Finding someone to care for your children is a tough task, and one that requires preparation and due diligence. After vetting qualified candidates, the interview is the next most important step in the process. Here are 13 questions you should consider asking your potential nanny before welcoming her into the family home.
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- What is your favorite childhood memory and why?
An individual’s childhood experiences shape who they are as an adult. An unhappy childhood, for instance, can lead to low self-esteem. One research study conducted by the Qatar Medical Journal, which is posted on the US National Library of Medicine website, explains how self-esteem is related to psychological resilience. A nanny that has trouble recovering from emotional upset is at risk of depression, which can affect her ability to provide proper guardianship and supervision to the youngest members of your family.
- How long have you been caring for children?
There are benefits to having a young nanny. However, if your children have behavioral issues, if you have multiples, or if you expect your caregiver to enforce strict rules, it may be in your best interest to find someone with several years of experience. This individual will likely have already been through situations, such as public temper tantrums, that may fluster a young provider.
- What, if any, childcare classes or certifications have you completed?
There are no licensing or educational requirements to become a private nanny. That being said, an individual who has completed childcare classes and CPR and first-aid certification has already taken an important step in her career. If you are interviewing a first-time nanny, ask if she would be willing to take classes from the Red Cross or other local organization. This type of training is one assurance that your child is in good hands, and will be properly cared for if they become injured or experience an emergency while you are away.
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- What is your educational background? If it doesn’t include a childcare discipline, why are you seeking employment as a nanny?
It’s not uncommon for individuals to go to school in an attempt to pursue a career path that was chosen before finishing high school. There is nothing wrong with someone graduating from college with a degree in engineering who chooses to become a nanny — as long as it’s for the right reasons. Nanny Magazine explains that people become nannies to make a difference in the lives of children, because they enjoy the variety or because they did not fit neatly into the cubicle-shaped mold of the corporate world. If your candidate answers that she thinks the job is easy, she is in for a rude awakening and may not be prepared to handle the responsibility.
- Are you willing to undergo a background check?
A background check is crucial when you plan to bring someone into your children’s lives, especially if that person will be an authority figure. The only acceptable answer to this question is “yes.” Many services, including Care.com, can provide criminal and motor vehicle record background checks for a fee. You should also ask candidates if they are comfortable allowing you to look at their social media profiles, which can give you more information about their lifestyle habits.
- What is your favorite age to care for and why?
Some nannies prefer to start with a family when their baby is young so they have a chance to nurture this growth and create a lifelong bond. Others may favor toddlers and school-age children for their curiosity about the world. Asking this question can help gauge if your nanny is a good fit for your family now and later should you decide to have more children. It further gives you an opportunity to understand more about their experiences with children of a variety of ages.
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- Why are you no longer with your former family, and will they provide a reference?
Chances are, the children she cared for aged out of the need. Personal conflicts or being fired for drug or alcohol use is a red flag, as is a reluctance to provide contact information for a former employer.
- What are your long-term goals?
This question is often hard for new nannies to answer. They may feel pressured to respond that their sole dream is to care for your child. It should be asked anyway, as it provides a conversational opening for your potential employer to be upfront and honest about her intentions. Further, knowing her ambitions ahead of time means you can be open with your child regarding the length of their time together. This can make it easier to accept the inevitable day when they have to say goodbye. Dr. Alexandra Sacks explains that open communication and trust are vital components in the nanny/parent relationship, so establish both from the beginning.
- We believe in a particular religion/vaccination schedule/dietary lifestyle/etc. How would you handle conflicts with your own beliefs and values?
There are pros and cons to hiring a nanny from a different culture. This person can expand upon your child’s world view and expose her to people from diverse backgrounds. This can reduce ethnic and other bias as your child ages. Problems arise when these backgrounds are so vastly different that the nanny cannot, in their own good conscience, agree to raise your child based on your family’s views. Cambridge Community Television’s Rev. Uche Ikpa notes that language barriers can “damage or influence early childhood development academically and psychologically… .”
- How do you plan to maintain a balance between your personal life and our children?
Work/life balance is something that’s often neglected, especially by domestic workers who live on site. Maintaining a balance is a vital part of your potential employee’s overall self-care, and she should have a plan in place to care for herself. First, spending time away from work — and your children — can keep your nanny from experiencing early burnout. Perhaps more importantly, according to the Australian Institute of Business, people who find balance experience fewer health problems. When it comes to childcare workers, health is not something that should be compromised.
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- What types of food will you prepare for my children, and what if they don’t like it?
The first point of asking this question is to gauge your prospective nanny’s job expectations. While the vast majority of childcare workers are responsible for meal time and snacks, this should be expressly understood from the beginning. The second part of the question is a chance for your family to discuss disciplinary preferences. Some parents insist upon their children eating their entire dinner and trying new foods. Others leave dietary preferences up to their children. This attitude may trickle into others areas as well, so understanding their likely response to these types of issues is critical.
- What books would you like to read to our children?
Book preference can help you get a better read on an individual’s personality. Additionally, understanding how your potential nanny prioritizes reading time can help you decide whether or not to offer her a trial run. There are many benefits to reading to babies and toddlers, including helping infants form social and speaking skills. Preschoolers also benefit from an enhanced vocabulary, according to Rasmussen College. Your nanny should have an idea of the types of books she would like to read and how often she plans to do so, since this is an integral part of your child’s upbringing.
- Do you have any questions for me?
Interviewing for a nanny position is not that different from any other job. You will have many questions for them, and they should likewise have questions for you. Well thought-out inquiries about your family, your children, and your lifestyle are good indications that the nanny is serious about her job. It shows that she is willing to take an interest in this post and likely won’t compare it to her last — after all, all families are different. This is further an opportunity to clear any ambiguous areas in the job description and to engage in a productive back-and-forth dialogue.
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There are many reasons to host a formal interview. If it feels like a daunting task, the above questions — and reasons for asking them — can get you started. When it comes to your children, you cannot afford to leave anything to chance.