Questions to ask when interviewing nannies

Before you interview a nanny, you may want to jot down a list of questions you’d like to learn her answers to. You don’t have to refer to the list during your chat if you don’t want to (though of course you can if you feel you need to): Sometimes paper can get in the way, and you want to keep your focus on the candidate rather than your notebook. The most important thing is to listen carefully to what she says and watch what she does, how she interacts with your child. Be attuned to your own emotional responses, as well: How at ease do you feel with her? How easy is it to communicate with her?

And whatever you do, don’t monopolize the conversation – let her do most of the talking. Yes, your object here is to give her a sense of the job, but more than anything, get to know her and whether she’ll fit in with your family.

Try to have your child around at some point during the interview – or even throughout – so you can observe how the candidate interacts with your child.

Also: Make sure you get each candidate’s full name, address and phone number. You’d be surprised at how many people skip this essential step! You might also want to make a note for yourself about how you found this candidate or how she found you.

On the phone:

  1. Go over the requirements of the job. Find out if she meets your basic criteria. Make sure she can drive, if the job requires it. Ascertain if she’s available for the hours you need. Make sure she’s willing to do the work required: Would she do light housework, if that’s what you’re looking for? Is the salary you’re offering within her range? If she’s not qualified to meet your basic requirements, thank her and move on. There’s no reason to waste either of your time.
  2. Make sure she has some child-care experience. Ask her about her most recent child-care job, what her responsibilities were, the ages of the children she took care of, and why she’s no longer there. You can learn a lot right off the bat from how she talks about her former employer and the children she cared for.
  3. Ask her about what she’s looking for, how long she wants to stay at her next position and when she can start. Make sure her expectations and time frame jibe with yours.
  4. If you plan to do a background check on someone, tell her right away. Also let her know that you’ll need references.
  5. If her answers seem satisfactory and you’d like to meet for an interview, set up a mutually suitable time and place (usually your home) and ask her to bring a list of at least three references when you meet. (You can also ask her to bring a resume or CV if she has one, but don’t be surprised if she does not.)

Here are some questions you can ask when you meet a candidate in person. Pick and choose the ones that pertain to your situation and resonate with you. Obviously, you don’t have to ask them all! But do feel free to add any of your own:

  1. How long have you been a nanny?
  2. What was your last job caring for children like? How old were the kids? What was the family like? What were your responsibilities? What hours did you work? Why did the job end?
  3. Why are you looking for a new position?
  4. What would a typical day be for you with a child my child’s age?
  5. What kinds of activities would you plan to do?
  6. Why are you a nanny? What do you enjoy most about taking care of children? What do you like least about it? (What kinds of parents/children do you least like to work with?)
  7. What’s your ideal family/employer/work situation like?
  8. Are you looking for a live-in child-care situation? [If so, you may want to ask additional questions about lifestyle.] If not, where do you live and how do you plan to get back and forth to work?
  9. What do you think children like best about you?
  10. What do you consider to be your most important responsibility when you’re taking care of children?
  11. What are your beliefs about childrearing?
  12. What sorts of challenges have you encountered with kids you’ve been taking care of and how have you handled them?
  13. How do you discipline children? Can you give me some examples?
  14. How do you comfort a child who is upset about something?
  15. How do you deal with separation anxiety?
  16. Have you ever had to handle an emergency on the job? Can you tell me what happened and how you dealt with it?
  17. What would you do if my child got sick or had an accident?
  18. What sorts of routines have you had to maintain in your past jobs – morning routines, naptime routines – and how have you handled them?
  19. What are some of the rules you’ve followed in other households that you think worked well? Are there any rules that you don’t think worked well? How do you deal with being asked to follow rules or disciplining/comforting strategies that might be different from your own?
  20. If I’m working at home, how would you keep my child happy and engaged without involving me? Have you taken care of children in a situation in which a parent has been working and around?
  21. Do you have any personal or health-related issues that could get in the way of you doing this job?
  22. How long are you hoping this position will last? Do you have any future plans – marriage, school, moving – that you anticipate having to leave your next position for?
  23. Can you cook?
  24. Can you drive? Do you have a well-functioning car with operable seatbelts and space for car seats or are you willing and able to drive our car?
  25. How do you feel about performing light housekeeping: picking up toys, throwing in a load of laundry, etc?
  26. How flexible is your schedule? Are you willing to work evenings and weekends? If we need to stay at work later than expected from time to time or go out of town, would you be willing and able to accommodate that, provided we pay you for the extra hours?
  27. Do you smoke?
  28. What do you like to do in your spare time?
  29. What do you think are your greatest strengths? What sorts of things would you like to improve about yourself?
  30. Do you have any formal early childhood development or child care training?
  31. Do you have child-CPR or first-aid training?
  32. Would you be interested in taking child safety or development courses, if we paid for them?
  33. What are your salary expectations?
  34. When do you usually take vacation?
  35. When would you be able to start working?
  36. Would you mind if I ran a background check on you?
  37. Can you give me the names and numbers of three former employers I can call as references?

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