Once you’ve done your research and screened nanny candidates, it’s time to conduct an interview to ascertain if your top choice really is a good fit for your family. Interviews are a great way to get to know a prospective employee. They allow for a back-and-forth conversation that can provide some insight into a person’s disposition and ability to communicate effectively. As anyone who has interviewed before knows, there are certain questions that bring about the most fruitful answers. Interviewing a nanny is no different than in other fields, but it can be difficult to know just what those most beneficial questions are, especially if you are a first-time employer. Some of the most telling questions to ask aren’t so obvious.
By this time, you should already know the basics about your nanny candidates’ education and childcare experience. The purpose of an interview is to dive deeper into an applicant’s expertise and parenting style, but also to determine whether or not she would complement your family. You can learn a lot about a nanny by her answers to your questions, but even more about how she answers the questions. The following topics of conversation can help with that process:
1. Why do you like being a nanny? OR Why do you want to be a nanny?
It’s usually pretty obvious to notice if someone genuinely wants to work and enjoys being with kids. They will likely smile and act excitedly when sharing their answer. If this applicant isn’t partial to being a nanny, it’s likely they’ll give you a generic answer about how they like kids or figured why not.
2. How will you incorporate reaching developmental milestones and/or learning into our kids’ day?
An inexperienced or uneducated nanny may likely consider play and development/learning separate activities. A dedicated nanny knows they are not. Listen for keywords like, incidental learning and learning through play. They may also give examples of specific age-appropriate activities. If you have older kids, it may be suitable for your potential nanny to help with homework, so the learning situation will look different. Notice if she mentions any creative strategies for reinforcing schoolwork.
3. How do you handle discipline? What would you do if our son/daughter blatantly disrespected you? (Replace specific question with an example of a likely scenario involving your own kids.)
This can be a difficult question for even a seasoned nanny because it’s likely they will know what to do if that scenario arises, but would have trouble verbalizing an answer in the moment. If she says that to you, don’t immediately write her off. The most important thing to consider in this instance is whether or not the nanny’s response shares similarities to how you would handle that situation.
4. What values do you strive to exemplify and instill in the kids you nanny?
Some nannies might just tell you what you want to hear, but in most cases you will likely know. For example, if a nanny tell you that respect is important to her yet she carries herself with a brazen attitude, you can assume she isn’t being honest. Watch how the candidate carries herself, how she speaks to you, and how she dresses for the interview.
5. Have you ever dealt with an emergency situation as a nanny? How did you handle it?
Likely your interviewee has never dealt with an emergency situation at work. That’s a good thing! This may be a good time to ask if the nanny has CPR and first-aid certifications, if you haven’t already. Another idea is to ask how she would handle a situation if an emergency were to happen.
6. Tell us about your previous nanny jobs. What were some things you liked and some things you didn’t like about them?
It’s safe to say not one single nanny has had a perfect job. Even if she’s worked for amazing families up until this point, she will likely have something to share. Sometimes it can be something as simple as wanting a shared family calendar to keep track of everyone’s schedules or as complex as compensation issues. Listen for negative talk, specifically about employers. It’s one thing to say, “I would have liked to have had better communication with my employers,” versus, “My employers were crazy and expected me to read their minds.” This potential nanny of yours may not have had perfect former jobs, but speaking poorly about past nanny families is a sign of disrespect and lack of integrity.
7. How can we support you?
It is so important to ask a potential nanny how you can support them in terms of being on the same page with the kids and providing a supportive work environment. Likely she will ask for an effective means of communication or to reinforce her parenting decisions from the day once you get home in the evening. These are reasonable requests. If you do choose to hire this nanny, make sure to follow through on any agreements.
8. How would you prefer to communicate about bigger issues?
Everyone’s personalities are different. Some people are confrontational and want to hash out an issue face-to-face. Other people prefer electronic communication. Whether there is a professional concern or a conversation to be had about the kids, respect their choice.
9. What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
Look out for red flags! Your nanny doesn’t have to be a saint outside of work, but her interests can speak volumes.
10. Do you still have a relationship with previous employers/nanny families?
Whether or not a nanny has remained friends with her previous employers and continues to visit her former nanny kids is often an indication of her character. In some instances, one or both have moved away and lost contact, or the parents aren’t the employer-friend-type. That happens. In the event that she has not kept in touch with former employers, it’s usually a sign she views her job as just that — a job. Hold out for an invested nanny.
Questions You Legally Cannot Ask
Before an interviewee becomes an employee there are certain questions an employer legally cannot ask. The reason for this law is to make sure no one is discriminated against due to race, gender, or ability. When hiring a nanny there is a fine line because you want to find the right fit for your family. In general, stay away from personal topics such as health, family situation and details of criminal history. You can ask only questions that specifically pertain to the position and their job responsibilities. Do your best in this situation.
It isn’t necessary to ask every candidate each one of these ten questions. During the interview, you will get a good idea of what kind of person this applicant is just by how she communicates with you. If you enjoy her company and she behaves professionally, it’s usually a good sign that she would make a great addition to your family. Trust your gut.
Nannies, if you are looking for questions to ask a potential nanny family in an interview, click here.