Finding the best nanny for your baby is a delicate and often time-consuming task. Here are the tools you need to be confident, to save you time, and to be aware of all the ins and outs of selecting the right nanny. Read on for things to consider, how to start the process, and the most important questions to ask.
Also considering daycare? Read: How to Find the Best Daycare for Your Baby
photo: Jordan Rowland via Unsplash
Things to consider:
- What is most important to you? What are the non-negotiables for you as you begin your search? Is it cost? Is it having a live-in nanny? Is it experience? Write a list with your partner that you can refer to during your search.
- Location is one of the reasons parents choose nannies as opposed to daycare. Parents report that they like the flexibility and convenience of having someone come to them and watch their baby in their home. This is particularly valuable when you need someone at varying times of day or night or when your baby is sick and you still need to get to work.
- Timing. The nanny search process can take up to 8 or more weeks. So start early! You’ll need to decide if you want to pursue a nanny through friends and relative referrals or through an agency. There is also a third option, a nanny from another country, known as an au pair. Typically, these are live-in nannies who require their own living space within your home.
- Cost. Nanny agency charges can range from $1,800 for a placement to $10,000 to use their services. If you get referrals from friends and family, you’ll just be responsible for paying your nanny her salary.
- What’s included. Each nanny agency (domestic and international) is set up a bit differently with its fees, so do your research and find out what the fees include for the specific agency you are considering. An agency should be screening the candidates by phone, conducting a face-to-face interview and checking references. They should also conduct a social media and online screening as well as verify CPR/first aid certification, do a background check including a 7-year driving history, county and federal criminal report, social security verification and a sex offender registry check. If you are searching for a nanny via your friends and family and word of mouth, you will save a lot of money on fees but will have to do your own vetting (i.e. background check and doing all of the above mentioned items) to make sure you know who you are hiring.
How to start the process:
- Talk to parents who are using nannies. Find out what route they went and why and how it’s working for them. If you don’t know many working parents, check out local parent groups on Facebook. The more people you can talk to, the better.
- Decide if you want to use an agency or do it yourself. If you go the agency route, you need to decide if you want a local or international nanny (au pair).
- Now comes the interviewing. You will either be interviewing an agency or a potential nanny depending on the route you’ve chosen. We’ve included questions to ask the agency and the nanny below. This is where your non-negotiables list comes in handy. Remember during your interviews that there are some questions that are prohibited by law. These include asking about age, race/ethnic background, religious views, sexual orientation, marital status/plans on becoming pregnant, disability, and if the nanny has been arrested.
- Have the nanny meet the kids and interact with them.
- Check references: Ask for three references. When you speak to them, ask specific questions, such as “what was this nanny’s biggest strength and weakness.”
Questions to ask:
The more information and insight you can glean during your interview process with either an agency and/or a nanny, the better idea you’ll have if they will be a good fit for your family.
- How long have you been a nanny?
- How many different families have you nannied for? What were the kids’ ages?
- What makes you a great nanny?
- What other experiences with children have you had?
- Have you had other jobs beside nannying?
- Do you plan on having another job or going to school while nannying?
Past Work Experience
- How did you find the last family you worked for?
- How long were you employed there and what ages were the kids while you worked there?
- Why did you stop working for that family?
- What was that family’s daily routine like?
- What were your daily responsibilities?
- Did you ever travel with that family?
- Were you required to do housework, errands, cooking, work overnight?
- How did you handle sick kids or medical emergencies?
- What did you like most about that job?
- What did you like least about that job?
- How much notice do you need for schedule changes?
- Are you willing to stay alone with the kids overnight?
- Are you willing and able to travel with the family?
- What hours and days are you looking for? Evenings? Days? After-school?
- Are there any house or kid responsibilities that you won’t do?
- Are you willing to do laundry, housework or cooking?
- How many kids are you comfortable being responsible for, and what ages do you prefer?
- What do you like best about nannying? Least?
- How have you worked with the parents as a caretaker of their kids?
- How do you discipline kids? Give examples from previous placements.
- How do you handle stress? For example, a baby crying non-stop. Or a toddler not listening to your instructions.
- What kind of personality do you have? Do you consider yourself more easygoing and laid back or more likely to have a schedule and enjoy structure?
- Do you have any hobbies or things you enjoy doing on your days off?
- Give three words that you think your previous families would say to describe you.
Nanny Ninja Skills Questions
Listening to the nanny communicate how they would handle different scenarios they may face with your child is incredibly insightful, so come up with a few good situations unique to your baby and/or family. Additional questions may include:
- How do you connect with the kids you watch?
- How do you comfort a crying child?
- What are some rules in other households that you felt were effective?
- What are your views on childrearing?
- What happens when a parent’s perspective on discipline is different from yours?
- How do you prefer to communicate with parents throughout the day? How often will they hear from you?
- Do you have a reliable, safe car that can fit my kids and has seatbelts and room for carseats?
- Are you looking for a live-in nanny position or set hours?
- For non-live-in nannies: Where do you live and how would you get to work each day?
- Would you bring your own food or want meals/food provided?
- Do you smoke?
- Are you willing to do other jobs around the house during naptime?
- When are you available to start work?
- Do you have other commitments that could interfere with this job?
- What is your salary requirement?
- How often would you like/need to be paid?
- If you work additional house, such as on a weekend or overnight, what is your overtime rate? Do you charge additional fees for this time?
photo: Dakota Corbin via Unsplash
Nanny & Child Meet and Greet
If a nanny has checked all your boxes so far, it’s time for her to meet your kiddos. Some things you will want to look out for:
- How does she interact with your child?
- Does she take charge when she’s with them? Or does she hang back and need some direction?
- Is she confident in her approach to kids?
- Is she comfortable playing with kids and getting on their level?
- Does she look your child in the eye and have clear communication with them?
- Does your baby seem to like this person?
It may be possible that the wonderful Mary Poppins you’ve been peppering with questions isn’t quite so wonderful after all! Some things to look out for:
- Nanny doesn’t have references or is not making them available to you.
- Lots of gaps in work history and the story doesn’t add up. Or they have a lot of short-term jobs.
- No valid driver’s license or ID.
- No social security card.
- The way the nanny interacts with your child makes you uncomfortable. She doesn’t seem attentive, isn’t looking your baby in the eye and doesn’t seem confident around your child.
- The nanny is willing to take less than her former position or just very low pay.
- Driving record is poor (if it’s a requirement for the job you are hiring for).
photo: Alex Pasarelu via Unsplash
After you’ve asked all the questions, done all the background searches, verified references and watched the nanny interact with your child, ask her one final time why she wants this position.
Now that she has had the opportunity to get to know you better and understand the responsibilities and expectations of the job, make sure she still wants it! It also gives her an opportunity to sell herself to you as a good fit so you can see how eager she is to take care of your child.