It’s such an exciting phase in a parent’s life when they get to bring home a new family member — a nanny. Nannies are amazing! They co-raise other people’s children and manage other people’s homes with poise. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, a good nanny can be hard to find. Hiring a nanny is a very involved process. You shouldn’t have to compromise on the person who will take care of your children. But where do you start? The process and types of interview questions are unique to this career field. Although I cannot guarantee your perfect nanny in six steps, I do know that a guide can be helpful in doing something new with no formal rules.
Step 1: Know Your Legal Obligations as an Employer
The first thing to understand when hiring a nanny is that she is your employee, not an independent contractor. As an employer of an in-home worker (nanny, housekeeper, etc.), there are certain federal requirements placed upon you to fairly and legally compensate your employee. Beyond minimum wage, overtime pay, and taxes, some states have specific requisites. For more detailed information, the Fair Labor Standards Act outlines the federal legal obligations of an employer. Using a payroll service can help ease the confusion of pay and taxes significantly. It may seem daunting at first, but once you’ve set up your payroll and finalized your contract, it is really very simple.
After doing your research about legal requirements and nanny pay rates, you’ll have to decide whether or not hiring a nanny is the right move for your family. Personally, I believe a good nanny can be a valuable addition to any family, but of course I’m biased. The reality is that nannies are not for everyone. If you find hiring a nanny to be a financial strain, then it isn’t fair to your family or the nanny to hire one. There are a variety of great childcare options out there, including nanny-shares; you need to decide what works best for your situation.
Step 2: Create Expectations for Your Desired Nanny
Oftentimes families overlook outlining their requirements and expectations for a nanny. They either assume that all nannies are the same, or that they’ll figure out what they want along the way. That is a great way to end up with a so-so nanny who isn’t a good fit for your family’s needs. If you don’t know where to start, think about your schedules and the hours you would need care. It’s very difficult for a nanny to enter into an agreement if she is unsure about how many hours she’ll work in a week.
From there, ask yourself the following questions to get a general idea of what you are looking for in a nanny:
- When do you need your nanny to start?
- What do you expect your nanny to do with your children during the day? (Outings? Educational activities? Walks? Etc.)
- What, besides childcare, do you expect your nanny to do during the day? (Tidying up? Family laundry? Cooking? Errands? Etc.)
- Do you have any age, academic, or experience requirements? (21? College degree? Five years of nanny-specific experience? Etc.)
- What are your family values, and do you expect your nanny to share in them as well?
- What is your parenting style? Do you want a nanny who follows that? This includes the use of electronic devices for both the nanny and the children.
- Will you allow (or even require) your nanny to drive your children?
- Do you want a professional or an interim nanny?
- What do you expect to pay a nanny, and will you offer any benefits? (Paid time off? Sick days? Health benefits? Etc.)
- What are you willing to compromise on and what are your non-negotiables? (Pay? Parenting style? Age? Etc.)
There are several other things to consider when hiring your ideal nanny, so I encourage you to create your own list of questions and requirements. I would also encourage you not to settle. The person who will have such an influential position in your child’s life is not an area of compromise. It might seem hopeless at times, but stick to your list of non-negotiable traits in a future nanny.
Step 3: Start the Search — Agency vs. Online
The two most effective ways to search for a nanny are through a nanny agency or online.
A nanny agency is the best avenue for anyone looking for a professional. Although every agency’s process is different, their goal is to take away the stress of finding a qualified nanny. They will often have you fill out a questionnaire to get a better idea of what you are looking for, do an interview, and then contact you with potential candidates. Some charge a one-time finder’s fee while others request monthly payments. To find an agency, do a quick online search. There are local and nationwide agencies, as well as international agencies. Once you decide on the type of agency that you think will work best for your needs and personality, give then a call. A phone call to their office can give you a good indication as to whether you would want to work with them. If you choose to go with an agency, the entire hiring process is much less intimidating.
If you choose to search for a nanny on your own, there are several ways to do so online — Craigslist, Indeed, Care.com. Keep in mind if you are not using an agency to vet your candidates, you can and will receive a slew of applicants. Completing a thorough background check on any serious contender is imperative.
Step 4: Interview Prospective Nannies
Once you’ve read through all of your responses, narrow it down to your top ten choices. Start messaging them back, asking them anything else you want to know about basics and logistics and answering any of their questions. The details aren’t necessary at this point. If you both still find yourselves interested, schedule a phone interview. This can be a fluid conversation to see if you might be a good fit for each other, or it can be formal. By this point, you should have established hours, benefits, and daily expectations with the applicants. Based on your phone conversations, decide on a few candidates you’d like to interview in person. Choose a public location for your first meeting so that you are not yet divulging your address and so the nanny feels more comfortable meeting with people she doesn’t know. This is where you do your formal interview and talk more about details. If she hasn’t given them to you already, ask for her resume and professional references.
Step 5: Check References
If you didn’t do so before interviewing your applicants, make sure to check their references before offering a nanny a job. These should be professional references — former employers or people they have worked with. When you call them, have a series of questions about their work ethic and other important-to-you topics ready to ask. It should go without saying, but ALWAYS get a candidate’s background check no matter what. Even if someone has glowing references and you are in a rush to hire care, DO NOT skip that step!
Step 6: Make an Offer
Chances are you have a pretty good idea of who you want to hire at this point in the process. You’ve spoken with several candidates, felt comfortable with a few, but one stood out among the rest. That’s great! Now all you have to do is make an offer. That entails reiterating the basics and your expectations, then laying out the proposal — how much you’re offering and with which benefits. Prepare for a counter-offer. Once you’ve made a verbal agreement, be sure to write up and sign a contract that transcribes every detail.
I realize all of this information can make a person dizzy. It’s a lot to take in. Find comfort in knowing you’re not alone. I have spoken to several parents lately who have expressed their frustration with hiring a nanny and knowing so little about the industry. While there is no perfect formula, try these steps and go with your gut.