DOS and DON'TS for finding the Perfect Nanny
And avoiding common hiring pitfalls
Finding the right caregiver ranks as one of the most overwhelming challenges of parenthood. Out of desperation, too many parents hire the first person who comes along, and cross their fingers it will work out. This backwards approach can leave children with caregivers who could do developmental damage.
Research shows that 90 percent of brain development occurs by age three. If the person caring for your child through these formative years neglects the emotional aspects of the job, it can have lasting consequences. Parents need to gather sufficient information that cannot be gleaned from a single interview or reference.
This list of DOS and DON'TS show how not to take short cuts, and instead, how to follow a hiring process that matches your child's and family's needs to the personal and professional qualities of the nanny.
DON'T hire a nanny like you would hire a babysitter. A long-term relationship requires more due diligence.
DO undertake a "Family Needs Assessment" that not only details days, hours and transportation, but explores your vision of a perfect nanny. Consider personality type, communication style, approach toward behavioral challenges–even CPR training or a second language. Decide which qualities are "must haves," which are added "pluses" and which are non-negotiable "deal breakers." From this list of qualities, you can quickly weed out unqualified candidates.
DON'T assume candidates from nanny agencies and other sources are pre-screened, even if they say they are.
DO call references, conduct background checks and do in-home trials. Check references in advance of scheduling in-person interviews. You'll save yourself time if you uncover any red flags from a past employer. Initiate a background check ($100-$200) once you've narrowed your candidates to one or two.
DON'T judge a nanny's character from a phone interview. Instead, use the call to get a sense of the nanny's language skills, whether she communicates clearly and if she meets your "must haves."
DO have a face-to-face interview with pre-screened candidates to gain better insight into their personalities. While you've already filled in several pieces of your nanny puzzle from your phone conversation and reference checks, now you can see how you interact together.
DON'T ask yes or no questions when interviewing. These fail to elicit the details you're after.
DO ask open-ended questions beginning with "how" or "why." Structure the interview around three objectives: telling your story and reiterating what you're looking for; asking the nanny about her experience and what makes her a good fit; and learning the nanny's story to get a more clear sense of who she is as an individual.
DON'T seal the deal without a trial run. Trials are the only way to know for certain if a particular nanny is right for you.
DO schedule a paid, in-home trial with at least two candidates and structure each around two days. By bringing in two candidates, you give yourself a backup, and the differences are illuminating. Two days is a necessary timeframe; the first day entails showing and explaining, while the second day lets the nanny put what you explained into practice. Ultimately, even if the nanny can perform all requirements, if the crucial, emotional piece isn't there, the nanny is not fit for the job.
DON'T expect the nanny to automatically know how to care for your child.
DO take the time to show her the child's routines and preferences. Even a nanny with years of experience needs to know your childrearing practices–scheduled feedings versus feeding on demand; time-outs versus positive reinforcement; and others.
DON'T hire nanny without spelling out the details of the job and the salary.
DO lay the groundwork for a healthy, happy working relationship by making a "Nanny-Family Work Agreement" with salary, benefits, hours, duties, rules and deal-breakers spelled out. This sets clear guidelines and expectations from the outset.
Employing these DOS into your hiring process and leaving out the DON'TS will empower you with the tools for a successful family-nanny match that makes for happy parents, a happy caregiver and a double-happy child.
Tammy Gold, LCSW, MSW, CEC, is author of Secrets of the Nanny Whisperer: A Practical Guide for Finding and Achieving the Gold Standard of Care for Your Child (Perigee, January 6, 2015). Founder of Gold Parent Coaching, which specializes in nanny-family matching, training and mediation, she has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and People, and is a frequent guest on TV's Good Morning America and Today. Learn more at tammygold.com