What kinds of questions do you really want the nanny to answer?

Saturday, March 28, 2009
We are starting a free job board to help parents and nannies connect and we need your input. We have all seen the standard nanny application, but what questions do you really want to see answered on an application? We want to make our application as concise and relevant as possible.

Please leave your responses as comments to this post. For this post, those comments may be anonymous. Never fear, nannies, we're also working on the family application and will soon ask you for your ideas and suggestions.

CL-WTF will be published later this evening/early tomorrow as my dear friend and associate, MPP is quite ill.


v said...

When is the last time you had an alcoholic beverage?

nanny nature said...


1) What is 24 * 120?

2) Cairo is a city in what country?

3) What are the seven continents?

4) What are at least two planets beyond the asteroid belt?

5) What are the meanings of to, two and too?

I'd suggest at least five questions along the lines of those above. Good nannies are teachers just as much as they're caregivers and questions like these are simple, they should be able to answer them.

I would also suggest:

1) Why did you become a nanny?

2) You're at a new job with a three year old girl and her parents left only twenty minutes earlier, she begins to cry and won't stop, what do you do?

3) Do you believe in pluralism?

4) What are your views on discipline?

5) Do you feel as if you should feel like a friend of or a member of the family you work for?

Anonymous said...

I graduated college just two years ago and I don't know two planets beyond the asteroid belt. And I cannot do math in my head like that. I'm not sure those are relevant, but I see the point, perhaps maybe not at that level.
My suggestion:
-What is your favorite part about being a nanny?
-Are you still in touch with former families you've worked for?
(important to see if they can stay on good terms and all that)
-What kind of discipline do you use?
-Are you religious?

I know religion is taboo to discuss, but I think within childcare it is important to know. I don't really have a problem with religion, but my husband and I are not religious and we don't necessarily want a nanny who tries to teach religion. I'm liking what others are posting here too. Good idea!

Emily said...

I think the number one issue both parents and nannies HAVE to discuss in depth before starting a relationship is discipline. If your discipline style is different from that of your nanny's then there's endless problems that will come up over and over again.

Anonymous said...

Will you take a drug test?

Tell me about your mother?

Have you in fact, abandoned your own children to work as a nanny?

laughable said...

"Have you in fact abandoned your own children to work as a nanny?"

haha.. and that would be the end of the interview for me.

Have you in fact abandoned your children for the spa lately?

nanny ash said...

I really liked nanny nature's questions about education. I am a nanny and I think it is a fabulous idea to ask your nanny these questions. They will be answering all of your children's questions and hopefully teaching them things every day.

Anonymous said...

How much do you weigh?

sarah said...

Were you spanked as a child?

Anonymous said...

Are you willing and able to assist in the very strict keeping of a kosher kitchen? If you do not understand the premise and rules of keeping a kosher kitchen, would you be willing to undergo training to better help you understand these customs and their importance to our family?

kc said...

V, I'd suggest making your question more along the lines of,
"When was the last time you had an alcoholic beverage and then drove or worked, etc?" Unless you would want the potential nanny to never drink. Which, because it is your choice in childcare, an option, but I just think the question should be phrased a little differently.

Village said...

#1 I hope you won't be grading on grammar.
#2 What is 24 * 120?
#3 I don't want to work for you anyway.
#6 You're kidding, right?
#9 Keeping a kosher kitchen is HARD.

Toni Brayer MD said...

Why should you never shake a baby?

the original gimmeabreak said...

How much do you weigh?

When did you last have a drink?

have you abandoned your own children to nanny?

OMG!! Are you serious????

ILoveWTFSaturdays said...

"How were you parented as a child? Do you think the manner in which your parents raised you make you the person you are today? Why or why not?"

If a nanny doesn't know the types of parenting: authoritative, authoritarian, permissve, neglectful and attatchment (Did I miss any?) and the effects of parenting on self esteem, she probably shouldn't be in childcare.

"What are your views on TV viewing?"

And if she lets them watch TV all day, she shouldn't be a nanny. Sometimes I get lazy and let J watch more than 30 minutes of TV during breakfast. Then again, Saturdays are made for cartoons....

Anonymous said...

Having any education questions on an application isn't going to tell you anything. An applicant fills out an application on their own time and can get the answers from someone else, or google them.

Why did you become a nanny?

What previous life or work experiences (besides nannying) have you had that will contribute to your ability to care for my children?

Christina said...

learning a kosher kitchen is not so hard... i used to work for a jewish family...

Black Orchid said...

I have a few suggestions to modify some of the above questions. Rather than "When was the last time you had an alcoholic beverage," "How often do you drink." Someone could have had a drink just the night before, but only drink once a month.
The education questions are a good idea, but what's to stop someone from just using google for the answers?
I don't really get the tell me about your mother question. I just don't see how it's relevant. Same with "Were you spanked as a child." Just because their parents chose to do it, doesn't mean they choose to.
"Do you have kids?" might be a better way to word the "Have you in fact abandoned your kids."
And as far as the kosher kitchen thing, I would just ask if the nanny is willing to feed the children according to the family's rules/diet. Some families are kosher, some families are vegetarians, some families are all-organic, etc. Of course when they are interviewing with a specific family, the particular diet restrictions should be discussed.

interesting said...

Can I have sex with your husband
Can I steal your stuff
Can I play dress up in your clothes
Is it okay to spit in your dinner
Should I dry the laundry and say its clean
Change diapers once daily is ok?
Do u use tampax or tampons
When is your next period

Village said...

#1 I hope there won't be a grammar test.
#2 What is 24 * 120?
#3 I don't want to work for you anyway.
#4 You are kidding, right?

just another mommy said...

the teacher type questions are interesting - however, if they are filling out the application online, it would be extremely easy to just look up the answers to those questions.

Lawyer Mom said...

I'm just putting this out there for you Jane Doe and MMP, there are in fact particular questions you are NOT allowed to ask when interviewing if the position is going to be "by the books."

When taxes are done correctly the family must get an employer tax #. If this is done then the nanny position must be treated as a professional employer/employee relationship. As such questions that are in any way seen as discriminatory are illegal.

Just FYI. For example, questions of weight, marital status, ethnicity, etc. are illegal.

Baltimore Nanny said...

1) Are you cpr and first aid certified?
2) What kind of emergency situations have you experienced and how did you hande them?
3) Do you have a clean driving record?
4)Describe your idea of a fun day with the child.
5) Are you afraid to get dirt on your shoes, ketchup on your shirt and sand in your hair?

seattle said...

maybe its just me, but the tell me about your mother question seemed really rude (to put on an application and ask someone you have never met before).

what if her mother had recently died? what if she has a bad relationship with her mother? what if her mother is terminally ill? what if her mother had been murdered when she was younger? they sound far fetched, but you would be surprised how many people have a situation similar to these.

i think its rude and thoughtless. and while i have a good relationship with my mother and she is alive and well, i still feel for those who aren't as lucky.

a nanny may be watching your most precious possessions but that doesn't excuse rudeness.

its just plain rude. in my opinion. i know most of you will probably disagree.

oh, and how much do you weigh? um... RUDE. flat out RUDE.

to be honest, i think the "education" questions are ridiculous. yes she is going to be "teaching" your children, but you could just as easily ask what her grades and GPA were in high school/college and what kinds of educational activities she has done in the past/plans to do.

i have a 3.5GPA and have done wonderful in school, but if someone randomly asked me these questions off the top of my head i'm sure i would get some wrong. it doesn't mean im ill-equipped to work with children.

phil mom said...


I like nanny nature's questions.

1. How can you not know at least two of the four planets beyond the asteroid belt?

She wasn't asking for all four or their order here, just two. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Heck, I'd as a parent I'd accept Pluto still despite its recent demotion.

2. I don't see where she said you'd have to do the math in your head?

These questions are relevant, extremely so, because (a) math and science will be everything in the 21st century economy and (b) you want the nanny to be able to answer your child's questions accurately or be willing to admit they don't know.

Call me crazy but the willingness to put on an application "I don't know" is to me just as good as the answer. I think too many underrate and under appreciate the incredible power in that demonstration of honesty.

These aren't high level questions.

As for your suggestion that they could google them or get the answers from someone else, yeah they could but frankly, I think you'd be surprised by how many people won't do that and what a red flag that would be. Don't say nothing would be said there, a wrong answer would tell you something, that would tell you the world. At least googling them would show some effort and that's what I want most from my nanny, an effort or honesty.

Look, I bear you no ill will, but again math and science in the 21st century is of paramount importance, geography too in an increasingly globalized world, a great deal more so ten years from now than now. A parent should look to then and choose their nanny accordingly. Perhaps not with the questions above, but something like them.

phil mom said...

Village, * is multiplication, imagine x.

I have a couple suggestions of my own:

1. Do you believe there is such a thing as too much reading?

2. Do you believe there is such a thing as too little television?

Questions like these are bound to throw a nanny off her game and make for interesting answers.

The ability to evaluate a nanny's reasoning would be of use to this parent.

Nanny Taxi said...

As a parent I would ask...

Has being a nanny been a good experience for you? Was it good for your employers as well? Do you have a problem if I contacted them? What other type of work have you done? Did you enjoy that? Give me a picture of what your day would be like with my kids.
Time outs? Consequences? Re-Direction?
I will give you a cell phone but I will be checking your calls/texts and the like for length and time of day, will that bother you?

Anonymous said...

I like some version of education questions, even if they filled it out on their own and googled the answer, at least that shows some initiative and interest in the application process.

phil mom said...


That first one is a bad question and a terrible assumption.

1. You really have no right to ask a question so personal. People break with their parents every day and you're not hiring their parents, you're hiring them. Let's not lose focus, the individual before you matters most.

2. Authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, neglectful and attachment are labels and nothing more. No one fits in one alone, they're marketing terms and you missed one, where's unconditional parenting, should the state take away your kids for not knowing that?

What matters most is empathy, does the nanny feel what the child feel and react in kind?

There's a natural talent out there and no, they couldn't tell you what those labels were, but they sure as heck are the best you could find.

They are in childcare, because that is what they're naturally good at. They didn't need to read a book to know screaming at the child was a bad idea.

Equally so, there's plenty with text book knowledge but no patience and no feeling for the job. In short, you are wrong.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I have issues with shoes. I don't like to see nannies wearing expensive boots or stilettos and I'm somewhat wary of having crumbly toenails exposed in the winter time, so I guess I would state, "We like a nanny who wears socks and tennis shoes all year long, is that you?"

TC said...

What are your discipline techniques?
[This one would show you how well the nanny does with kids, and if she's good at bsing...time outs don't always work, you need to be creative without harming the child]

What do you do when frustrated with a child?
[This shows you the nanny's temperament and how willing they are to admit that yes they are human and get frustrated from time to time]

What's the hardest child you've had to work with? why? how did you cope?
[This can show you a great deal about the nanny, why do they consider the child to be 'bad'? What did they do to 'control' the child in question. What do they consider as 'bad']

What was the easiest child you worked with? why?
[Did they like the kid that just sat there or was the quietest? Again this will show you their personality and gives you perceptive into how they think]

What is your favorite age group to work with? Why?

What is your least favorite age group and why?

What would you do if you caught my child cussing?

How well do you do in an emergency? Are you cool and collected? Or do you tend to over react? Have you ever had an emergency with a child? Can you handle the sight of blood? Vomit? Poop?

Wicker Park Nanny said...

Anonymous on the shoe issue:

HAHAHAHA! I love that one! But would flip flops in the summer be ok with clean, trimmed, pedicured toes? :D

Anonymous said...

I don't know the right way to ask but I would be curious about her personal grooming habits, esp if she is a live-in. I like someone who is very clean. I cannot stand greasy hair or the grungy look. I can also smell uncleaned ears from across the room.

nyc mom said...

I have to say this thread has some of the oddest comments I've ever read. The education quiz is just plain silly and rather insulting IMO. Ask about educational background, but to quiz someone like they are a child is ridiculous.

I think most of the questions you need are in this thread already. TCs are excellent. Someone mentioned religion above and while I would never ask directly "what's your religion?", I would volunteer our family's stance and ask if the nanny was comfortable respecting that. I did once have a very religious pt nanny that would make my kids pray. This was a dealbreaker for me.

I think the most important issues that truly cause problems in the employer/employee relationship are those that are covered in the Work Agreeement. Thus, I would suggest including some of these on the initial screening to make sure nanny and employer are at least on the same page here. I know they sound obvious, but unless these areas are agreeable to both parties you are going to have big problems. It's often the small details that cause the biggest problems. I would suggets 2 or 3 sections on the application and one should be the basics such as:

-expected salary range
-expected vacation weeks, sick, and personal days
-how many sick days did you take off last year
-are you generally a person who arrives on time or runs a few minutes late
-which holidays are important to you to be included as time off
-approach to cell phone use and tv while working
-will you travel with the family and if so how have you generally expected comp to be structured
-weekly hours you are willing to work
-will you ever work weekends or overnights
-if you have kids, what are your thoughts on bringing them to work with you
-what other household duties are you comfortable doing such as kids laundry, etc
-what household tasks are absolutley off limits in your mind
-are you willing to run errands in downtime

BTW, I think this is a great idea to include a job section!

Manhattan Nanny said...

Oh brother, I'm guessing some of the posters on this thread have never actually interviewed a nanny. I mean, I have laughed with other nannies about some crazy interviews, but how much do you weigh and will you wear socks and runners year round, have you abandoned your children OMG!

1. Do you believe there is such a thing as too much reading?
2. Do you believe there is such a thing as too little television?

Sorry Phil Mom, even the most clueless nanny knows the answers you want to those.

As for math and science questions, unless she is going to be home schooling your children, (and that would be a governess), the nanny can look up anything she doesn't know off the top of her head. We didn't all take the same courses in college, and have strengths in different areas. Ask what is relevant to your family. Does your child need help with a foreign language, music, computer skills?
Many of the questions are about legitimate concerns, but they should be asked of the references, not the nanny. If you want to know if she has a drinking problem, do you think she will tell you?
Ask her references:
if she ever came to work hung over, or drank on the job,
Was consistently she on time,
did she park the children in front of the TV,
read to them,
talk on the phone excessively etc.

Parents, remember when you are interviewing a nanny, she is also evaluating you. If you ask questions that would be illegal in other employment situations, as Lawyer Mom pointed out, it shows that you don't see the nanny as a respected professional. The best nannies will run for their lives, and you won't be able to hire the wonderful nanny your children deserve.

Mamhattan Nanny said...

That is, was she consistently on time!

nj housewife said...

The children have eaten cheez its in the playroom and there are crumbs everywhere. Housekeeping is not part of your job description, what do you do?

Will you sign an non disclosure/confidentiality agreement?

Will you take an IQ test?

Will you be fingerprinted at the police station?

What is the worst experience you have had as a nanny?

What is the best experience you have had as a nanny?

Did your previous employers remember you on your birthday?

Do you like dogs?

Feeding and providing water is not part of your job description, but if you walk past the dog's water bowl and it is empty, would it be natural for you to fill it or would you fill it reluctantly?

chick said...

Lord, I can't wait to post this. Sorry MPP and Jane!

Questions for nanny to ask a potential employer:

Do you consider yourself to be a tidy person or a more messy person?

Whose responsibility are dishes and household messes generated when nanny is not working?

Have you ever bounced a nanny paycheck, or any other checks?

Will you allow me to run a full credit check on you (and spouse)?

If nanny is working, who is in charge of the child?

Do you feel that an employee should or should not see her employer in pajamas and/or bathrobe? Why or why not?

How often do you drink while nanny is on duty?

Will nanny have her own computer, or a password protected sign-on on a family computer? If not, is there any chance nanny could experience a google autofill search that would reveal any of your personal habits she doesn't want to know about, such as drug use or porn preferences?

What activities do you do with your children on the weekends?

How much TV do your children watch when nanny is not on duty?

How often do you read to your children?

How often in the last month have your clothes or linens been left in either the washer or the dryer, preventing nanny from easily doing your children's laundry?

What sort of fruits and vegetables do you regularly serve your children?

Do your children eat fast food more than once a week while you are in charge of them?

How do you handle providing nanny with money to use for your children's activities and occasional lunches?

Why did your last nanny leave?

Where is the reference letter your last nanny wrote for *you*?

When may I speak with your previous nannies via phone?

How do you define a "friendly professional" relationship with a household employee?

Do you feel you have a good sense of personal boundaries, and do you respect the personal boundaries of your employees?

Do you have any health/personal/work issues that would cause frequent or last minute changes in nanny's schedule, or add extra duties to her contractual obligations?

Do you and your spouse and children have regular medical check-ups?

Who are your family doctors?

Do you have any of the following diseases or conditions: Arthritis....Seizure disorders, and etc.?

Please provide me with a list of previous employers to contact for references on your work-related personality and ethics.

What household chores are you most likely to leave for nanny regardless of whether she is responsible for them?

Do you consider the animals in the household to be your responsibility or nanny's responsibility?

And I could go on....but I have to fill out an agency application...Many personally invasive and illegal-in-other-fields questions to "answer", so bye for now!

worlds best nanny said...

As a nanny and a mom I like TC's questions best.

Just my two Cents said...

There is a difference between what you gather on a written application and the less strucutured questions used during an interview.

Application questions:
-Are you legal to work in the US?
-Do you smoke?
-Where did you go to school?
-What level of education did you achieve?
-Have you ever worked in a camp, daycare or school? Please describe.
-What non-child related experience do you have?
-List prior nanny jobs, describing hours, number and ages of children and job duties
-Please list any certifications or qualifications (i.e. CPR certification, healthcare training, childcare certifications, etc.)
-Will this be your only job or do you plan to work for other employers at the same time?
-Have you ever been arrested or questioned by the police?
-Do you swim?
-Do you cook?
-Do you do light housekeeping? Please define light housekeeping.
-Are you willing to run child related errands? Please describe what you consider child related errands?
-How would you get to the job?
-Do you drive? When was your last ticket and for what? Have you had any accidents?
-Would you be comfortable driving a large car/van?
-Would you be willing to care for a sick child?

Interview questions:
-What are the best and the worst things about being a nanny?
-Do you have children of your own? How many and how old?
-What do you do if an older child comes home from school upset?
-How do you form a relationship with children who don't know you?
-What do you do if a child pitches a screaming fit?
-What do you do if a child hits, bites or scratches?
-How much time do you think a child should spend on homework?
-What are your hobbies/What do you do for fun?
-Do you play baseball, soccer, or basketball? Do you skate or ride bicycles?
-What types of food do you typically make?
-What would you pack for lunch? for snack?
-How do you prefer to approach scheduling play dates?
-How do you feel about being responsible for another child (or children) during a playdate?
-Have you ever potty trained a child? How do you approach potty training?
-Have you ever cared for a child with special needs?

ericsmom said...

Oh I hope MPP is okay. Please let her know I hope she feels better. And hope to see her on here soon.

DenverNanny said...

Lawyer mom--GREAT POINT!

Also, by asking only those questions which an employer can legally ask an employee, most offensive/touchy subject questions would be excluded.

Anonymous: LOVE the shoe question! I'm always slightly scared when I see nannies is stilettos... especially when caring for infants-- what a disaster if a little hand got stepped on!

Chick: Pretty sure a LOT of those questions would be COMPLETELY illegal to ask potential employee...

Just my two Cents: LOVE your suggestions!

chick said...

Denver nanny, I was listing questions for nanny to ask the EMPLOYER.

If parents can ask nanny invasive questions, why shouldn't nanny have the same rights?

In an ideal world, nannies would be treated like any other legally protected job applicant, and NOT asked invasive personal questions, don't you agree?

Marypoppin'pills said...

Thank you so much for your concern.
I'm doing better now. :)

mom said...

Wait! I missed something. What happened to MPP? I hope you're OK.

I've not been here oto much recently b/c my son is graduating, it was just spring break, and our lives are spinning at the moment. So I missed whatever happened to MPP.

Marypoppin'pills said...

Awww, Mom... you're too funny! I spent the weekend in the Hospital with a double dose of Strep and a stomach virus. I'm feeling much better now though, thanks!

DenverNanny said...

Chick: I actually meant neither the parents nor the nanny should ask some of those questions. They would be inappropriate in just about any situation. This is an employer/employee relationship and should remain as professional as possible... which means I have no business asking you when your husband went to the doctor last (and how could this possibly be relavent?)

I can't even imagine a parent's reaction if I went to an interview and asked your list of questions...

mom said...

MPP, Ouch! I'm glad you're better now at least!

Serendipitous said...

to Anonymous at 10:10 AM:

What kind of question is the abandonment one?

The nanny is "abandoning" her children so she can work? Is the mother abandoning her children so that SHE can work? Or is that different?

chick said...

Denver Nanny, a number of those questions are almost identical to those found on nanny agency applications. I was using one such application as a guide to writing my first post last night.

I do actually think I would ask a number of the questions I posed. I would likely re-phrase them, and I would not ask about the family health issues, or their food and beverage choices, but asking for references, and in quiring about financials is not out of line IMO.

Just my two Cents said...

Chick: Only some of your questions are over the top. Several clarify job duties and expectations and others are just understanding parenting style, which should never be off limits during an interview (just need to tweak the wording so they don't come off argumentative or accusing--sounds like you're getting frustrated with the job search).

Why did your last nanny leave is a common question. I wouldn't expect a letter of reference, but asking to speak to previous nannies/babysitters and current household help shows you are serious about finding a good fit. (BTW, I've found the best candidates DO ask for employer references).

I would probably turn around and ask you to answer the same questions but these are not bad questions: "Do you feel you have a good sense of personal boundaries, and do you respect the personal boundaries of your employees? Do you consider yourself to be a tidy person or a more messy person?" and I love "How do you define a "friendly professional" relationship with a household employee?". That's probably a good question for an employer to ask candidates.

Like you said, most of the medical questions are probably not good to ask, but I wouldn't consider the following reasonable and only fair since I have asked candidates if there is anything I should know about that might impact coming to work regularly and on time or performing job durites: "Do you have any health/personal/work issues that would cause frequent or last minute changes in nanny's schedule, or add extra duties to her contractual obligations?" It's good to ask an employer how they would handle (or have in the handled in the past) their needs changing (as they will if you stay with them as the children grow).

I think it's normal to ask where employers work, and how long they've lived in a neighborhood, but I would not want potential employers contacting my employer since I am not searching for employment. (Try doing some pre-interview detective work--Linked In, Facebook and My Space searches)

It's sensitive, so you might want to leave it to a second interview or let the employer know that when calling their former employees that one of the things you want to know is whether there was ever a payment issue, such as a bounced paycheck. If you really want to see an employer credit check, use an agency that provides that screening or a site like Sittercity where you can ask a potential employer to run a confidential background check on themselves when they run one on you.

Not sure why you would ask an employer the alcohol question. If they are drunks, the former nanny or other employees would probably tell you that. If you were to ask me if I've ever had a drink while the nanny was on duty, the answer would be yes, since our nanny has babysat on anniversaries, birthdays and other special occasions while we went out sans children. If you are a teetotaler and expect others around you to also be, then I guess ask this, but otherwise, seems silly.

And, if you ask about seeing me or the hubbie in jammies looking at porn, I'd think you were a perv :)

Nanny Taxi said...

Keeping a Kosher kitchen is not like cooking for vegetarians, or an all organic family.
At first keeping a Kosher kitchen can be intimidating for those who've never done it before. Just remember do not mix dairy with meat. Most of the Kosher kitchens I had to work in had separate cupboards for both. You cannot cook dairy and meat together and all the utensils must be washed separately.
Everyday before I left I kashered (sp?) the stainless sink with boiling water. Most kosher families I worked for ate all take out on paper plates with plastic utensils.
I know this isn't the topic for this thread but to learn more about keeping a Kosher kitchen read here

notajernanny said...

Who the hell cares about keeping a kosher kitchen??

Duh said...

Orthodox Jews, and the nannies who work for them.