I knew we needed a nanny when we moved to the suburbs. Daycare for two kids was suddenly exorbitant. A nanny not only made sense financially, but logistically. No drop-offs with special bags and pre-made bottles. No rushing out of meetings to make the 5:30 pickup. Naps could be more regular. Food would be made from our ingredients. And I could find someone who shared my parenting philosophies.
However, finding the right fit for our family became a little harder than I thought. I interviewed about 22 people. That makes me sound picky. But between my expectations – and deciding on someone before another family grabbed them – it took at least two months of work.
I’ve since learned how to make finding the right nanny easier, and can share those insights with you!
1. Do some research. Ask friends, family members and online communities about their nanny hiring process. What were their needs? What did they learn along the way? What would they do the same – or differently? Then talk to your partner about what you both want from this nanny relationship. What will her job requirements be? What personality traits are most important? Think about this as someone you’d want to learn and interact with every day.
2. Make a specific job post. Take the info you gathered and start a job post. What is the headline? Don’t just say “Nanny Needed” or you will get every nanny in a 25-mile radius. Instead, put some personality traits in there. I think mine ended up being: “High-energy, well-organized nanny needed 4-days a week in (my town).” For me, this kept the lower energy, less structured people from applying.
Use the rest of the post to explain a little about your family (so they can connect with you and read into more of your upcoming needs), and add a list of other requirements (3+ years experience, car, open to sick kids, flex schedule, etc.) and like-to-haves (soccer background, familiarity with area, etc). Don’t forget to add availability and post-tax salary (use a nanny tax calculator that can tell you the hourly rate in your zip code, take-home pay and tax breaks you’re eligible for). Then send this post as an email to friends, post on a care-focused site, and put it in local online newsletters and message boards.
3. Call certain applicants. You’ll probably get a big response to your job post. But you can rule some people out right away. Think professionally. Cross off the applicants who send a generic cover letters or who just say, “I’d be a great fit for this. Call me.” You’ll only want to call the people who connected with your job post, gave clear examples of why they’d be a great fit, and have the experience and requirements you need.
When calling, view this as a first interview. Is the applicant distracted with kids? Does she remember your post and ask pertinent questions? Ask her some of your questions as well: Why is she looking for a new job? What is her experience with children in your child’s age range? What are her career goals? What does she love about being a nanny? Have each person go over their background too.
4. Meet with your favorites. Find a time when both of you can meet in a public place without kids. This is for the real interview and for you to get a good feel of personality and fit for your family. Ask more specific questions about her experience and certain “what if” scenarios (you get locked out of the house with your cell and the kids inside – what do you do?)
5. Run background checks. Take your favorite candidate and run any number of background checks. At Care.com, we have a few options you can choose from. One level even runs traffic violations. An even more extensive check will send out a private investigator.
6. Call references. Once the background gets cleared (or during the process, depending on how long it needs to take), call about five of her references. Clearly, your candidate will give you people she knows will rave about her. However, I like to recommend people dig deeper. Ask her for a neighbor’s number, or a college advisor’s. Jobs outside of the care industry will still help you get an idea for her responsibility, maturity, as well as other universal factors important to you.
7. Invite her to meet your kids. Have your kids interview meet her, play and even interview her, if necessary. This will give you a final clarity if she’s a good fit.
8. Do a trial period. Before you sign a nanny contract and fill out the tax paperwork, do a 2-week trial run. Sure, every relationship starts out bumpy, but you’ll get a good feel for who you’re about to hire and how easy she can make your life within a short amount of time.
[About the author: Katie Bugbee is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com. A busy working mother of two, she’s an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter.]