7 steps to finding a great nanny

In my previous post, comparing 5 best child care options, I mentioned that after deliberating on the pros and cons of the different child care options, my husband and I decided to go with the nanny option.  The main reason we picked the nanny option was that we wanted the highest level of individualized care and attention for our then four-month-old baby.  Despite the higher costs of having a nanny, we liked the convenience factor of having someone who can come to our home, chauffeur our toddler to and from preschool, do light household chores like dishes and laundry, and help prepare meals for the family.

Over the last four years, we have been very lucky to have found three wonderful nannies for our children who genuinely care for them.  Our nannies have graciously helped out with household duties so that when my husband and I get home from work, we can focus more on spending time with our children.  To be truthful, when I started the daunting process of looking for and hiring a nanny, I felt quite stressed out about it.  I didn’t know how or where to start and I kept procrastinating the inevitable task.  My best advice is to hunker down and just get started.  I am sharing some tips and ideas that I have gleaned from my nanny search process that I hope will be helpful for you.

1. Where to look?  When to start looking?

  • Start by asking friends, family, neighbors, mommy groups, and acquaintances for recommendations.  It’s always best to have an honest review from people that you know and trust.
  • I have used to find all of our previous and current nannies.  What I like about is that it is easy to set-up, inexpensive (there is a monthly access fee), and there are usually plenty of active job seekers.  You can create an ad with your specific child care needs and within a day, there will be several responses from prospective candidates.  By clicking on the caregiver’s profile, you can view their picture, age, pay expectation, experience, and other personal information.  For candidates you are seriously considering, background checks and DMV driving records can be requested and obtained.
  • Typically, the best time to start looking for child care is no more than 1-2 months in advance.  If you start the process too soon, you may lose great candidates who are looking to start immediately.  Unless you have a mutually agreeable arrangement, it would not be feasible to ask a nanny to wait for more than one month before you can offer them the job.

2. Create your ad:

  • Provide a detailed description of the requirements and job responsibilities.  Here is an example of what I posted:

Nanny for 2 toddlers, 1 and 3 years old in City X

8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. (10 hrs) for 4 days a week (40 hrs total). Competitive salary based on experience. Must have experience with toddlers to be considered for this job.

-Must be able to use your own reliable car to drive kids (your car must be able to fit 2 rear-facing car seats). Must show proof of insurance and clean driving record.
-Must have at least 1 year of experience caring for toddlers as a nanny, preschool teacher, or in a daycare setting
-CPR certified 
-No criminal background
-Non-smoker, no drugs
-Must not be allergic to cats (we have 1 indoor cat)

-Meal prep for kids 
-Laundry and dishes daily for the family, tidying house (we have house cleaners)
-Drive older son to preschool
-Plan projects & activities (library time, play dates, etc.)

Please send a resume or a description about yourself, your background, and your references

3. Select candidates to interview:

  • Rule out candidates that do not fit your criteria first (there will be many job seekers that will respond to your ad, regardless of whether they fit the criteria).
  • Test potential care givers out before interviewing them by asking a question or requesting a piece of information and see whether they respond correctly and in a timely manner.
  • Narrow your list of possible candidates and decide whether you want to conduct phone interviews first or meet in person.  If you decide to meet in person, dedicate a weekend in which you will interview most, if not all, of your top candidates.  Tell them that you are interviewing on Saturday and Sunday between the hours of 9-12 and 1-4.  Make special accommodations for candidates that you’re very interested in but cannot come at your designated interview window of time.

4. Interview time!

  • Listed are some of the questions I asked:
    • Why did you become a nanny?  Tell me about your experience?  What are your specific experiences with infants/toddlers?
    • Why are you leaving/no longer at your previous job?
    • What did you like most about your last job?  Least?
    • What are your pet peeves?
    • Are you a type A or B person?  Why?
    • What are your plans for the next year?  Next 3-5 years?
    • What would you do if baby refuses to nap and you know that he is overtired?”
    • How do you soothe a fussy baby?
    • How do you deal with a toddler who throws a tantrum?
    • What’s your philosophy about discipline?
    • What would you do or say if the child says something negative to you or to someone else?
    • What do you do when the child refuses to eat and throws all the food on the floor?
    • What do you do when the toddler slips and bumps his head on the floor?
    • How do you feel about the isolation of being the only adult with children for 10 hours at a time?
    • Are you willing to drive?  Are you aware that there are light household duties?
    • What questions do you have for me?  Pay special attention to this one because someone who has no questions or agreeable to everything you say may not have the experience you are looking for.  Alternatively, watch out for candidates who are overly demanding or picky.
  • If you are expecting your nanny to perform duties outside of child care (such as driving, cooking, light household keeping, running errands), make sure the candidates are aware of it and agreeable to it.  Even though you specify these things in your ad, you will be surprised at how few people actually read the details.  Some candidates will flat-out tell you that they will not do anything unrelated to the actual care of your children.
  • Pay special attention to how the potential nanny interacts with your children during the interview.
  • If you’re particularly interested in a candidate, give them a tour of your children’s rooms, show them the playroom/back yard, and tell them about your children’s personalities and interests so that they can start to imagine themselves as the nanny for your family.  Keep in mind that great nannies are highly sought after and they are often interviewing with other families.
  • Paint a realistic picture of your family needs because it is better that the candidate know upfront the good and the bad parts of their job before they accept your offer.  We had a nanny who worked for us for only one month before she quit because she couldn’t handle the 10 hour work days.  She didn’t mention that she had three boys of her own under the age of 7 that she had to take care of after she got home from work.

5. Narrow down your choices

  • Use your gut instinct to narrow down your choices to the top 1-2 candidates.  Remember that someone who may sound good on paper or says all the right things during the interview may not really be the best fit.
  • Call references – this is a must.  Ask the previous employer if they would rehire this person again.  Ask for specifics such as pay/vacation,  job duties, whether the person was reliable, dependable and on-time, etc.  I always like to ask the previous employer what their pet peeves were of the candidate.  This can be a very telling clue about the candidate’s idiosyncrasies and personality traits.
  • Request background checks and DMV records

6. Do a paid working interview

  • We have always done paid working interviews prior to hiring our nannies.  Typically, a four hour block is sufficient time to give you a sense of whether your top candidate is a good fit for your family or not.  You can even have your current nanny (if possible and appropriate) to be present to give their feedback.

7. Make an offer and beyond

  • Yay!  You have found the nanny you want to hire.  Now what?
  • Discuss the specifics such as compensation and any planned vacations.
  • Finalize the start date.
  • Create a nanny contract (optional).
  • Schedule an on-boarding/orientation session to familiarize your nanny with the child care routine and layout of the house to ensure a smooth transition.

In the next post, I will be sharing some tips on how to attract highly qualified nannies to respond to your ad and how to hire the best nanny without paying the highest price on the market.  Of course, a great nanny is worth her (or his) weight in gold, so it is worth it offer the most competitive compensation package you can afford.  I will also be sharing my experiences on how to set your nanny up for success by clearly defining your expectations.

Have you hired nannies in the past?  Any tips or advice you can offer?  If you know another parent who may like this, please feel free to share it.

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Happy Chic Mom, a blog for moms

The post, 7 steps to finding a great nanny, first appeared on Happy Chic Mom.

Photo credit: Colin Maynard

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