Seven Steps to Screen a Nanny Professionally On Your Own

Choosing a nanny or au pair for your children is a process that should be organized and performed carefully, to ensure you find someone who can be trusted, will contribute significantly to the development of your child and integrate well into your family.

The step-by-step process below will help you make an informed decision and choose the best possible nanny for your kids, ensuring their well being and safety.

1. Define requirements and expectations

The first part of the hiring process is to define your exact requirements and expectations. Ask yourself questions and build a list of all requirements, then narrow it down to the most important ones. Are you looking for a nanny in a full-time or part-time position? Does she need to be flexible with over-time? Are you looking for a young, outgoing and energetic nanny or do your kids require an older and more authoritative person? How important to you are tidiness and cleanliness? Is the nanny expected to cook for your kids? Is she expected to drive them around? Are there any additional duties she is expected to perform?

2. Interview

Once you know what you expect, you can start interviewing the nannies. The interviews should be structured with a standard set of questions that are asked of all candidates. This makes it easier to evaluate and compare the candidates and to ensure that all critical topics are indeed covered.

The phone interview

In order to save time and effort, it is recommended to start with a phone interview. First explain the requirements of the job and the duties it includes. Ask about past experience with similar age groups, the motivation for choosing this sort of profession, the reasons for leaving the previous place of employment, future plans, other responsibilities which may affect the job and any other questions you consider important at this stage. Also ask for names and phone numbers of references. If satisfied with the responses, invite the nanny for a face-to-face interview at your home.

The Face-to-Face interview

In the face-to-face interview, it is time to find as much as possible about the nanny as well as provide her with all necessary information to allow her to decide whether she indeed wants the job. Discuss your child’s personality and routines, review the various duties and explain also the house rules concerning issues such as smoking, visitors, phone use, etc. Inquire on details about the nanny’s views and attitudes on handling crying babies, disciplining a child, toilet-training children, ideas for activities and any other topics of importance to you. Describe certain scenarios and ask the nanny to explain how she would act in such situations.

At some stage of the interview let your children meet the nanny and allow time to observe the interaction between them. Children make it clear when they don’t like someone. Trust your instincts and those of your child.

3. Perform a Personality and risk assessment

Once you are satisfied with the interview results, continue and perform a personality and risk assessment of the potential nanny. A personality and risk assessment is a psychological test that will help you assess potential caregivers by providing a better insight into their personality and traits, as well as an assessment of possible risk factors. Such tests are now available online (search the web for "nanny personality and risk assessments").

4. Check references

Checking references with previous employers and acquaintances is a sort of interview as well. Expect the previous employer to give you a good reference, but try to read between the lines and ask questions that require a detailed answer and may reveal underlining issues. Such questions may be about what has the previous employer liked and disliked about the nanny, why has she left her position, and whether would she be rehired by the same employer. Pay attention also to the tone of the responses. Is the previous employer excited about the nanny? Is he just being polite or does he really care about helping the nanny to get a new job?

Any red flags or problematic issues identified during steps 2 and 3 should be used to focus your inquiries and be validated or clarified during the reference check stage.

5. Follow-up interviews

If needed, interview the nanny again, either face-to-face or over the phone, to discuss and clarify any concerns you have following steps 3 and 4.

6. Run a background check

The next step in the process is running a background check on the nanny. Use a reputable background-screening agency to verify identity, past employment and education and search for criminal records, driving records and more.

7. Spend time with the nanny on a trial period

Before making a final decision, ask the nanny to spend a day or two with you and your kids, on a paid trail period. This period shouldn’t be too long to avoid confusing the kids but it will allow you to see how the nanny interacts with the kids and performs her various tasks.

Tips

  • Never choose the first candidate you like and interview several potential nannies. To make an informed decision you need several points of comparison.
  • Remember that a great personality does not necessarily translate into a good childcare professional. You aren’t just getting a playmate for your child, but also someone who will safeguard their well-being.
  • 80% of the US Fortune 500 companies and 75% of the UK Times 100 companies use psychological tests to choose their employees. If companies do it, parents definitely should do it when choosing the most important employee of all, the one taking care of their kids.
  • To make the most-informed decision use all available screening tools: interviews, references, personality assessments and background screening. Yet, trust also your (and your kid's) intuition, which is as important and useful as any other tool. If you feel something isn't right with a potential nanny, just move to the next one.

Warnings

  • Most recruitment specialists agree that the validity of interviews is quite low, even when conducted by trained professionals. Interviews often fail to reveal important facts or problematic personality traits, and their predictive value is limited.
  • Parents are usually not trained interviewers; lacking the necessary experience to properly formulate interview questions, read between the lines of what the applicant says, interpret non-verbal signs and body language, etc. This is why using professional tools such as personality and risk assessments are crucial to enhance the effectiveness of the screening process.
  • References are highly subjective and in some cases past employers may even prefer, for various reasons, to omit certain details which may harm the candidate in his search for a new position.
  • The accuracy of the various databases searched through background screening may be limited for various reasons. More than that, having, for example, a clean criminal record means a person has never been convicted of such activity but does not necessarily indicate that a person has never been involved in criminal activity or has a tendency to do so.

Written by Yossi Pinkas, founder of Take-Care, a premium personality assessment agency utilized worldwide by parents who want the peace of mind that comes with conducting thorough research on caregivers for their kids. For more information visit www.take-care.me.

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2 Responses to Seven Steps to Screen a Nanny Professionally On Your Own

  1. Jenna on January 29, 2011 at 5:58 am

    Families should also think about the au pair options.  The Au Pair agency does the backround check, personality assesmentss and the first round of interviews for you.  By the time you see the au pairs application, the au pair has already gone through two interviews and the other mentioned steps.  Also, you have continuous support throught your time with your au pair in case you have any questions.  If you are thinking about getting an au pair, or have questions about the process, e-mail me at Jenna.Haxton@lcc.culturalcare.com and I can help.

  2. Yossi Pinkas on January 31, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Indeed, Au Pair agencies are required by federal regulations to perform a psychometric test,. Yet, parents should be aware that not all tests are alike.

    Some agencies use the Myers Briggs test, which is suitable for job counseling rather than for screening applicants, as it focuses on the applicant’s preferences rather than his capabilities.

    Other agencies use the Booraem-Flowers Au Pair Psychometric Test which is a better choice, though rather limited in it’s scope, aiming only to identify a candidate who is more likely to lose emotional control under stress or more likely to make a poor safety judgment when under stress. The test is not designed to provide either a written summary or positive attributes.

    Performing any personality test isn’t enough and parents must make sure that the tests are appropriate and extensive enough to be used as a screening tool.

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