6 Tips for Parents Interviewing Nannies

GUEST COLUMN Submitted by Nancy Parker
In addition to the basic interview questions regarding experience, work history, and salary expectations that parents should ask prospective nannies during an interview, there are several other important factors that should also be taken into consideration.

During the nanny selection process, consider these 6 tips when interviewing nannies:
1. Do your homework. Regardless of how you found your potential nanny, the ultimate hiring responsibility rests with you. Parents should speak personally with nanny references, verify proof of education and experience (even if this is reviewing the documentation a nanny agency has secured), review any background screenings that were conducted and have their own in-person interview with the nanny candidate.

2. Use past-tense, situational questions. When asking your nanny candidate questions about her care giving experiences and expectations, phrase situations in the past-tense. Instead of asking “What would you do if a child fell down the stairs on your watch” ask “How have you handled any injuries that occurred while the children were in your care?” Ask “How did you spend your day with your previous two-year-old charge” rather than “How do you envision a day with my child?” You want to know what the candidate has actually done, not what she thinks she may do.

3. Ask why other positions have ended. Nanny and family relationships end for various reasons. These reasons range from a nanny leaving because the children went off to school and her services were no longer needed to a nanny breaching a parent’s trust. Sometimes the relationship ends on good terms, and other times not so much. It’s good to get the nanny’s perspective on why a relationship ended prior to contacting a reference. Knowing why a nanny left previous positions also helps you to identify any potential patterns in employment history.

4. Inquire about child care ideas and philosophies. It’s important that the parents and the nanny share a similar style of parenting, discipline and communication. A nanny should be able to articulate what her parenting style is and the method of discipline she believes in. While the nanny should always follow the parents lead, in some cases the gap in styles is too grand (for example a family that embraces attachment parenting and a nanny who does not) to meet on and the nanny and family won’t be a good match.

5. Consider the nanny’s goals and aspirations. Before investing your time and energy into such an intimate relationship, it’s important to have an understanding of how long the relationship could last. If you are looking for a nanny for your newborn to stay for several years, it would be important to know if a candidate just wants to nanny for a year while she decides what she really wants to do, or if this the career path she wants to follow long-term. Ask why she chooses to work as a nanny and where she sees herself in 2, 5 and 10 years.

6. Clarify the type of care you want. Just like there are different types of families, there are also different types of nannies. Some nannies prefer to work strictly according to the daily schedule the parents have lined out and others like to have the authority to plan how they will spend their day with the children in their care. If you don’t want your nanny transporting your children to events and activities, for example, it’s important that you clarify that and confirm your nanny candidate is willing to accept a position that requires her to stick close to home. When nannies and parents do not address the type of care situation that is desired, there is a potential for trouble to brew.

Conducting nanny interviews is outside the comfort zone of many parents. Even those parents with a HR background often have trouble transitioning their corporate skills to the household environment. View the nanny interview as an opportunity to gain insight into the person you may consider trusting with your most prized position. Most nannies understand how important the interview and decision making process is and are eager to answer most any question that you may have.


MissMannah said...

Good advice, for the most part. I disagree with #s 3 & 5. They are none of your business. I think a common problem in nanny interviews is it is so intimate that the parents think every detail of the nanny's life is their business. #3: how the nanny's last position need to ask yourself why you really want to know this. If it ended badly, you aren't going to get a completely honest answer anyway. #5: nanny's goals and aspirations. It is nice to ask if you truly care about her life...which you don't in the initial interview. You are only asking to see what you can get out of her, in which case it is much more honest to simply say "We are looking for someone long-term, at least 2-3 years. Will this fit in well with your long-term plans?"

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

I am surprised that pay was not a factor in this article. If pay wasn't discussed on the phone prior to the interview, then it most definitely should be discussed at the in-person interview. Parents and Nannies can be on completely different pages in regards to pay and it is best if it is discussed as soon as possible to avoid wasting anyone's time.

Also, during the interview I think it is crucial to allow the Nanny to interact w/the child. Chemistry is so vital in a successful Nanny/Parent/Child relationship and it should take priority as soon as possible.

I agree w/Missmannah that it is not important why the last Nanny job ended. It wouldn't be fair for the Nanny to be the one to be in a bad light just because she may have left a former position. Perhaps she was taken advantage of or had to work for the "Parent from Hell!!" Even if she has patterns of leaving families, it should not cast her in a negative light.

I have left many families over many different issues. I.e., micromanagement, job creep, bounced checks, you name it. I would say I have left about 15 + families. At first, I thought since the number was so high..that I must have been doing something wrong. However, later on I worked for a family that truly respected me and treated me the way a Nanny should be treated. They paid me fairly, gave me full autonomy and didn't expect me to clean their house or cook their dinner. They just expected me to provide great care for their child which was why I was hired. So they set the bar for me and sadly, not many families since then have lived up to this standard. I am so sick of being underpaid, overworked, under appreciated and used, used, used.

Rocky Mountain Nanny said...

I disagree with #4. As a nanny, I have always gone into a job with the attitude of "your house, your kids, your rules." I don't think it is my place to agree or disagree with their parenting style, as long as there is no abuse going on, it is my job to carry out their wishes as parents.

I would also add that they need to discuss 2 more things that nannies feel strongly about: WAHPs and taxes.

Bethany said...

I'm surprised there's no mention of pay/taxes/contract or interacting with child, duties beyond childcare.

#3 is a tricky one. It's a pretty standard question in any employment field I can understand parents asking, but it's not likely they'll get a good answer. I'd say if you get an applicant with an employment history that concerns you don't call for an interview.

#5 all they need do is make it clear they want someone to commit to 2-5 years.

Nc nanny said...

Do not ask if they have ever been treated for any type of mental illness. This is illegal and if your nanny suffered from depression at any point, you will only serve to humiliate her. Plus how will being medicated for mental illness change how she performs.

Next I personally believe you are crossing the line if you ask if she has a boyfriend or her religion. It's none of the employers business and a good nanny is never going to impose her religious preferences on your children.

Beezus said...

My current MB asked me if I had a boyfriend. I was a little taken back, It kind of felt like when my grandma would ask me if I was seeing anyone in back in high school. It made me feel uncomfortable. If you really think that your nanny having a significant other is going to alter her nanny prowess in some way, buy a robot. The Jetsons had a pretty cool one. Of course I can understand the concern, I guess you think I will be sitting by the phone all day talking and texting, but I'll be just as tempted to do that with my girl friends. Are you going to ask me if I have friends and a cell phone too?

MissMannah said...

Almost every interview I've been on I've been asked if I am married or if I have children. I agree it is not the employer's business, and they really need to ask themselves why they are asking this. Is it just morbid curiosity? Many times I have even been asked what my husband does for a living!

Nc nanny, as someone who is mentally ill, I appreciate you brought that up. It is illegal to ask that question, but that doesn't stop people. I've even seen that question on actual job applications outside the nanny field.

Z said...

Bethany and MissMannah made very good points about #3 and #5. Rocky Mountain made a good point about #4and about mentioning WAHPs and taxes. You don't want any surprises there.

I also wish there were a way for nannies to ask how long the parents hang around the house before going to work. I hate it when mom spends 2 hours getting ready to go while I have to keep trying to explain to a toddler why mommy is home, but doesn't want to see him right now.

Agnostic Nanny said...

I'm not sure if religion is important to discuss. I don't think it is fair to hire a nanny based on religion, but I can understand the need for a nanny who respects the religion of the family.

I am agnostic, I have never practiced any religion, yet there have been jobs where I prayed with Christian children before bed, kept a completely Kosher household for a Jewish family, and kept Mormon children from violating their parents values. I have had children tell me that "Halloween is for the devil," and "if you don't go to church you will go to hell." I don't feel it is necessary for me to believe any of it, just that I play along.

However, some parents may not want a nanny who just plays along. If religious values are important to the parents, I kind of understand wanting a nanny who shares those values.

Wow, I sound very pro-religion here, I'm really really not. I just believe in respecting every different kind of person.

MissMannah said...

Agnostic, I kind of agree with you there, but I think if religion is *that* important to the family, they should list it as a requirement in the ad. "We are a highly religious family looking for a like-minded nanny to raise our child in the church" or whatever. I do see ads like that frequently and I steer clear of them because I do not wish to "play along" as you said. I have actually gotten into philosophical discussions with a 6 year old because he told me people in India are bad because they don't believe in God. Luckily this was not a full-time long-term job, or else I probably would have been fired for not further warping his young mind.

nycmom said...

To address the issue raised by several prior posters, the very first paragraph clearly states that this list comes AFTER addressing the basics:

"In addition to the basic interview questions regarding experience, work history, and salary expectations that parents should ask prospective nannies during an interview, there are several other important factors that should also be taken into consideration."

Nanny Tara said...

I like ads that state upfront whether the parent works from the home or not. I have spoken to many parents who want to interview me in person, and before I agree to meet, I always ask..."So, where do you work at?" If they say, "Oh, I work from a home office.." then I tell them that I do not work for parents who telecommute and thank them.

Some childcare ads state, "Parent works from home and is seeking a nanny who is comfortable with this situation..." I find this very helpful since not all nannies are comfortable working with a parent who is there all day.

Scientific said...

Yeah the religion thing is tough. While I can "play along" with religious beliefs, it makes it harder for me to connect with the parents. I am very logical and rational, and to me the belief in a supernatural all powerful being doesn't make sense to me. I see it as the same thing as kids believing in Santa or the Tooth Fairy, so it seems strange to me that adults can believe in god. So I can play along with it, but I always feel like I'm dealing with people who believe in aliens or something like that.

Manhattan Nanny said...

I read somewhere that the qualities that make a successful business woman, and the qualities that make a great nanny are diametrically opposed. Maybe they are or maybe they aren't, but taylor your interview to the requirements of your particular nanny position, not a corporate job.

#3, asking why the last job ended. That is a question to ask her references. If you get a negative report, but her other refs. are great, and you like her, then ask her about that one. A great nanny might have been fired by an unreasonable employer, or she may have had a good reason to quit, but not want to bad mouth her previous employer in an interview. As you can see on this site, there are some crazy people employing nannies, and treating them badly!
#5, As for what she sees herself doing in ten years, that tells you nothing. Instead ask why she became a nanny and what she likes about it. Is she able to commit to the length of time you would like?