Hiring the right person for your child is important, but could you be asking the wrong nanny interview questions? Find out the right questions to ask.
I’ve never had to hire any employee in the past, much less a nanny or even a babysitter. I was scared to hand my twins to a stranger—someone I’d hire only after a brief time of getting to know her. And I was clueless about what exactly to look for or ask during an interview.
And so I looked online and found questions I was supposed to ask. Many of these are important, but I ran into three problems:
3 problems with typical nanny interview questions
#1: You can find most of this information in their resume or profile.
Asking questions like “How many families have you cared for?” seems redundant when it says so right in her resume. And yes, you should confirm whether she has CPR training and experience with kids. But these are, again, information you likely already know even before you decided to call her.
#2: These “job interview” questions are rehearsed.
Just as you’ve answered typical questions at a job interview, so too have your potential nannies. They don’t tell you much other than she came prepared to answer these questions.
#3: These questions don’t allow you to get to know your nanny.
Many interview questions lend themselves to what you want to hear, not what someone would honestly say. Questions like “Are you willing to prepare meals?” don’t reflect what your nanny would actually do. Instead, leave those as statements: “Part of the job includes preparing meals.”
How to structure a nanny interview
A productive and effective interview is two-part:
- First, get to know your nanny in an honest, unrehearsed way.
- Second, establish your expectations.
Because isn’t that the goal of an interview? I want both parties to get to know one another. This is the person who’d care for my twins. Even though I’m paying her, it’s not the same as a typical employee. You have much more vested interest in hiring the right person.
And it all begins with the questions we ask.
These questions reveal how much aligned a nanny is with your life. And they do so without swaying her to say what she thinks you want to hear.
Getting to know your nanny by asking the right questions
“Where are you from?”
Begin the conversation by getting to know more about your nanny. Don’t dive into you and your family just yet. Allow her to show more of herself in an open-ended discussion about who she is.
Where did she grow up? Does she have any kids? Where does she live right now? (You might even be able to filter out nannies who live too far away if that’s a concern you have.)
“What is your ideal day with my child?”
Give your nanny the freedom to describe her ideal day before letting her know what you expect. She might want to take your baby to story time or attend play dates. Find out how much her ideal day lines up with what you’d like your baby to do.
Her typical day will reveal many of her preferences. Pay attention to any red flags that might not be a good fit for you.
“What would you do if the baby suddenly spikes a fever or comes down with a rash?”
Ideally, her answer should be to call you as soon as possible before giving medication. Even better if she can explain varying degrees of severity. For instance, she’d call you for a mild rash, but call 911 if she notices severe difficulty in breathing.
One of our twins has a prescription for an Epipen. We instructed our nanny to give it should she see symptoms we described. Unless you specifically give instructions on what to do and when, it’s best she calls you first.
“How do you handle a crying baby?”
Your baby will cry, no doubt. Find out how your nanny would handle hours of crying and whether her method is something you’d agree with. These are some of the most trying times for any caregiver—see how she’d handle a fussy baby.
If you’re sleep training, you need her to be consistent and do check-ins, not carry your baby if she cries. On the flip side, you may not want your baby to cry at all, even if it means your nanny carries him the entire nap.
“In your ideal family, do you see yourself as a resource with many years of experience to guide us? Or do you see yourself as someone who follows the parents’ lead and instruction?”
Many skip this important question, but it can define your relationship with your nanny. How do you see your nanny? Is she a mother or grandmother type you’d turn to when you’re not sure what to do with your baby? Or would you rather she follow your lead with every decision?
Even if your nanny does a bit of both, she might lean toward one or the other. You’ll have the nanny who wants to use her many years of experience and even show you how to console a baby. The downside? She has to be okay with following explicit directions down to a T. If you’re generally particular, she may not be a good fit for you.
Then you have the nanny who follows your lead all the time. She’ll support your decisions and will run through your entire routine exactly as you describe. The downside? She may not think on her feet and will need more instruction. Plus you’re not able to learn from her many years of experience, which you may need if you feel clueless.
“What if…” questions
Use “What if…” or “What would you do if…” questions to see how she’d respond to situations you’re curious about. Try not to sway her toward one “right” answer. Instead, look at how she responds and what she takes into consideration.
For instance, if you have a three-year-old, ask her what she’d do if both the baby and your preschooler were crying. You’re not looking for a right or wrong answer, but rather how she’d handle a typical scene in your home.
Establishing your expectations
Let’s say we’re talking about a typical job interview. This would be when the interviewer describes the office culture and company expectations. Things like when they’d need you to come in, or their dress code policy. The same is true for your nanny interview.
So don’t ask these as questions. Instead, list your expectations and allow your nanny to decide whether this will be a good fit for her.
Things you should discuss during your first interview:
- Whether you need her to prepare meals for the family.
- If she needs to drive to functions like story times and play dates. If so, will she be driving her own car or do you prefer she drives yours?
- Whether she’ll do housework. If so, what kind? Will she only be doing baby-related chores like washing bottles and washing their laundry? Or will she be vacuuming your home, making your bed or cooking your dinner?
- Let her know how many hours she’ll typically work. And be upfront with your work schedule. Will you get home on time, or will there be frequent occasions when you’d need her to stay later?
- List your vacation and sick day policy. Let her know whether you’re going to pay her if she goes on vacation or is out sick. And will there be blocks of time when you won’t need her to come in, such as the holidays? Which days will be paid or unpaid?
- Talk about when you plan to pay her, and how. Will you pay by check or cash? Every week, every other week, twice a month or monthly?
- Discuss whether it’s okay to invite others to your home. Do you want play dates at your home? Are you okay with her going to play dates in other people’s homes? Or do you prefer all play dates to be at public places such as the mall, library or park?
- Discuss your expectations on bringing her children, even if it’s infrequent. Is it okay if she brings her children? If so, is it most of the time or once in a while? Or do you have a strict rule about her not bringing children?(Personally, I didn’t allow our nanny to bring her kids for many reasons. We preferred she take a day off, even if it meant my husband or I had to take a day off, too.)
- Let her know if you want her to do crafts or follow a curriculum. Does she enjoy doing crafts? Will you provide her with supplies?
- Whether she needs to write a daily report. If so, will you provide a form she can fill out? Some parents want a full report each day on paper. Things like how many times the baby ate and how many ounces, or how long they napped or cried.
Hiring a nanny can be one of the most nerve-wrecking experiences. You’re handing your baby to someone you don’t know. That’s why it’s crucial to ask important questions before making your decision.
These questions get to the heart of what you’re looking for in a nanny. Ask open-ended questions to avoid swaying answers in one direction or another. And establish your expectations from the start rather than phrasing them as questions.
And most important, get to know your potential nanny. Ask the questions you’d ask anyone you’re getting to know. Use her responses, demeanor and behavior to decide whether you feel like it’s a good match.
With the right questions, you’ll find a nanny you’ll feel confident with.
Get more tips:
- Don’t Do These 8 Things When Hiring a Nanny
- Would You Use a Nanny Cam?
- The Working Mom Pep Talk: What Do You Tell Yourself to Keep Going?
- First Day Back after Maternity Leave — Does It Get Better?
- The Surprising Factor that Gives You Work-Life Balance
Tell me in the comments: What nanny interview questions tell you most about a person? If you hired a nanny, what made her stand out in the hiring process?
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