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MEANINGFUL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS THAT ILLUMINATE YOUR POTENTIAL EMPLOYEE'S NEEDS, YOUR FAMILY'S NEEDS, AND WHETHER YOUR STYLES AND EXPECTATIONS ARE SUITED FOR WORK TOGETHER

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SCHEDULE & DUTIES.

Begin by reiterating the basic job description and schedule: 

  • "We are seeking a nanny for [insert preferred length of time you need a nanny]. Do you have a preference of contract length?" If you have a newborn/young infant and hope to find a nanny for several years, specify that the contract is a one year agreement that can be renewed annually, rather than asking a candidate to commit the next three years to your family. It is typically not possible to be sure about that. 

  • "We will need a nanny's services for [days of the week/hours per week]. Do you have a preference of start time/end time each day? How many total hours do you want to work per week?" Interview is the time for everyone to be honest & candid about schedule preferences. If you are hiring for full time and a candidate truly only wants to work 30 hours/week, it is best to know now. No surprises. 

  • "We would like a nanny to start on _______. Are you available on or around this date?"

  • "Are you comfortable driving children to activities?"

  • "We will ask a nanny to perform the following childcare-related tasks: (list any tasks such as child's laundry, sanitizing toys once a week, planning a weekly outing, stock diaper bag, changing diaper pail bags,  etc.) Are all of these tasks you are comfortable with. If not, which ones?"

  • Let the candidate know about any pets or animals/livestock on your property and in particular, cats. Some candidates may be allergic. 

OTHER DUTIES.

  • "Are you comfortable loading/unloading the dishwasher each afternoon as part of job duties?" If you need help with other general/family assistant tasks such as family dishes, parent laundry, or walking the dog, describe them during the interview.

  • "We want to be sure we don't accidentally cause our nanny to feel like a housekeeper. Are there any light tidying or family support tasks you consider inappropriate for a nanny, or perhaps you were asked to perform in the past which made you uncomfortable?"

These questions are helpful to match styles too. A candidate who loves organizing and tidying up is likely to feel unfulfilled at work with a family only wants them to perform children's care. Vice versa when you really need a nanny to be your right hand, taking out trash and making sure family laundry gets switched over, a candidate who solely performs children's care and development will be unhappy.

AGE-SPECIFIC KNOWLEDGE.

This is your opportunity to hear about your candidate's expertise and their work style. These questions are particularly relevant for ages 0-3:

  • "Our child is ____ months/years old. What activities do you enjoy doing with a child this age?"

  • "What milestones/new developments would you look for at this age?"

  • "What types of activities do you think will be valuable and age-appropriate for our child in the next 3 months?"

  • If you need a nanny to prepare fresh baby food or prep fresh children's meals be sure to describe that now. 

SAFETY.

  • "Are there any common safety hazards you find in family homes as a nanny, or safety products you sometimes recommend?" This tells you how safety-conscious your candidate is at work.

  • "Can you tell us more about the experience and training you have handling a childcare emergency/urgent situation?" Not all nannies have handled an emergency but they can typically speak to their CPR/first aid training and the steps they would take. Most nannies have handled an urgent or challenging event such as a weird person lurking at the playground, a sudden fever, the car got a flat tire, etc.

  • "What steps would you take if a child hit their head very hard?" Correct answers include check for uneven pupil dilation, notify the parent immediately, ice (or apply pressure if skin is broken), and keep the child awake/conscious.

  • "What do you think is the most reasonable policy/expectation for cell phone use during work?" (Excessive phone use is a distraction however a charged phone kept nearby is an important safety tool!)

  • "What are your current COVID-19 safety practices for your work with children?" (Notice that this question inquires about safety yet does not pry into the candidate's personal life).

  • For infants: "Do you have TDAP booster or willing to get? Annual flu shot or willing to get?" (Parent would pay candidate for their time to complete these boosters/shots if this will be a job requirement). 

Now is also the time to speak in more depth about any affective needs, physical disabilities, emotional support needs, medical conditions, etc. that your child has. Do not minimize. This can be tough because the tasks and skills associated with supporting your child's needs may have become quite routine for your family. The candidate has not had the same daily experience and will need the full picture.  

PERSONAL EXPERIENCES.​​

  • "Tell us about a positive moment with a child that has really stuck with you or is special to you." 

  • "Are there any staple or favorite activities that you always do as a sitter or a nanny?" Many nannies have a signature style, a super fun activity or a meaningful life skill they wish to impart to each child. 

  • "What do you think 1-2 of the top challenges of being a nanny in a home are, and how do you approach those?"

  • "What do you most want to contribute to a family/when did you feel like you really made an amazing difference as a nanny?"

  • "Have you ever had a moment that you felt you did not come through for a child or you made a mistake, and what did you learn from that experience?"

  • "Have you ever experienced that "stuck in the house" feeling as a nanny, or like it had become the same every day and wasn't interesting anymore? If so, what did you do?" 

  • "Have you ever had an experience where a parent's instructions differed from what you thought was appropriate or safest, and if so what did you do?" 

  • "How do you approach discipline or redirection as a nanny?" Nannies often have a wide variety of experience with behavioral redirection techniques, consequences, Love & Logic, gentle parenting, time outs, etc. It is important that your expectations & the nanny's style match i.e. a gentle parenting household and a nanny who uses time outs are unlikely to see eye to eye. A nanny may or may not accept a position in a home where spanking is part of a parent's discipline strategy. If spanking is one of your parenting tools, let the candidate know. 

You will need to check in with your nanny in a regular & predicable way. Speak with your candidates about this. Will you want a debriefing in person each afternoon before clock-out time, a written log you can review whenever, connecting once a week? What would be most helpful to you? What would the candidate prefer? This will tell you a lot about your candidate's communication style and needs. 

PAY/BENEFITS.

Pay and benefits need to be clear and candid. Avoid vague phrases such as "pay negotiable for the right person," or "benefits possible/TBD." 

  • "Our pay rate range is $__ to $__ per hourDo you have any questions about this pay rate range?" 

  • We will offer the following benefits: [list your benefits]. Are there any benefits that are particularly important to you that you would like to negotiate?" 

  • "We plan to use legal payroll, a W-2 and we will pay our employer taxes. Do you have any questions about using payroll?" 

  • "Do you have any travel plans/pre-planned trips in the next 6 months that we need to know for the schedule?"​

GREAT LAST QUESTIONS & OTHER NOTES.

  • "Overall, what will a nanny job you really enjoy look like to you?"

  • Was there anything in particular about our family's job posting that stood out for you or sounded well-suited for you?

  • "What do you think a family can do to be a great employer - or - what would a nanny employer do that helps you feel respected and valued?"

  • "Do you have any other questions for us?"

 

BE HONEST AND CANDID (WITH PROFESSIONALISM).

Be candid if your child is currently hitting, kicking, biting, spitting, screaming, scratching, hair pulling, running/fleeing, etc. Many nannies have experience supporting children through these behaviors. However, nannies find it disrespectful for a parent to omit or minimize this information during interview. It will be revealed when they accept the job and the surprise will harm your working relationship. Behavior omitted or minimized during the interview is a top reason that nanny contracts dissolve earlier than planned. 

QUESTIONS TO SKIP & OTHER THINGS THAT DERAIL YOUR INTERVIEW. 

  • "So tell us about yourself." You already have their resume so rather than general questions, make the most of your interview time together.  A great candidate will have read your family's profile and will be prepared to ask you more detailed questions. They hope that you have read their resume and are have more detailed questions for them too. 

  • If you and the candidate seem like instant BFFs, stay on track with gathering the information you need. Sometimes a match seems so magical both parties can forget to ask some key questions. 

  • Avoid making any comments at all about shortcomings/flaws of a prior nanny. This is a red flag. 

  • Avoid making any comments at all about shortcomings/flaws of your child's other parent. This is a red flag.

  • "Why should we hire you?" Outdated, condescending, etc.

  • "Is there any wiggle room on your hourly rate?" This is a passive question that beats around the bush. Be direct. If the candidate's hourly rate is not in your budget and you would need them to accept a lower rate, share that before the interview and state the rate you can pay. Maybe there is something else you can afford to offer such as a cell phone stipend, adding nanny to your Costco membership, etc. 

  • "Are you flexible about start and end times?" Be specific. What do you need  schedule-wise? Candidates perceive vague flexibility questions as a sign that the parent might be chronically late, or will frequently change their work schedule without notice. This is detrimental to the nanny's personal life and isn't sustainable. Be candid if you need the schedule to change each week or if, for example, you are a surgeon whose schedule can even change the night before. 

  • "Are you ok with planning your vacation around our vacation?" Ask yourself -- do you want to base your family's vacation on when your boss goes on vacation? If there are certain blackout dates for PTO, for example if you attend an annual work conference and absolutely must have childcare coverage every year at that time, share this during interview. 

  • List professional benefits only in your job posting. Leave out jokes such as "benefits include working with two great kids!" Applicants perceive jokes like this as a sign that the parent may not think employee benefits, such as PTO and sick leave, are important for a nanny.

Personal questions are inappropriate for any job interview. Common wrong questions include, "Are you married?" "Are you religious?" "Do you want kids?" or "Does your spouse/partner/roommate do work that exposes them to COVID-19?" These types of questions indicate to the candidate that you may not understand how to be an employer, or you may not have appropriate boundaries. An applicant's home life, who they live with, religious beliefs or marital status is not an employer's domain. 

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