How to find, interview and hire a nanny

Step 1:
Where to find the candidates:

  • From local parents’ group forums. Sometimes people will suggest babysitters they have previously worked with. e.g. www.npnparents.org in Chicago
  • Craigslist: I found our nanny on Craigslist. You still end up going through the same interview process, checking the references etc.
  • Nanny/Babysitter search websites sittercity.com, etc. I have never used these websites.
  • Nanny placement agencies. They do some of the things I have written below in advance but be ready to pay a big commission.

Step 2:
Identify what you want from a nanny and what your expectations are.

  • What days will she be working?
  • What is her schedule going to be like?
  • What are her duties going to be? (Make sure to make a clear list of duties, you might just think of some things in your head which your candidate might not be aware of. It is best to clarify your expectations in advance so that there is no dissatisfaction in the end)

1-Childycare: Changing diapers, feeding the baby, playing, taking the baby to the park, play date, etc.
2-Housework related to the baby: Heating the baby’s food or preparing the food from scratch, putting away baby’s dishes, washing baby’s clothes, ironing, folding and putting them away, regularly sanitizing baby’s toys, organizing baby’s toys…
3-House chores: Organizing the kitchen, vacuuming the carpet, cleaning the tiles, (this is very important for crawling babies), putting up other miscellaneous items sitting around and other cleaning….
4-Shopping:(Refer to the question about car)
5-Housework related to the nanny: Nanny’s own food and dishes.

  • Is the nanny able to take care of your baby, if (s) has special needs?
  • Does the nanny have to have a car (Is there a need for an additional baby car seat?). Does she have a license, can she use your car?
  • Where does she live, close or far away?

Step 3:
Meet with the nanny face to face and find out how much of the above mentioned duties she is able to fulfill and obtain detailed information about her experience?
Questions to ask the nanny:

  • What are her past experiences?
  • Why is she looking for a job as a nanny?
  • Why did she leave her last job?
  • What does she say about the previous family and children she worked for (if she is constantly making negative comments, that’s a red flag!)
  • How is she going to arrange the schedule for feeding and sleep time for the kids?
  • How experienced is she in playing games? As your baby grows up, playing games will become more important than feeding the baby or changing the baby’s diapers.
  • What’s her take on discipline, house rules, temper tantrums and child’s behaviors?
  • Try to discuss and find out whether she is going to pay attention to your warnings or she is going make decisions on her own?
  • Does she have a CPR certification? Is it up to date? (This is important, you might want to sit down sometime and refresh your memory on CPR)
  • Make sure to ask for references.

Bonus Traits:
If you are nuts like me, you might ask the nanny if she speaks another language such as Spanish or Chinese. If she is going to speak English, does she have an accent? I have an accent as well but, some people have a really heavy accent. Does she know the sign language for the babies? Does she know other nanny in the area so that she can arrange playdates for your baby?
*****Make sure (s)he does not smoke.******

Step 4:

Observation: Pay attention to how well she communicates with your child. Look at her relationship with your child during the interview process. Is your child warmed up to the nanny? Is the nanny kind and warm person? Is she natural or just fake or is she distant and cautious? Is she trying to give a hug to the baby or is she trying to win her heart by playing games with her? You need to observe her well.

Step 5:
Make sure to check the references. Questions to ask to the references provided:

  • In addition to her previous experiences listed above, is she a patient or angry person?
  • How was her relationship with the kids/babies she took care of?
  • How sensitive is she about her personal hygiene as well as the baby’s cleanliness? (This is very important)
  • When did she work there? How old were the kids/babies she took care of? (This is to check the the references)
  • Is she punctual? This is very important if you will be leaving for work as soon as she arrives.

*****I strongly suggest conducting a background check on the nanny.******

Step 6:

Maybe you can ask her to come and work for couple days first to try out and to observe her.

Make sure she washes her hands before meals, after bathrooms and when she comes in from outside. It is important that she is happy, active and that she enjoys playing games with your baby. Can she be a child with your child? Is she someone who is eager to educate herself? Does she know children songs and games? Is she young (at heart) and active enough to be running around with the baby? I once had an applicant who was 300 lbs. She was a very nice lady and had great references but just cannot imagine how she would have kept up physically with my son.

Step 7:

Once you are sure that you can rely on the nanny to take care of your baby, you can now discuss and agree on the working conditions.

Meals:

Breakfast and lunch is very important. You need to set the rules and limits in advance so that you won’t get all frustrated because the nanny is consuming everything in the kitchen. It is best if you decide to think that she has a right to eat what she sees. Though, if the food is diminishing, or disappearing strangely, that is a red flag. For example our nanny comes by so early. I can’t ask her to have her breakfast before she comes or ask her to prepare her lunch in advance. If you like you might say “Just like working in an office, you can bring your own food but please feel to get what you need from the kitchen if you have to”.

Transportation:

Generally they pay for their own transportation.

Payment:

In Chicago, going rate for a nanny services vary between 10-14 dollars an hour with an average rate of 12 dollars. If you decide to make this payment in a legal way, you have to pay taxes. You can learn about this by visiting www.breedlove.com. There are also bonuses involved. It is usually one week’s pay, paid around Christmas. This is besides the Christmas gift. If you are happy you may pay something like one week’s pay from the goodness of your heart. If the nanny goes over negotiated regular hours, this is called overtime. Let’s say she worked 50 regular hours. You are not going to pay 40 regular hours and 10 overtime hours, you will pay overtime when she works overtime. For example if she had to spend the night, may be that will be overtime.

It is also important how you make the payment. Weekly, every two weeks? Nannies usually require weekly or biweekly checks. You have to talk about this.

Off days and holidays and vacation:

Normally, two-week vacation, federal holidays as well as sick days (3-5days) are paid even if she is not providing her services on those days. Because we are off and at home on federal holidays, we are okay with this arrangement.

If you can arrange so that the nanny takes her vacation time when you take yours, that would be awesome. Otherwise she needs to let you know in advance when she is planning on taking her vacation; you need to talk about this. You might be able find someone to replace her for 2 to 3 weeks. I think even if you and the nanny take your vacations on different dates, you still have to pay. We have not yet experienced this.

My personal opinion is that for the safety of your baby that most part of the housework still will be done by you or by a maid. The nanny will do as much as possible when baby is taking a midday nap but don’t expect her to do so much while you are out. It is enough that she cleans behind herself and the baby. Safety of your baby comes first and that the nanny pays ultimate attention to your baby and uses her energy towards taking care of your baby.

Briefly, whether you are hiring a nanny or taking the baby to daycare, it is important to identify your wants and expectations in advance. Don’t choose the best out of the nannies you have interviewed, keep searching till you find someone that satisfies you completely whom you can rely on to take care of your baby.

We have to accept that luck is the most important factor here. So good luck! I always pray that God will surround us with good people.

The most comprehensive ”nanny interview questions” can be found by on Baby Center. Nanny contract is a good thing which will put everything you need to agree on before your nanny starts to work with you, in writing.

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