For Parents, Uncategorized

Eight Red Flags to Look Out for in a Potential Nanny

Hiring a nanny can be a daunting process. Either you have a plethora of nanny applications to sift through, or you have very few to choose from. Regardless of your situation, it’s important to know what you are looking for in a candidate and to not compromise on the most important issues. On top of your “must-have” list for a nanny, consider these eight red flags when making a decision between potential nannies.

1. She’s late to the interview

It is poor form to arrive late to an interview. It often says the applicant doesn’t care enough about the position, doesn’t respect your time, or isn’t reliable. That being said, if your nanny candidate is late to the interview, it isn’t necessarily a reason not to hire her. Sometimes people run into unexpected circumstances. The important thing is that the candidate updates you as best as they can.

A few years back, I, the “I’m late if I’m on time” person, was late for an interview. I was mortified. I scheduled it for after work on a day when I ended up taking all five of my nanny-share kids to the zoo with their grandma. Not my best move, I’ll admit it. I knew by the afternoon I was going to be late to the interview, so I kept the potential nanny-families (yet another nanny-share) up-to-date about my timeframe. I arrived about twenty minutes later than originally planned. Thankfully, despite being late, they found me to be a good fit for their families and their needs.

If your interviewee arrives late, it’s more about her reasons (or lack of) than her tardiness. Consider it an opportunity to get to know her character. Is she blaming other people, was it really just unexpected traffic, or is she taking responsibility?

2. Her education and work history are limited

A potential nanny doesn’t have to have explicit nanny experience to do the job well, but she should have a high school diploma and some relevant childcare experience. If your applicant does not have a formal education of any kind and/or no work experience, they might be a good date night babysitter, but the responsibility of nannying would likely be too much for them at this point. On the other end of this is the experienced employee who can’t stick with a job for more than a year. Maybe they haven’t figured out what they want to do and think childcare is the answer, but do you really want your family to be the guinea pig? This specific candidate hasn’t proven their ability to be reliable and committed. That might work in other fields, but it doesn’t work well for nannying.

3. She doesn’t have any (good) references

There are families out there who will hire someone with zero childcare experience as their nanny and there is nothing wrong with that. Still, it’s extremely important to check a potential hire’s references, even if they’re unrelated to working with children. When interviewing, it is so important to require professional references and then CALL THOSE PEOPLE. This is someone who will have complete access to your children and your home. Do your due diligence!

Although you want to get a good feeling from your interviewee, you also want to know about their character and work ethic. They can learn the skills necessary for childcare (so long as you can be patient), but they won’t suddenly learn to respect your home or be honest in difficult situations. I understand that someone right out of high school is unlikely to have professional references, so consider asking them for teacher recommendations or contacts of supervisors for volunteer work they’ve done. No matter what, always require legitimate references who you can call to discuss this particular applicant.

4. She doesn’t know what to do with your kids

No two nannies are the same. We all have different personalities, experiences, and levels of education. That means you could get several correct answers to the question, “What activities would you do with our six-month-old?” from each nanny you interview. Each candidate should have, at the very least, a general idea of what to do with kids at certain ages. An experienced nanny will likely share about developmental milestones and how to reach them. If your nanny applicant seems caught-off-guard by the question or provides an inappropriate answer, consider that a sign to keep looking.

5. Your personalities and/or parenting styles don’t mesh well

This might seem obvious, but it really isn’t. I’ve been offered jobs where I explicitly told the child-led parents about my parent-led approach. I turned down the job because even if they really did like me, I knew it wouldn’t work out in the long-run. As a parent, you know consistency is key to supporting your child’s growth and development. Why hire a nanny who might work? If you get along with your nanny candidate, could see yourself working well together, and have similar viewpoints on behavior expectations and handling discipline, keep her in mind!

6. She isn’t the influence you want on your kids

You know what your values are as a family and how you want your children to be raised, so don’t agree to hire a nanny just because she went to college and has a good résumé. Listen to how she speaks to you and your children, as well as what she talks about. Did she speak unprofessionally or use profanity during your interview? Does she partake in activities outside your comfort zone? Does she have a poor attitude? Whether it’s a difference in world views or she just doesn’t seem like someone you would want around your kids, you have every right to make that decision as the parent.

7. She is dressed inappropriately or unprofessionally for the interview

First impressions are important. The way you present yourself says a lot about you. You will likely make a judgment about your nanny candidate before she even opens her mouth, and honestly, you should. Her clothing should be appropriate for the situation, meaning she shouldn’t be messy, dressed too casually, or exposing too much of her body. She should also appear clean. That doesn’t mean she has to have perfect hygiene to be a good nanny, but if she comes to an interview looking like she doesn’t care, how will she present herself on a daily basis? Even if you aren’t concerned about how your nanny dresses around your kids, you should care if she recognizes the weight of her potential position. Her clothing and cleanliness should matter (to both of you), at least before offering her the job.

8. Her background check doesn’t meet your standards

You should run a background check on every serious candidate. Even if she seems innocent and has a great résumé, you can’t go wrong by making sure she is (legally) a safe person to leave your children with. It couldn’t hurt to look into her online presence either — Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. People can surprise you. I heard a horror story where a family failed to run a background check on someone they thought was a Godsend, only to find out she had a felony on her record in another state. While that’s unlikely, don’t let that be you! Always run a background check!


Don’t be scared by this list. I know it can seem intimidating, but the main point here is to make sure you are comfortable with your decision. By using a kind-of list to vet applicants, you eliminate people who just won’t work for your family. That’s a good thing! Even great nannies don’t fit every family’s needs and set of values. Finding that right nanny for your family will help ease your fears and worries about your kids and your home during the day. Peace of mind is invaluable.

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