Getting to know the parents who might be your employers can be a little intimidating, even for nannies who have been in the industry for years. It’s intimidating because, amid all the basic questions and answers and conversation, it’s necessary to ask some tougher questions to make sure you’re really compatible with the parents. You aren’t applying for a typical job, and your position consists of far more than just punching a clock. You’re going to be an extension of a family, and that means that success is dependent upon your ability to establish trust and learn all you can about the parents to do your job effectively. If you find yourself stuck on what to ask — or if you just don’t know how to phrase it —use these questions as a guide:
“What’s the worst discipline experience you’ve had?”
There might be other ways to ease into this, but ripping the Band-Aid off is probably for the best. As a nanny, you’ll need to know exactly what you’re getting into with the children you’ll be caring for, and that means learning about their worst moments, not just their best. It’s important here to get specific examples, too. “Johnny gets upset at bedtime” is vague and predictable; “Johnny knocked over a store display in the midst of an epic tantrum, and as a result we took the following steps” is what you’re after.
“How many nannies have you had?”
This might seem innocuous, but it’s actually a gateway question that lets you discuss a number of vital and potentially touchy subjects. Discussing how many nannies the parents have had lets you know what their turnover rate (if any) might be, and it can also be the starting point for conversations about what happened to those nannies, what did or didn’t work, and why. Remember, the point of all these questions is to establish a foundation of trust, so it’s imperative that you get plain answers here. Ask how long each nanny worked for them, what issues led to her departure, and so on.
“How do you plan to support me when I discipline your children?”
Kids learn to divide and conquer at a young age. That’s why parents figure out early on that the only way to make discipline work is to present a united front when teaching their kids what to do and when doling out necessary punishments. However, their united front only matters if it’s the same as yours. Part of your job — a big part — will be dealing with the children when they misbehave, and in these situations it’s crucial that the parents support your actions and don’t send the subliminal message that the children can override you. It’s not just enough to make sure you and the parents share the same beliefs about discipline; they have to be willing to support you when the time comes. If not, you might want to consider looking elsewhere.
“Do you offer healthcare?”
Healthcare is a deal breaker for some nannies. Many look for or expect a certain amount of their healthcare premium to be paid by their employer. A 2012 survey from the International Nanny Association (based on data for 2011) showed that 16% of nannies had 100% of their health costs covered, while 10% reported that half their premiums were covered. That’s a lot of nannies with built-in expectations of healthcare. Don’t be afraid to bring this up with your employer, especially if it’s an important matter for you. If the parents don’t offer health insurance or if they attempt to make up those payments with extra salary or perks that’s their call, but be sure to go in with a clear understanding of what you will and won’t get.
“Have you ever used physical discipline?”
Physical discipline, aka corporal punishment, is problematic when it comes to solving behavioral problems. To make sure you and the parents are of one mind when it comes to discipline, you need to ask them how often and in what way they’ve disciplined their children physically. This is an area that needs to be discussed frankly and honestly by all parties to make sure there are no expectations of the nanny to dole out physical discipline and to give the nanny an understanding of the methods parents use to facilitate cooperation so she can determine if her caregiving style will be a good match with that of the parents.
“What’s your rate for emergency or overnight duty?”
It’s OK to feel a little nervous bringing up money stuff in an interview, and ideally it’s a topic that should wait to be discussed until at least the second interview or until the parents broach it first, but if you get the sense the job is going to require tons of overtime and overnights, you’re going to want to know how much and what the compensation is up front. You’re coming into someone’s home to perform a specific and demanding set of tasks, and you have the right to know how you’ll be compensated if your hours suddenly balloon during an emergency or overnight situation.
“What’s the one thing you’re really looking for in a nanny?”
Again, press for real, concrete answers here. Parents are (hopefully) going to have a good idea of what they’re looking for in a caregiver, and the best way to know if you and the parents will be a good fit is to discuss in detail what it is they want from a nanny. This question opens the floodgate to gathering that information. You’ll also want to know if their previous nannies fit this bill. Why or why not? And what’s been their biggest challenge in finding a nanny? This is an important topic, so don’t shy away.