Let me start this by saying I don’t work in human resources. I haven’t taken a single class on hiring employees or conducting an interview. Working in an office for much of my professional life, I’ve made a few… questionable… hires (like the one girl who kept sneaking off to the restroom for several hours and then just stopped coming into work all together… or the guy who spent more time researching questions for trivia night than the article he’d been assigned? What was I thinking?). But after spending way too many weeks of my pregnancy reading stories about families who caught their nanny doing something terrible, I was committed to not screwing up what I knew would be the most important hire of my life.
Four years and three moves later, I have a pretty darned good track record for hiring caregivers. Because we’ve never lived close to family, we’ve always had to hire someone…a (gasp) total stranger… to watch our kids. I realize this thought alone throws some mothers into convulsions. For others, it’s just what it is. This post is for you ladies. To the moms have stared at the profiles the childcare website with trepidation, sure that you’ll NEVER be able to find the perfect person? You will. And it will work out, if you do it properly. If you know someone who is pregnant and may need to hire a caregiver, send this to them. The process can be daunting as hell, so hopefully this helps quell some of those anxieties.
A little work on the front end goes a REALLY long way in hiring the ideal caregiver for your family – whether it’s a date night babysitter, a full-time nanny who watches your children in your house or even a shared nanny where you split the costs with another family. The key? Knowing WHO you want before you even start the process.
This leads me to the first of the nine steps to finding your perfect babysitter or nanny:
STEP 1: Define the job description and your criteria for the ideal candidate. How much experience do you want? What is your preferred discipline style: should it mirror your own or do you want your children to have exposure to a variety of approaches? Is it important that the person enjoys being outdoors or will engage your kids with crafts or art projects? These are all important considerations before you even start the process of looking through profiles. Just as you were likely encouraged to make a list of qualities you wanted in a potential mate, this exercise can help keep you in check once you get to the interview process so that a cute “manny” with little experience doesn’t charm his way into a job. (KIDDING)
STEP 2: When developing your profile – be honest! But don’t use pictures of your kids’ faces. You’ve already defined your criteria, so share some of the highlights of what you’d like in your profile. This will help weed out people who don’t meet the minimum criteria. When it comes to payment, establish a range so you have room to negotiate with the potential candidate. As for your selected profile images, this is just a personal preference, but you may consider sharing a silhouette of your child or an image shot from a distance as opposed to a close up picture of your child’s face. This is for safety as you’ll be corresponding with numerous people you don’t know, so you will want to protect your child’s identity until you’ve selected your top candidates.
STEP 3: Begin reaching out to potential candidates. I would recommend casting the net as far and wide as possible – we found one of our best caregivers on Craigslist, of all places. Remember, you will be extensively vetting these people so I’d recommend posting ads on neighborhood Facebook groups, online caregiver resources such as Care.com or SitterCity.com, through your church or social groups, or a nanny-finder service.
STEP 4: Start your spreadsheet. Once you post the ad, you’ll likely start getting a flood of responses. And you’ve been warned, you will receive ALL TYPES of applications. For example, I had a girl who told me one of her mandatory requirements for employment was that we pay for her summer pool pass. My daughter was not even a year old at the time. NEXT.
Stay organized by keeping a spreadsheet that lists all of the potential candidates who meet your minimum criteria and columns to help track where they are in the interview process. Have they submitted their resume or a summary of their experience? What is their required rate? Have they sent you a list of references? Did they pass the social media background check? A professional background check?
STEP 5: Develop a “get to know you” questionnaire and send it to all potential prospects. This is a critical step in the vetting process because if the candidates do not take the time to provide well-thought out responses to your questions, they obviously aren’t a right fit for your family.
I have an extensive list I send to prospects with questions including: How would you describe your ideal family/employer? What do you like least about being a nanny? What do children like best about you? How do you comfort children? What would do if she got sick or had an accident? What are some rules that you’ve had in households that have worked well? What are some rules that haven’t worked well? Are you willing to care for a sick child?
Don’t skip this step – it will save you a ton of time and frustration down the road.
Step 6: After reviewing responses to your questionnaire, select your top five candidates and conduct an initial phone interview. Your prospect candidates have provided a glimpse into their thoughts and approaches in the questionnaire, so this is a great time to have them expound on those points. Ask them to speak through some of their experience and learn a little more about the types of children and families they have worked with in the past. Find out more about what they like to do in their spare time and if they have any plans that would impact their ability to watch your children for the long-term. For example, if they are a college student, are they planning on finding another job following graduation that more closely aligns with their major?
Step 7: Narrow down your top three candidates, conduct background checks and check references. There are several online resources available to conduct background checks on candidates for a minimal fee. If the person will be driving your child to and from places, you’ll also want to check their driving record to see if they have an excessive number of speeding citations or other violations that would prevent you from hiring them. Call their references and ask targeted questions – what did they like about the person? What didn’t they like? Was the person reliable and did they leave on amicable terms?
Step 8: Conduct face-to-face interviews – in a public location. Assuming everything checks out with your top three candidates, now you’ve gotten to the point where you’re ready to meet. Suggest meeting in a public place, such as a coffee shop or bookstore. This gives you the opportunity to engage with the person without compromising the location and security of your home. This is a great time to see how they interact with your kids and get a sense of their interpersonal skills.
We’ve met with candidates in all types of places, including hotel lobbies, coffee shops and parks. While some people might think this is excessive, you never know how someone will react if they don’t get the offer, so it’s good to play it safe.
Step 9: Make the Call. It’s always best practice to put your offer in writing after the initial call, but it’s great to hear the excitement in the person’s voice when you tell them they got the job. This person will be an extension of your family, so be sure to give them a proper welcome. Have them over for dinner or dessert one evening – hopefully this provides a great kickoff to a long relationship.
A disclaimer: I definitely don’t know it everything there is to know about hiring caregivers, I only know what works for us. This is just meant to provide you with a starting point in the quest to find your perfect babysitter or nanny. Follow your gut instinct. As parents, if you do your due diligence to vet the prospects and go with what feels right (and who your kids feel the best with!). This will position you for success. If you have any tips of your own to share, please leave them in the comments! Good luck!
PS: If you need help managing the employment/tax side of it, we’d highly recommend My Home Pay (formerly Breedlove), but there are several other great resources out there as well, including GTM and NannyChex.