How to Hire the Right Nanny

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Finding the right caregiver for your children is a balance of asking the right questions at the right time.

Congratulations on deciding to hire a nanny! This is going to be an incredible experience for your family. Pretty soon, your children will have another special person in their lives to love and admire. However, now begins the difficult part: interviews. Because the place of work is your home and the responsibilities are to care for your children, there are certain protocols to follow to make sure you hire the best person for the job. Read on to learn the ins and outs of nanny interviews and the most important questions to ask potential candidates.

Before the Interviews

Hiring the right nanny starts with an evaluation of your OWN family. You’ll be better able to vet candidates if you have a clear understanding of what’s important to you. Sit down and consider: What are my family’s values? Remember that the goal is to hire a nanny who is an extension of your eyes, ears and heart. By outlining your family values, you’re better prepared to identify the ideal prospective nannies. Then, make a list of your non-negotiables. These are your deal breakers; if the nanny disagrees, they’re not the right fit and you can confidently disqualify them from the next round of interviews.

In the days leading up to the first-round, call each nanny’s references! You’ll want to get the input of other parents before you form your own opinion of the prospective nanny. Speaking to references after the first-round interview might have you second-guessing yourself, and you shouldn’t deny your gut.

You’re also going to want to run a background check on the prospective nannies. (I can’t stress enough the importance of a background check––make sure you’re doing your research long before your children are involved!) If you’re using a childcare agency, they’ll be able to provide you one for an added fee. However, it’s good to do some digging on your own. If that means you hire your own third-party investigator, so be it! You should still make use of social media, check out their profile and make your own informed opinion.

The Interview Process

Just like any corporate job, you’ll want to treat this as a formal interview. Sure, interviews should be more relaxed than a business meeting since you want to get to know the candidates on a personal level. However, scheduling a time to meet at a neutral location and wearing business casual attire lets potential caregivers know you mean, well, business!

Prepare to conduct at least two rounds of interviews, ideally three. This will help you identify your candidates in an organized fashion. First, you’ll want to identify the most qualified, experienced applicants. Then, you’ll look for caregivers who align with your parenting style. Finally, you’ll introduce the very best potential nannies to your home and children, and determine who will be the best fit for your family.

The First Round

The first set of interviews should take place outside of the home––a local coffee shop is perfect. During first-round interviews, ask the standard surface level questions: Why do you want to be a nanny? What experience in childcare do you have? Do you have earlly childhood education experience?

The first interview is the time to determine qualifications in terms of education and work experience. I always tell parents: First impressions mean something, so don’t deny your gut! An interview this personal is like going on a date with someone; you’ll know if you’re interested in seeing them again. If you don’t want to let feelings get involved, take a logistical approach! If they have a stance that doesn’t align with yours, disqualify them from the next round of interviews.

The Second and Third Round

Because most first-round information can be gleaned from resumes, second- and third-round interviews are where the super important questions come into play. During this time, you’ll want to dig into the more in-depth conversation topics. You need to make sure that candidates are going to uphold your family values. However, because this is a formal job interview, you have to adhere to certain legal guidelines about which questions you can ask.

Asking the Tough Questions

Try to preface second- or third-round interviews by saying something like, “It’s really important to us as parents that whoever is watching our children is an extension of us. Would you mind if we asked you a few more personal questions?” Encourage them to answer honestly, explaining that if they truly aren’t comfortable with something, speaking up could avoid future conflict. Then, phrase questions like, “If we’re not home in time from work, we’d like our nanny to lead the kids in prayer before dinner. Is that something you’d be comfortable doing?”

Positioning questions like this lets interviewees know exactly what’s expected of them, without asking them to divulge information about their personal beliefs or practices. Asking if they’d be comfortable with a specific task allows them to answer directly, and it positions certain situations as job responsibilities as opposed to disrespectful, nosy questions.

When navigating these conversations, keep one thing in mind: There has to be a reason for asking it. You can’t ask something just because you’re curious! This comes back to your values and non-negotiables. If you want to bring up religion, the only reason you should be doing so is to make sure they aren’t discussing religion with your children. It can be a minefield, but it is important to be on the same page with things that are important to you—whether it be politics or religion. One simple solution is to say, "We don't want religion or politics discussed with the children. And if they ask a question about either, please direct them to us by saying, ‘Why don’t you ask Mom or Dad when they’re home.’”

Trial Periods

If you have the time to add another stage to your interview process, invite the best candidates over to observe them as they interact with your kids! If not, set the precedent that the first day, few days or week will be a trial period for the candidate you hire. If they’re not willing to go through that observation period, then they’re probably not the person for the job. A trial period gives you the chance to intervene and make sure the nanny is acting as an extension of you.

5 Questions Parents Must Ask

Here are my five most important questions to ask during second- and third-round interviews:

1. In a nutshell, what’s your philosophy of childcare?

Your nanny should be an extension of you, so you need to make sure that your values align! If you view yourself as a free-spirited parent and they identify as more conservative, that could be a cause for concern. If they have a different philosophy from you, ask more targeted questions to determine if they’re willing to be flexible and follow your philosophy. If not, move on. Your parenting style is the one that matters.

2. What are your values as a caregiver?

This is the chance to dig into the specifics about nutrition, playtime, sleep schedules and more, so don’t hold back! These are your children, we’re talking about. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the prospective nanny’s child-rearing values.

3. What’s your view on disciplining children, and what do you believe a nanny’s role should be?

Discipline can be a tough topic, and there are many schools of thought here. Make time to specifically discuss their thoughts on disciplining children, and make sure that their values align with yours.

4. How was your relationship with your previous employers? Would you have done anything differently?

You’ll learn about their childcare experience from their resume, but it’s important to get a sense of their previous employer-relationship. They’re going to use it as a measuring stick for their relationship with you and have certain expectations in mind.

5. How do you see your role as a nanny?

Is the candidate comfortable doing some household chores or running errands? If not, is that a deal breaker? Keep in mind that a nanny’s primary responsibility is to care for your children. Sure, they need to respect your home and clean up after themselves if they make a mess with your children; however, there’s a line between cleaning up after your kids and deep-cleaning the carpet.