Your Complete Guide to Hiring In-Home Child Care

Part Two - Hiring the Right Nanny

There is an old saying that "knowledge is power". In this case it is your best ally. Just as you plotted your way through the agency interview and reference checking phase, you have to do the same investigative digging on each Nanny you think might have something to offer you and your family.

The rule of thumb for hiring a Nanny: Give yourself plenty of time.

Never rush through an interview either. You need time to go through every question on your list, to get a feel for one another and how the Caregiver responds to your child(ren) and vise versa.

Making a comprehensive list of questions is a necessity. Yes it is time consuming. And if you think your list is too long . . . so what? How many of us have sat through interviews that have lasted the better of two hours? It is your family's safety and well-being at stake here. You have to do whatever it takes to make you absolutely certain this is the right person to hire. For a comprehensive list of "tough" questions, see our Hiring a Nanny Worksheets and Forms.

Ask The Right Questions

No question is too personal or too tough. Granted there are laws in each state or province that an employer is not allowed to ask. Contact your local labor relations board for these and work around them. Be as creative as possible. And don't forget to ask for the all-important criminal records check, medical report and drivers abstract. With these you'll gather hordes of information on a potential Caregiver's criminal record background, her ability to both physically and mentally deal with children on a daily basis, and if this is the type of person you want driving your children to all those fun filled extracurricular activities.

What makes things a bit tricky here is that parents don't feel comfortable asking the tough questions? Well get over it. You have to move outside your comfort zone whether you like it or not, after all, there may well be not so nice tradeoffs involved in making the decision not to ask the tough questions. Your children don't need to pay the price for homework left undone.

Open ended questions, what if scenarios, and questions that avoid the yes/no answer give you the best response to your interviewing inquisition. They do more than give a simple answer, they ask the applicant to expound on her answer . . . to tell you how she handles spilled milk instead of just saying "yes" she can remain calm and level headed when it happens three times during a single lunch.

While you're asking questions, give the potential Nanny time to respond. Let her mull each question over. In fact, you should refrain from constantly jumping in with conversation there is a bit of silence. Your job is to control the interview, to guide it along, but not to make it a chat session. You are here to gather information, not make an instant friend.Ask yourself if the Nanny's answers correspond with your wants for your child, with your philosophy on child rearing.


For most people, setting up an interview time when their spouse and children will be around works best. It gives you the opportunity to watch how the Caregiver interacts with your child and allows for a second opinion when it comes time to collaborate on the interview and decision to hire. If your spouse is unable to attend the interview, have someone else be there with you. We've all sat through interviews where there was more than one interviewer. Why should you conduct your business any differently? Besides, the person you invite to join you can pick up on little nuances you may not have being so concentrated on the interview itself.

Never make a hiring decision on the spot. No matter how wonderful you think the applicant may be, you need time to review your notes, to talk about the interview with your partner, to think rationally about what has transpired. This is obviously easier said than done given the huge demand for in-home Caregivers. Nanny jobs are a dime a dozen these days. Needless to say the good ones go fast. This is no reason to rush in. In fact, conducting a second or third interview with a Caregiver is as acceptable in this instance as it is in any other business hiring session.

Of course, you won't let a Caregiver slip away without giving you a list of at least three work related references. Unless you know for certain this is not the Marry Poppins for you. Then who cares. But for those applicants who strike your fancy, checking references is a way to verify the "claims" made during the interview. You'll kept notes won't you?
Checking References
Checking each and every reference is an absolute must. No checking just the number in the middle of the list or contacting the first referee (the actual name of a reference contact) and no others. What you find out from one reference may turn out completely different from the next one.

In most cases, the references you opt not to check, may be more important than the ones you choose to check. Each applicant should offer you a minimum of three non-related referees in addition to the work related list. Begin each reference checking session with a well-prepared list of questions.

There are two basic ways to check references:

   1. Telephone interviews, which remain the most efficient method giving
       you a live and unedited report on the Nanny's background and
   2. Written references, which are more time consuming but ideal if you
       are having trouble contacting a referee by telephone (sending a
       questionnaire attached to a "please fill out" letter and self-
       addressed-stamped envelope. For a comprehensive list of verification
       inducing reference checking questions see our Hiring a Nanny
       Worksheets and Forms.
During your reference checking remember that anything that makes you remotely suspicious is reason enough not to hire the applicant, or in the very least an indication that you need to do some further investigation.

As for the criminal record check or police clearance, the applicant will have to get this on her own by going down to her local police department and requesting one. Or, you can have the applicant fill out an Authorization for Background Check Form, that allows you to do the background investigation yourself. Any Caregiver who refuses to produce a current criminal records check is to be avoided outright. You want to verify the certificate by asking to see an actual copy of the records check, not a photocopy. Make sure the certificate is not over two years old. If it is tell the applicant you want it updated before you'll even consider her for your job.

A medical note, verifying the applicant's mental and physical health can be obtained by the Caregiver's family doctor. A driver's abstract can be purchased at any vehicle registration bureau.

The most effective way to handle the decision making process after the interview and reference checking sessions, is to work through an Assessment Sheet, particularly if there is more than one applicant that interests you and your family. Ideally you'll list what you liked about each Caregiver, what areas of concern you have (so that you can follow this up with yet another quick interview either in person or over the telephone), your overall feelings, and then finally your child's overall feelings.