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Ask her This: The Best Nanny Interview Questions

This is the first post in a multi-part blog series under the title, “Nanny Interview Questions – the Key Questions to Ask a Babysitter or Nanny Before you Hire Her.”

The Best Nanny Interview Questions and How to Start the Process…

In this post, “Ask her This: The Best Nanny Interview Questions as complied from the best nanny agencies,” you’ll learn some of the basic elements I’ve found to be most helpful for interviewing nannies.  In the next post in this series, “What HR Taught you is all Wrong: How to Interview a Nanny,” you’ll learn several detailed questions and how to handle the nanny’s responses.  Finally, my last post on the topic, “Why Interviewing a Nanny is More Complicated than you Think,” I’ll review certain tips and tricks for getting the most out of your interview.

So let’s get started…

When it’s finally time to meet your top candidates face-to-face, the good news is that because you’ve already done your screening and your reference checks, (see my prior posts and if you haven’t already done so, click on the button below to download your free reference check questionnaire), the nannies who you meet in person are the ones who have the greatest chance of actually being right for your job. Interviews are a vital part of the Gold Standard hiring process, because they give you the opportunity to fill in additional details about the candidate, and to pose questions designed to reveal how she would care for your children and fit in with your household. You’ve already filled in a lot of the pieces of your “nanny puzzle” by doing Basic Screening and Reference Checks; now it’s finally time to fill in the missing piece about how you and the nanny interact.

However, as we’ve said many times before, the nanny world is the Wild West where 1 + 1 doesn’t always equal 2.  That’s why I always tell my nanny agency in nyc clients that interviews in the nanny world can mean absolutely nothing.  I’ve seen nannies who were amazing and polished during the interview be completely terrible during the trial, and I’ve seen nannies who struck the parents as being too boring or quiet during the interview come to life in the most wonderful way when interacting with children.  My own nanny, Maria, barely said two words during our interview, but she came highly recommended by all of her past employers, and when I saw her in action, I knew that she was the perfect nanny for us.  The truth is that many nannies are not great interviewers because they are not used to a setting that’s more typical of the professional world: They’re nervous, and there may be language issues (or even cultural or class-related issues) that make easy communication difficult or uncomfortable.

But—and this is one of the things I try hardest to impress upon parents—a nanny doesn’t have to be great in an interview to be an incredible nanny. The best nanny agencies in NYC will also tell you that she doesn’t have to be able to sit for two hours while people fire very difficult questions at her. She has to love children, and she has to be good at what she does. So your goal with the interview is not to figure out if you and the nanny can get along happily for the next ten years, or to grill her on obscure details of child development.  Instead, you want to ask questions that will help you further understand her, and to assess the basics:  Did she arrive on time?  Is she neatly dressed?  Does she say anything that seems abnormal or “off”?   She may answer your questions eloquently, or she may not—but all you need to decide is whether she seems generally pleasant and competent, and if she meets enough of your “Musts” to have her come to your house and do a trial.

Should your children be present during a nanny interview?

I do not think it is necessary to for children to be involved in interviews. Children can be distracting, and this is the time for you and the nanny to speak and connect.  Don’t use the interview to assess how the nanny is with your child; that’s what the trial is for.

SETTING UP NANNY INTERVIEWS

Some parents like to tackle all of their interviews in a single day, while others prefer to do one at a time, so you should do whatever feels right and least stressful for you. Begin with your top candidates and call or email them to arrange a time to meet. I tell parents to aim for thirty minutes per interview, but to schedule an hour for each candidate in case you need extra time.

Once you finalize a time for the interview, you should:

  • Explain that you are going to be doing interviews first, followed by paid trials if the interview goes well. This way the nanny knows what to expect.  If you're working with a nanny agency, make sure you provide them with feedback as soon as possible.
  • Ask her to bring along her working status papers and driver’s license so that you can ask her any questions about them during the interview, and have the information on hand for background checks. You should also ask her to bring a current utility or credit card bill in her name to verify her present address. You can use your smartphone to take a photo of the front and back of each document, or use a home scanner to make a copy.
  • Arrange to meet at a relaxed location. You want to keep the interview as informal as possible for all parties so that the nanny feels comfortable opening up. If you’d rather not invite candidates into your home just yet, try a neutral location such as a coffee shop.

HOW TO STRUCTURE A NANNY INTERVIEW

A Gold Standard interview has three parts. First, you start by telling your story, reviewing the details of the position, and reiterating what you are looking for in a nanny. Then, you ask the candidate to match her experience to your story, so that you can assess the degree of fit. Finally, you finish up with some additional personal questions to get a clearer sense of who the nanny is personally and professionally.  Be prepared to take notes throughout the conversation, so that you can review what you’ve learned and assess the pros and cons after you’re done.

Part 1: Tell Your Story

Even though you already described your job and talked to the nanny about her credentials during Basic Screening, you want to go over your lists of “Musts,” “Pluses” and “Deal-Breakers” from your Family Needs Assessment (see my prior posts on this topic and download your free FNA at the end of this email)

one more time during the interview, so that the nanny can hear them again and respond face-to-face. If you’ve had other nannies or childcare providers, you also want to explain what has worked and not worked well for you in the past so that the candidate has a very clear sense of what you want.  You should also mention any pre-employment tests that you would like her to do, for example a driving test or physical health exam. Then, you want to present the scenarios that you came up with based on your FNA (you can use the same ones you used during Reference Checks) about your “worst-day scenario” and other common other situations in your household. 

Keep in mind that this is the time for you to be as open and honest as possible about every single aspect of your job—the positive aspects as well as the challenging ones—and about what you want (and don’t want) in a caregiver.  You should also make a point of telling the nanny that you would like her to be open and honest as well, and that it will be helpful to hear about her likes and dislikes, and about how she works best so that together you can decide if you’re a match. 

Script and Sample Nanny Interview Questions: Part 1

Introduction: “Barbara, I know that we already talked about the requirements and duties of for our position, but we’d like to go over them again so that we can answer any questions you may have. I’d also like to tell you about the kind of partnership we hope to have, and about what has worked well and not worked well for us with our past nannies. We really want you to answer honestly, and to tell us about how you work, and your likes and dislikes when working with families, because all of this will help us to get to know you and figure out if we’re a fit.”

  1. Reconfirm that the candidate meets your basic requirements.
  • “Just to confirm, Barbara, you can work Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and have the flexibility to stay one night a week, correct?”
  1. Explain any pre-employment requirements and see how the nanny feels.
  • “For our top candidates, will be doing a full background check, a drug test and a physical exam, which we will pay for. Is this okay with you, and may I take pictures of your documents?”
  1. Review any additional “Musts,” “Pluses,” and “Deal-breakers.”
  • “I am a full-time mom and I love being hands-on with my daughters. While I am with the kids, I need someone to do cooking, cleaning, and housekeeping. Then, when I am out with one of the girls, you would play games and read to the other. Are you okay with this type of arrangement? Also, we feel very strongly that our nanny only use a cell phone during naptime or in an emergency. Is this something that you can agree to?”
  1. Talk about what has worked and not worked well with past caregivers.
  • “Our baby nurse sometimes had issues with being late, and after I return to work, our nanny cannot be late because my job starts early.”
  1. Tell them about the hardest part of the job.
  • “It can be very difficult on days when our baby is not feeling good and is crying. Usually that’s the day that our toddler wants additional attention—probably because he is watching us give the baby extra care. We need someone who can manage both infant and toddler needs.”
  1. Pose additional scenarios and ask how the nanny would handle them.
  • “Yesterday my baby would not stop crying. How would you handle this?”

In the coming posts, I’ll discuss:

  • How to Interview a Nanny
  • Sample Nanny Interview Questions
  • Tips for a Successful Nanny Interview
  • And much, much more….

Download a Free Copy of Tammy's Family Needs Assessment Here

I hope that you find this content helpful, informative, and educational as you embark on your journey!  As always, please feel free to reach out to us if we can be helpful in your search - we offer multiple different ways to work with our clients including simply providing advice by the hour as you complete your search on your own.  There’s a reason why we’re consistently rated one of the best nanny agencies and why the bulk of our searches are from repeat clients or referrals!

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Or, here is a free eBook on interviewing nannies that you might find useful and below that, links to to some of our other blogs on the topic of nanny interviews

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Welcome to Tammy's blog. If you have a question, feel free to email her at info@tammygold.com. Otherwise, here are my tips and tricks to handling everything from your care giver to a tantrum. 


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