Hiring a nanny is an important decision that requires a lot of research and planning. After all, your child’s safety and development is at stake.
“There are a lot of boxes you need to check off when you’re hiring a nanny, but at the end of the day, it comes down to your gut instincts,” says Katie Bugbee, managing editor and parenting expert at Care.com. “Do you trust this person and think [he or she] will do a good job watching your children in your absence?”
The search for a nanny that fits your child’s needs and schedule and your budget can be daunting, but these tips can make the search process easier.
Where to Find Candidates
In the past, finding a nanny was largely based on word-of-mouth referrals from friends, co-workers and other moms. But the internet has changed the playing field, making it easier to find available candidates and reviews.
There are a handful of websites that strive to connect parents with available nannies and also provide background checks and reviews for a fee.
If you aren’t comfortable relying on the internet to find your nanny, BabyCenter’s Global Editor in Chief Linda Murray suggests using an agency that specializes in placing nannies or find a community parenting organization that list available nannies.
It’s also a good idea to get the word out that you are looking for a nanny, since personal references will be the most reassuring, says Murray.
Ask the Right Screening Questions
Asking the right questions during the interview is crucial to finding the right person for the role.
“The interview is one of the most important steps when you’re hiring a nanny,” says Bugbee. “It’s your opportunity to get to know the candidates and figure out who is the best fit for your family’s needs.”
Experts say it’s a good idea to come up with a list of questions before hand and to inquire about each candidate’s background, years of experience, training and why they are no longer with their most recent employer.
You also want to find out if the person’s schedule is flexible, what kind of activities he or she would be interested in doing with your children and discipline type.
Do a Test Run
Although it may not be feasible in every situation, Murray recommends having each finalist spend a few paid hours with your child to observe the interaction.
“There's no better way to make a decision than to see for yourself how a nanny is on the job,” says Murray.
Check for Creditability
Also make sure the interviewee’s resume meshes with what he or she is telling you during the interview, and always get references and actually check them. Experts recommend talking to at least three references.
“These talks should last for at least 20 minutes each and give you an opportunity to look for inconsistencies in her background,” says Bugbee. “Put together a list of questions beforehand, that include, what was the candidate like? Did any issues ever come up? Would you let the person watch your sister’s kids?”
Evaluate Body Language
It’s also a good idea to pay careful attention to the candidate’s body language, says Michelle LaRowe, editor in chief of eNannySource.com. If a person appears fidgety or nervous and doesn’t make eye contact it can all be signs that something is amiss, she says.
It’s also worth searching online for reviews and social media sites to vet potential nannies and their off-time behaviors.
Do a Background Check
Every candidate needs a background check before getting hired, and LaRowe encourages all parents to do a check that’s complaint with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
“Parents should, at a minimum, conduct a Social Security number check and use the addresses obtained in the results to conduct county court records checks for both misdemeanors and felonies,” she says. “Records should be checked in all areas the candidate has lived under all names he/she has used for the past seven years.”
She also recommends parents check the sex offender registry, the candidate’s motor vehicle driving record and potentially a drug test and credit check. Keep in mind that even if the nanny comes back with a clean background check, that’s not a guarantee of future behavior.
“A background check is best viewed as a report on available records of wrongdoing and another tool parents can use to gather information about a candidate,” says LaRowe.