The Best and Worst Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Nanny

To round up Career Advice week (yeah, I totally theme my weeks – I’m so cool!), I decided to touch on questions to ask a potential nanny when you’re interviewing one. Finding the perfect nanny for your family is really hard – you’ve got to find someone who has enough experience and wherewithal to look after your kids the way you’d want them to be looked after, and you’ve also got to find someone that clicks with you, your values, and your beliefs. Interviewing a nanny is like interviewing no other employee – so here’s what to ask and not to ask!

Top 5 Questions You Should Be Asking:

1. Give me a brief rundown of your experience: You want to know ages, parenting styles the nanny has worked with, and length of employment. This will give you the best idea of how experienced your nanny is with children in general and with your specific age group in particular.

2. Tell me a time that you felt you were successful at your job and a time you had a challenge you had to overcome: This is a standard question in any job interview, but it’s especially important in a nanny interview. You want to know exactly what your nanny feels she’s strong at and how she overcomes challenges. Watch out for nannies who use this time to complain about former employers – you don’t want someone who is going to be unprofessional. The challenges and success stories should be about the kids first and foremost, and the parents tangentially as tools to help overcome a challenge or facilitate the success. This will also show you how well your nanny works with her employers, and how well she will potentially work with you.

3. What certificates or qualifications do you have that make you qualified to be a nanny: In some places, this is as simple as checking that a nanny has the Red Cross Babysitting Course certificate or a Lifeguarding certificate, but in Toronto, a nanny should have her Level C First Aid and CPR as well as a police check. If she doesn’t have those things, you need to decide if you are willing to wait for her to get them, and perhaps pay for them for her (if you want her to be your nanny because of other aspects of the interview) or if her not having them is really too big of an obstacle to overcome. Safety is extremely important, and you need to be able to trust that your nanny has things under control both criminally and with your children. Also related to this question: a good nanny should have three references that are going to talk about her honestly and well. Don’t accept less than three!

4. How would you deal with [a potential problem, challenge, situation] and why: Problem-solving skills are extremely important when you are dealing with children of any age. Here’s where you ask anything from how she would deal with a discipline situation to what she would do in an emergency.

5. What are your wage expectations: Money, money, money! This is important, though, because you need to know exactly what your nanny expects from you as an employer. Here’s where you can also discuss what you’re going to offer her – benefits, sick days, and vacation? Will you be contracted or under the table? Is tax going to be taken off? After this discussion is verbally had, you can draw up a contract and put it all in writing, if you choose to hire her as a nanny.

Now that you know what to ask, here are things NOT to ask.

Top 5 Questions You Should NOT Be Asking:

1. Are you married or single: While a nanny is part of the family and becomes often very close to her employers and their children, this is not a question that should matter when you’re hiring a nanny for the first time. This also places the nanny in an awkward position to divulge personal information that she may not be ready to tell you yet. When things get more friendly down the road, these questions become appropriate.

2. What is your sexual orientation: Some parents are very focused on only exposing their children to people who match their family’s values and beliefs, but this is an illegal question to ask. It should not matter if your nanny is gay or straight, and if it does, then you may have better luck going with a person who is personally recommended to you by a like-minded friend. Most nannies are very professional and won’t say anything about their sexual orientation to your children, anyway. It certainly does not affect how they do their job.

3. Tell me about a situation where you had a problem with your employer: This is a no-no question. If your nanny had a personality conflict or other issue with her employer, that’s none of your business and while it may have an impact on how your nanny will act with you, it may not, either. This only puts your nanny on the spot and makes her nervous to present both sides in a good light because she wants the job, even if her employer story is a nightmare. Also, this sets up your nanny to want to lie to make a better impression. Leave this one off the list – it’s unprofessional as an employer, too.

4. What is your religion: I put this question in the no-no pile because like sexual orientation, I don’t think it matters if the nanny is the same religion as your children or not. I’ve worked for many families who had a different religion than I do, and any questions about it, I simply directed back to the parents. However, this can also be an important question to ask if you want a nanny who is going to be a spiritual guide to your kids, as well. I don’t personally like this question, but use your discretion.

5. So, have you ever had an affair with your employer: Yes, I’ve been asked this question, and no, I haven’t. I was really insulted by this, and honestly, even if she has had an affair, is it any of your business? Just don’t go there.

Keeping your interview professional and clear will net you the most information about your nanny. You can ask things like what she enjoys doing in her spare time, what sports she enjoys, how she would make a simple craft with your kids, and can she cook – but leave the personal stuff out of it. It will all come out anyway as you get to know your nanny, and by then, you may enjoy her work so much that it doesn’t matter if she believes or loves someone you may not approve of. The ultimate quality in a good nanny is professionalism and discretion – so look for that in her answers and happy nanny-hunting!

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