'm interviewing with and giving me feedback on their character.

I wish you luck in your search!

been there, done that and nearly didn't live to tell about it said...

Great Au Pair SUCKS ass.
Do not use this service or anyone connected to it.

frmr nanny now a mom said...

talk to some families you know that have nannies they are really happy with. Good nannies tend to know other good nannies. Ask a good nanny you know (or works for someone you know) if they can reccomend someone.

Anonymous said...

I would use enannysource.com or similar sites. I am a nanny and have had success with craigslist finding extra work I have never used it to find full time employment. I am a quality nanny and use craigslist so I'm sure there are others as well. Honestly, agencies sometimes do not do all they are supposed to do to screen potential employees. You can run your own background check at home and check references which is really all an agency does. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hey. First off I would like to wish you luck in finding someone right for you and your baby. Now, craigslist is really good. I've found a lot of great jobs on there. Also, when answering replies only choose 5 that stand out for you no more because you will become overwhelm. Set interviews one day apart so every candidate can stay refresh in your mind. After the interviews choose the best 3. From there re-interview them and then make your choice. Also, always go with your gut.

KELLY said...

I know this is not a classified but I am looking for a ft/lt position myself in Jan2008. Mail me if you are interested. I have great refs and tons of exp!!!

Anonymous said...

That's the problem with craigslist. Even the good nannies on there are always on there. I kind of understand too, a good nanny doesnt have to stick around and put up with your sh-t. But have you noticed that-the same nannies are always looking for jobs. I mean how many jobs has or found on craigslist? and if they are so good, why isn't she there? I have had one nanny job in my life. It's a good one. I have been here 4 yrs.

marypoppin'pills said...

I think Caroline gave you some incredibly sound advice.
However, you say that you don't want to spend a ton of money on the one hand, and on the other, you say money is no object. Which is it, may I ask? Please understand that you may have to shell out a good amount of money to get the best care for your daughter, which is what you say you want. Remember, you always get what you pay for ... and finding the best Nanny for your child is not an area where you want to scrimp. I do hope you stay far away from Craigslist, though. This is not the direction you should go in. Good luck in your search, I hope you find a perfect match.

Anonymous said...

background checks, use them dmv, sex offender registry check, google them, check their myspace accounts. make sure you contact their references and question them also. i have had many familys i worked for tell me they contacted my references when they never actually did. but definatly the more questions the better.

Anonymous said...

Good one, 10:21, about the MySpace acct. I read an article just a couple of weeks ago where the Parents found their nanny posting naked pics of herself. Not an altogether horrible thing, but do you want someone with this kind of moral fiber helping you raise your kid?

Caroline said...

marypoppin' - the way i read it was that the mother didn't want to pay the agency a great deal of money when she couldn't be sure that the candidates were thoroughly vetted. She doesn't mind paying what it takes to get the candidate that's best for her family.

I didn't find her statements confusing. Should I have?

Sue Doe-Nim said...

My pediatricians office has a weekly email and someone is always looking for a job for their nanny when their children have outgrown her (ie gone to school or gotten too big).

Ask your pediatrician if they do something similar.

marypoppin'pills said...

Not at all, I just thought that if OP says in the end that she would be willing to pay whatever it took, why should it make any difference if she has to pay a lot to an agency. My thinking was that at least there, she would have an easier time finding the best match. Let them do their job, and she can follow up with whatever else she needs to make herself comfortable in finding the best possible care for her daughter, with an emphasis on staying away from Craigslist.

Anonymous said...

Here are my thoughts as an employer who took awhile, but eventually found a GREAT nanny.

On nanny sources:
I had more acceptable responses with Craig's List than calling ads in the local paper placed by parents looking to find a new job for their current nanny (which I gave up on after a few calls, concluding many are fakes). I didn't find anyone I actually extended an offer to on CL, but several candidates did get past the telephone interview to an interview. I did not like gonannies.com, but had great success with sittercity.com. One possibility we were going to try (but did not have to because we found our ideal nanny through sittercity) was the English Nanny and Governess School in Ohio. They are expensive, but the fact that their candidates had chosen to study to gain the qualifications for this profession was interesting to us.

On Agencies:
I screened at least a dozen, and ended up registering with 3, two did not have an application fee and one did. What a waste. I was only sent 2 candidates and even though I was holding my infant son during part of the interviews, they exhibited no warmth towards him.

On process: Caroline described it perfectly. Make sure you develop a telephone interview "form" to make sure you do cover all questions with the people you are screening so you can compare candidates more easily. I also had a job application form (several online nanny sites have good starting points for this). Never make a job offer right away--no matter how good the interview is. Take the time to do your homework before having her back to meet your child even if you might miss out on a candidate. Do your own mini background check as you narrow down the candidates you like. Google their name if it is unique as well as any family members' names they provide, etc. Search Facebook and My Space to see if they have a profile. The national sex offenders' registry is a free online site (Jane Doe has a link to it on this site). Again, check relatives/emergency contacts as well as the nannies name. Use Google Earth or Zillow.com to look up the address of their prior employers especially if they are not from your immediate area (I had what I thought was a great candidate who falsified her reference. I had an odd feeling after speaking to the reference--although all the answers to my questions were "right", they seemed almost too good. When I put the address into Zillow, it was in a very low income area and the picture on Google Earth looked like a tenement). Develop and use a form with all the questions you feel you want to know for reference checks to make sure you cover everything. Finally, when you do make your choice, do a real background check with a reputable investigation firm. Caroline's suggestions were again great here.

Finally, make sure you have thought beyond the hiring process. Good candidates are selective about their employers--they ask questions about your family, job, parenting and discipline approaches, nanny experiences, pets/smoking, whether you plan to have more children, etc. -- not just benefits and salary, so be prepared to provide personal information as well as pay and benefits info. Think about exactly which paid holidays you do an do not intend to give, whether there will ever be requests for additional babysitting outside normal hour and rate, how you will coordinate vacation (she picks, you pick, how much notice is required, whether you will expect her to perform some duties if you don't need her to care for the children because you go out of town with them or if it's additional paid time off) and if you will ever want her to travel with you. Have VERY detailed descriptions of job duties available--be prepared to define terms like light housekeeping and straightening up very clearly. Have your own references available in case she asks (good nannies can and do screen for good families).

Sorry this is so long--but I believe much of what we see on this site is the result of parents not doing a thorough job of screening and checking up on the people looking after their children. Most importantly, even after a careful hiring process, if your child does not seem happy, or you are uncomfortable, don't hesitate to admit you might have made a mistake and start over again until you find one of the truly great nannies that are out there. Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Wow ... some really good, intelligent posts on this one here tonite. Great job to all of you in giving this OP superior advice!

Anonymous said...

Do you know what's happening? Everyone is rallying around OP to make sure she gets a good start in protecting her daughter.

Caroline said...


I totally agree with your suggestion that the OP pay attention to what questions the candidates ask.

I was a well paid nanny, but was surprised by the fact that when I asked for references of the families I was interviewing for, they acted horrified. Eventually I chose positions where I was able to speak with individuals that worked with or knew the families - in one case a preschool teacher and in another a former nanny.

I also promote having your 'contract' prepared in advance and toward the end of the interview process, ask the potential candidate(s) if they would be comfortable signing it and adhering to it. (I'm one of those people that insist on anally detailed contracts)

Anonymous said...

I have 4 children and used agencies in the beginning. That was the early nineties. Now, you can do everything yourself. To compete with that, agencies have taken to coaching their nannies.


I get what OP is saying. Some agencies are taking money to dress a lion in sheepsclothing.

Chicago Nanny said...

What city are you located in? I've worked with a really great agency in Chicago...the screening process for a nanny was very intense (and I've worked with children in every capacity for the past 12 years!) I would be happy to share more info regarding the agency and the experience that I had with them if you are in the area!

I think that Craigs list can work but it is a very long and tiring process (on both ends, the family and the nanny) but I have heard good stories that come from having the time and energy to put into that. Make sure that your posting on Craigs list is very specific to what you are looking for. I've found that the ads that I actually pay attention to list as many details as possible.

You may also want to try the website sittercity.com I don't know how many cities they are located in but if they are in your city it is also a great tool/reference.

Also do you live near any colleges or universities? You could always try placing flyers around coffee shops and such on the campus and also find where the education buildings are and see if there are any bulletin boards that you can post your info on.

Just a few thoughts and ideas that I've had luck with as well as families that I know that have looked for help. I think that if you do decide to continue on with the Craigs list idea you just have to be patient and put in a lot of time and effort and you'll find the right person! Try posting under the education section as well as the childcare one--you may get different people who respond to your ad. Have a list of questions ready for when the nanny meets with you but also have an initial list of things that you could ask via email or over the phone to weed out those that you don't feel will click with you and your family. That way you don't have to waste your time meeting people that don't fit what you are looking for.

Anonymous said...

I'm a nanny. I have over 10 years experience and many wonderful references to prove it. I've found all of the positions from the previous 3 ways; Word of mouth, Craigslist, and Sittercity.com. Craigslist can and has definitely worked. However, this process can be time consuming (well worth your daughters happiness, safety, and your peace of mind) if you just don't stop until you are sure you have found the right candidate. The long term positions I have found over Craigslist, have all included meeting mothers who had met SO many other nannies before meeting. I hear this a lot, as I'm sure other nannies do, "I just knew when I met you that you were right for us" and I think you'll have that feeling too.

Of course you still have to check many references, do an actual background check, meet the potential nanny many times before making any agreements, have a 100% positive feeling about her, and make a contract right at the beginnning, with everything laid out.

Honestly, I've heard more nannies complain about meeting strange families with weird requests, than families having bad experiences meeting nannies on Craigslist.

Sittercity is easy with it's background checks and there are a lot of serious people on that site.

Good luck and I hope you find someone amazing!

Anonymous said...

Don't necessarily insist that the person you hire has a ton of experience. You can rule a lot of really great candidates out that way - and every nanny has a first job. In fact, a younger nanny who has aspirations, energy, and ideas may be the perfect fit.

Anonymous said...

When I was looking on craigslist for a nanny, I found one just like you wanted, so they exist. I didn't hire her because I ended up getting day care at my job, which is great. But the kidn you wanted I met with- she was getting a degree (MA), she was sweet, had good experience, and she offered to cook and clean.

Anonymous said...

When I was looking on craigslist for a nanny, I found one just like you wanted, so they exist. I didn't hire her because I ended up getting day care at my job, which is great. But the kidn you wanted I met with- she was getting a degree (MA), she was sweet, had good experience, and she offered to cook and clean.

Anonymous said...

Of course they're are some bad agencies. Try calling the BBB, just to make sure there are no complaints on them. I think there should be some concern that you have a time constraint, and the fact that you will be doing your search through most of the Holidays. You have a lot of work cut out for you, but it will be worth it. You seem as if you know what you want, so I hope your nanny is patiently waiting for you right now.

Anonymous said...

I am also a Nanny and looking for a position. I have used craigs list to find Nanny jobs. Anyway, Just wondering where you are located, maybe I missed your post. thanks

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of good advice here, but I would like to emphasize how important it is to speak extensively with references. Don't settle for yes she wonderful, part of the family, the children loved her. Ask very specific questions. You want to determine whether or not the reference has the same criteria you do for what makes a great nanny. You may want someone who provides stimulating activities, and the ref. liked her because she would cook and clean with the children parked in front of the TV.

Anonymous said...

Also, think hard about the profile of the candidate you want. For a young child, your inclination may be to hire a more mature highly experienced nanny, but keep in mind two years from now when that baby is running around all over the place, you want someone with energy to spare to run around her. Also, many employers rule out nannies with children of their own. Having your own kids is great experience. As long as the candidate has reliable childcare, a nanny who is also a Mom can be wonderful.

Anonymous said...

check local colleges. there may be recent graduates who are available.

harumph said...

why the heck would anyone want to give a fammily their personal info and sensitive might i add.
who knows who these parents are.

how messed up is that? why are the parents in control?
They are the ones who need someone; they should go through the proper channels.
Nannies should not be going to people's houses all willy nilly.
This is crazy!

The sooner nannies realize they ar ein control, the better this nanny world will be.

Anonymous said...

I am a nanny with two of the local agencies but I also volunteer at a special school and go to university here; I get emails all the time from the school and university of people looking for childcare. Check if the local university has a teaching, child psych, etc. department and if they have classifieds there that you can post to.

Anonymous said...

We told EVERYONE we saw that we were looking and, via word of mouth, found the most wonderful woman who actually was working around the block from us for the last three years. Not only that, she had been caring for twins (one of our preferences)and was in our price range. A miracle.

Every day we are thankful that she is in our lives. Her primary job is to take care of the kids, but she also takes care of me in so many litle ways with her overall helpfulness. She performs so many unrequested tasks outside of her job description, and we, in turn, do our best to make her job a pleasant experience. We cannot afford to pay her any more than we do now, so we try to send her home early when we can and don't micro-manage.

I wish you great luck in finding someone as wonderful as our caregiver.

jmarhar said...

Where do you live? I'm looking currently looking for a position. I've got excellent references.

Anonymous said...

I'm a nanny and spent many months searching for the right family. I used enannysource.com, sittercity.com, and Craigslist. I found my current family on Craigslist and everyday they come home to a happy, clean, well fed baby, and as an added bonus a clean house. They've never asked me to clean up the house or do any kind of housekeeping, but they make me feel so appreciated when they tell me all the time that they are so lucky they have me, so I go out of my way to do some extra things for them. Good luck on your search, you just never know where you'll find the right nanny!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am actually a SAHM childcare provider. I can also say, I am the daughter/grandaughter/niece of police officers.

I advertise on craigslist.. i do see tons of nannies for my area on there.

Get a current background check from your local police departmet. Ask for references, since you are doing a nanny, I would do 5 professional (previous employers, CURRENT college professors and have them write the semester and year they had the student, anything under those lines)

Then 4 personal references who they have known for more than 3 years none family members.

I hired a nanny since i am going back to work january 8th. SHe accomodated all my requests including random drug checks.

its hard to find someone, i also have learned that some nanny agencies aren't the best. I.E. no drug checks, background checks, or anything... that is coming from nannies that went to them for employment.

mollywobbles said...

First don't go looking for the perfect NANNY they all have to start somewhere. Maybe someone who has only babysat in the past but is willing to work full time as a nanny. If they have references and are competent you might end up better off than someone formal who went to a fancy school. I'm a nanny but I didn't go through any formal training, take special classes but I know what I'm doing. I go by instinct with each child as a parent is supposed to. Trust them and both you and the child will be happy. Advised my friend this when she was starting to leave her 1 year old with a sitter and they're both enjoying the experience now.