When you’re leaving your children in the hands of someone other than a family member, it can be very difficult to hand over the reigns. However, there are many wonderful people who love taking care of kids, and if you choose a nanny or sitter carefully, that person could very well come to feel like part of the family. If it’s your first time hiring a childcare provider, it’s important to ask the right questions. Representatives from some of the most reputable local and national placement agencies gave us the inside scoop on what you need to know before your hire someone to take care of your children.
Before you start interviewing
Make a list! Naomi Sachs is the chief operating officer of Sittercity, a national nanny and babysitter placement company. She says to prepare for interviews by making a list of the qualities in a nanny that are most important to you. For example, if you want someone who is CPR certified or who holds a degree in early childhood development, put those things at the top of your list – and work from there
The hiring process
“When you’re searching for a nanny, it’s very much like dating,” says Erin Krex, owner of First Class Care a full-service domestic placement agency based in Glenview. “You need to have a connection with them. They could have an amazing resumé, but if you do not have a connection, then it’s not going to work.”
As the parent, you want to find out what kinds of experience the potential caregiver has with children. Think about your own circumstances: How many children do you have? What are their ages? Do they have special needs? The new nanny should have experience in a similar situation and feel comfortable handling a new one.
Kathy Murphy, president of North Shore Nannies, Chicago’s oldest placement agency, says a nanny should have verifiable childcare experience, either from a long-term relationship with another family or as an employee in a setting where she has been observed by other childcare professionals who can provide references.
“They should also have a thorough understanding of what is involved in caring for a child all day everyday to support the healthy development of the child as well as the family as a whole,” Murphy says.
Krex says a typical nanny has two years of experience, but if you can find one with five to 10 years of experience, that is ideal.
“They should show a passion for children and fully understand milestones,” she says. “They should want to continue their education in childcare and take classes such as car seat safety, handling tantrums and sleep training.”
During interviews, be sure to ask open-ended questions that don’t suggest the correct answer.
“Ask for concrete examples from the candidate’s prior experience,” Murphy says. “We suggest parents think about what is most important to them in a nanny as well as questions that address the developmental stage of the child.”
Relevant questions for the interview
Stumped about what to ask a potential childcare provider? Consider this your nanny interview cheat sheet:
- Why do you like working with children?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What type of things would you plan to do with my children? What are your favorite activities to do with kids?
- Will you read books to my child everyday?
- Do you have a favorite on-job memory?
- What is an emergency situation you have handled in the past? Or, if my child got hurt how would you handle it?
- Are you CPR-certified?
- Have you administered medication to children before?
- How long were you with each of your previous families? Are you looking for a family you can grow with, or is this a short-term job?
- How much notice would you give if you had to leave our family?
After the interview
When you finish an interview, ask yourself: Is this person working as a nanny out of choice rather than necessity? Is it clear to you that this candidate has a true desire to work with children in an in-home setting? You should also set aside some time for the candidate to meet and hang out with your kids while you observe. Then ask yourself whether she seems excited to meet your kids and at ease interacting with them.
“Pay attention and trust your instincts,” Sachs says.
Also be sure to check references. Take a look at Sittercity site for guidance on checking references: In addition, you should Google the candidate and do a full background check before hiring.
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