Your Complete Guide to Interviewing a Nanny

by Hannah Howard April 05, 2023

giril talking with teacher

When it comes to family decisions, choosing a great nanny is vital. You’re looking for someone you trust to care for your children, and if all goes well, to become an important part of your life and your home.

“Childcare is not an easy job,” says Priscilla Valez, who works as a nanny in Washington, DC. “We are working to help families strengthen their daily routines, provide education to their children, and aid their families especially in early, crucial developmental years.”

Get Clear on the Job

Before embarking on nanny interviews, have a heart to heart with your partner—or a trusted parent friend—to prioritize what is truly important to you in a nanny. Is first aid training nonnegotiable? Are you looking for someone who will spend plenty of time playing outside? Will they need to drive your kids, or take them on public transportation?

Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network, suggests having the job details ready before you start the hiring process. (You can check out their list of resources here.)  “Provide a detailed job description to review and ask if the candidate has any concerns or questions about it or any other issues,” suggests organizer Erica Sklar. Once your expectations are clear, you’re ready to dive in and find the best match.

If you’ve narrowed down your list of applicants to a handful who seem promising, the next step is to set up interviews and get to know them better. Interviewing can feel overwhelming, and understandably so. Here’s a guide to navigating the process as smoothly and confidently as possible.

Phone or In Person?

If you’re screening many people, you might talk with them over the phone to narrow down your pool to a few top contenders. A phone chat is great for making sure you’re on the same page with salary, schedules, vaccines and COVID protocols, and other important logistics. Make sure to ask if your applicant has accessibility needs - for example, are they able to manage steps in your house? Do they have any allergies you may need to accommodate? - and is comfortable with your pets. Mention any other requirements you have, like references or training.  

Once you’re seriously considering a nanny, invite them into your home. Ideally, your children will be there (and awake!), so you can see how they interact. The job will be IRL, so it’s great to make sure that you and your kids feel comfortable with the new nanny-to-be.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) says that it’s important for both the worker and the employer to get to meet and interact with the kids before accepting the job. This step “should be considered a paid second part of the interview process,” they recommend. Keep in mind that having parents in the mix changes the dynamic between nannies and kids, so consider that factor when arranging this time. Ideally, create some space for the nanny and the kids to interact without hovering too much so they can get to know each other. 

Erin Bigelow-Umar, who works in the television industry in New York City, knew she had found an ideal fit as soon as she met her nanny. “Once I saw how she interacted with my two-month-old son, I knew she’d be teaching me what to do as a new mom,” Bigelow-Umar remembers.

Questions Should Go Both Ways

Encourage your potential nanny to ask you any questions and answer them honestly. You might be the one officially conducting the interview, but communication is a two-way street. “When you communicate clearly, everyone wins,” says Sklar.

It’s essential that your applicant has a clear understanding of the job and feels like the position is a good fit. The interview is a great opportunity for you to get to know each other better, so feel free to share about your parenthood journey, philosophy, and essential information related to your child's care.

Answering Questions Is Just the Start

Plenty can be communicated nonverbally, too. Is this person professional? Do they seem gracious? Would you like to have them in your home regularly? Factors like body language can help you get a read on their personality.

Be Aware of Legal Guidelines

Hiring a nanny is a deeply personal decision, but it’s also an official employee hiring process. Legal guidelines absolutely apply. Steer clear of asking a candidate about age, religious views, race, sexual orientation, or their plans on becoming pregnant.  

Approaching the Interview 

 Ask open-ended questions and pay careful attention to the answers. “I was radically transparent,” says Emily Pearl Goodstein, who runs a strategy firm in Washington, DC. “As in we live in an apartment. We will both be home during the day. We want to laugh with our nanny. Does that sound like an environment you’d like to work in? Then I asked what didn’t and did work about other families they’d worked with.”

If you’re not clear on an answer, follow up. Trust your gut. If you’re honest and kind, you’ll be off to an excellent start. 

Questions to Get you Started

About the job

  • Why do you want this job, and what are you hoping for?
  • Do you have any questions about the job description?
  • Will the commute work for you?
  • Would you be interested in taking on extra hours on occasion?  Are there additional caregiving responsibilities that you have outside this job that would be helpful for us to know about? 
  • What kind of housekeeping tasks would you consider as part of childcare duties?
  • Are you hoping for a long-term position?
  • Are you willing to work with a family’s specific medical needs, dietary restrictions, religious practices, etc.?
  • What are you looking for in a family/employer?  

Training and background 

  • Describe your past childcare experience.  
  • Why did you get involved in childcare?
  • Do you have, or would you be willing to get, CPR or baby first-aid training?
  • Do you have any additional childcare training or education?
  • How long have you been a caregiver? What do you love about it, and what do you find challenging?
  • What languages do you speak? Would you be open to speaking with my children?

Health

  • What precautions are you currently taking related to COVID?
  • Are you comfortable with unmasked indoor playdates?
  • Do you have any accessibility needs?

Philosophy and approach

  • What kind of activities do you do with a child your kid’s age?
  • What is your discipline style? What is a nanny’s role in discipline? 
  • What do kids like best about you? 
  • What was the most challenging experience you had with a child you were taking care of, and how did you handle it?
  • What was the most challenging experience you had with a previous employer and was it resolved?
  • What do you consider your most important responsibility as a nanny?
  • How would you handle an emergency?
  • How do you deal with a baby crying, a toddler whining, an older child refusing to follow instructions, siblings fighting, or other difficult kid situations?
  • How do you comfort children? 

Getting to know them better

  • What other work or life experience has helped  you as a nanny?
  • What do you love to do in your free time?
  • What do you see yourself doing in the future?

If the interview went well, you’ve gotten to know each other better and hopefully made the start to a productive working relationship. Congratulations. Now you can move on to the next steps: check references, offer them the position (hooray!), and create a work agreement together.

For more helpful information about fair wages, paid time off, and keeping the lines of communication open, check out Hand in Hand’s resources. Here’s to a fantastic working relationship now and for the future.  




Hannah Howard

Author



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