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Hiring a Full-Time Nanny for Your Baby

By Jenny Parker

Hiring a full-time nanny is one of the ways to care for your baby once both parents return to work. There are obvious pros and cons to this. Having a nanny means a dedicated person whose job is to care for your precious child, rather than the typical 1 to 4 baby per adult ratio in most child care facilities, and often this means your child will get fewer colds and ear infections. Also, for families that want to bring up their children with a second language, hiring a nanny fluent in that second language can build a great foundation for your children to be bilingual. One of the cons is the cost, of course. Another is the idea of having a complete stranger to care for your helpless infant unsupervised. Here are some ideas and advices that can help parents through their first time nanny hiring process.

The Screening process:

  • Make a list of what you and your spouse desire in a full-time nanny: What are your required hours, do you prefer a live-in or commuting nanny, how much experience do you require, do you require a nanny to have experience with children of any particular age (if you have a 3 month old, someone who has mostly worked with toddlers might not be ideal), what other duties are expected around the house (cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc.--child care should always be the primary duty), if you require them to speak a certain second language with your child, etc.
  • Then make a list of your most basic questions based on your requirements: Have this list by the phone, so you can ask every phone screen candidate this list of questions. Make several copies of this list and record every candidate's answer with their name and phone numbers next to it. Later on, you may need to refer to these lists of questions and answers during the interview process or even when deciding between candidates.
  • Ask your candidates some basic questions too: What's their ideal family to work for? Why are they currently looking? Do they have any unique requests for you?

If your screening process is successful, then you should only bring qualified candidates for the interview process.

The Interview process:

Meeting the candidates in person is the most important step of the hiring process, this is where you get to learn the most about your potential child care provider and observe her with your child. Yes, be sure to have your child there with you. If your child is an infant, see how comfortable she is holding your child and if your child is comfortable with her. If your child is a toddler, this meeting provides a great opportunity to see how she talks and interacts with a young child (yours). Take cues from your child!

During the interview process, again be prepared! Make a list of questions you and your spouse want to ask so you don't end the interview and later discover that you missed some information. It is very important that you put some thought into the questions and be sure to structure all your questions in a way that they can not be simply answered with a "Yes" or "No." These are often really more "topics for discussion" than actual "questions." Great topics can ensure that you can make the most informed hiring decision. Also, always ask for specific examples from their previous experience. Be friendly and courteous during the interview process so that the candidates are at ease and comfortable telling you about themselves. Below are some examples of topics to discuss:

  • Tell us about your experience working with children.
  • Tell us about your work/life before becoming a nanny.
  • Why did you decide to become a nanny? (If their answer is not because they love babies or young children, then ask what they enjoy the most about being a nanny)
  • What kind of family is the most ideal or suitable for you to work with? (This is almost an intelligence test...)
  • Tell us about your work with past families.
  • What was a typical day like when you were taking care of the child from family A?
  • What was typical week like?
  • What are some of your favorite activities that you liked to do with the toddler you took care of?
  • How do you handle a child who is having a temper tantrum?
  • Give us an example of when a child you took care of was hurt. How did you handle it?
  • Give us an example of a time when you and the child's parent had a disagreement about how to care for the child, and how did you and the parents handle it? (This question might tell if a nanny will listen to you or prefers to have her way).
  • What questions do you have for us?

The above are just some sample questions, you should construct questions of your own based on the issues that matter to you most. Also, if an answer peaked your interest or raised a question, always follow up with "tell me more about that?" or "why is that?" to learn more about your candidate.

Reference check:

Now that you have made your decision, a thorough reference check is in order to validate your selection. This is also your opportunity to uncover any red flags or surprises. After all, you are about to hand over the care of your baby to this person. Again, a well prepared list of questions can help you with getting the most out of the conversation with your potential nanny's previous employers:

  • When did she start to work for your family? How old was your child at the time?
  • When did she leave? Why did she leave?
  • When your child was an infant, what was a typical day like for your baby?
  • When you child was a toddler, what was a typical day like for him?
  • What other duties does she have around the house besides child care?
  • What do you like the most about her?
  • Please share with me an area where you thought she could do better, how you brought it up to her, and how she handled it.
  • Can you share with me a time where you or your spouse had a disagreement with her about child care (maybe about eating, napping schedules, etc), and how the situation was handled?
  • If there was a time when your child was hurt, how did she handle it? (The best answer is that the child was never hurt under her care!)
  • How often is she late? and absent?
  • What advice do you have for me to ensure a successful partnership with her for my baby?

The Decision process:

Trust your gut. If something does not feel quite right, it is a "no." Both parents and the child (if old enough) have full "veto" power. When considering between two similar candidates who are both equally qualified, the old standby of a "pros" and "cons" list is a good tool. Keep in mind that not all things on the list may be of equal importance.

If you hired her but it does not work out:

If you feel like you need to let her go, let her go right away! You can't afford to give the courtesy of a 2-week notice with someone you can not trust. Even if this means that you have to pay for the two weeks without getting the service. After all, we are talking about your precious but quite helpless baby.

If the hire is successful:

Count your blessings! Treat your nanny with respect and treat her like family! When you treat her like family, she will likely treat your child like family...like her own child or grandchild.