How to Ask Tough Questions During a Nanny Interview

The nanny interview is your opportunity to really get to know a nanny you’re considering hiring. It’s the time to ask about her education, her childcare experience, her philosophy on raising children and what’s she’s looking for in a position. It’s also the perfect opportunity to learn more about her personality and her value system. But how do you get to that information?

Encourage a conversation. Your nanny candidate will have questions about your family and job. She’ll want to get to know you as a person and as an employer. This mutual interest makes it easy to turn the formal interview into a more informal conversation. By engaging the nanny in a real conversation rather than simply asking her a series of standard questions, you’ll get more honest and in-depth information.

Ask open ended questions. If the nanny is able to simply answer with a yes or no, you won’t get a lot of information during the interview. However, if you ask open ended questions that require a longer, more narrative answer, you’ll discover much more. Giving the nanny the opportunity to interpret the questions in her own way gives you a glimpse into how she thinks and feels about the topic. Often the nanny will mention something in her answer that will prompt additional questions about a topic you didn’t originally think of covering. These additional questions often lead to information that plays a key role in your hiring decision.

Dig deeper and ask follow up questions about her childcare approach. During the interview, you’ll ask the nanny about how she disciplines, how she helps children through age and stage transitions, her feelings about and reactions to challenging behaviors and much more. Most nannies are able to give the correct textbook answer to these types of childcare questions. They know what they’re supposed to do in different situations. However, there’s a big difference between knowing what you should do and being able to actually do it when you’re faced with the situation, especially if you’re feeling angry, impatient, overwhelmed or just tired of the struggle. To get a more accurate picture of how the nanny will do in the real world, ask her follow-up questions that push her to come up with a solution beyond the textbook answer, like how she handled specific situations in previous positions.

Don’t be afraid to get personal. Let’s face it, your nanny’s personal beliefs matter. She will be working in your home and caring for your children. What she believes about a variety of topics will influence what your child is exposed to. In many cases, her personal life will intersect with your family’s life. Of course, like other employees, nannies are entitled to personal privacy. Balancing your right to know about her personal beliefs with her right to privacy is a tough but necessary line to walk. During the interview, don’t be afraid to ask her personal questions that you wouldn’t ask an IT professional or accountant. If you have a seven year old son who loves playing with dolls, it’s probably important for you to know how she feels about boys that embrace what society defines as female traits. If you’re a devout Christian family, it’s probably important for you to know how she feels about daily prayers and discipline lessons based on the teachings of the church. Make sure you always ask in a respectful way, but also make sure to ask about things that are important to you.

Cover in-depth what she wants and what she doesn’t want in a job. Most nannies agree that the childcare part of a job is easy. It’s the nanny/family match part that is the most difficult. Make sure you ask direct questions about what the nanny is looking for in a job. Some nannies have put many of their needs on the back burner because they need to find a job sooner rather than later. They’re willing to compromise to land a position. Unfortunately those unaddressed needs often come back to cause dissatisfaction and frustration 4 or 6 months into the job. Talk to the prospective nanny about the schedule including late nights and extra babysitting; the nanny’s responsibilities and how much flexibility you need within the task list; the kind of day you envision for your child, including how much control over planning the day your nanny will have and how comfortable you are with the nanny taking your child to outside activities; and your employer style, including how much input and involvement you plan on having into how she carries out her job.

The nanny interview is your best opportunity to get to know your potential nanny. With the right approach, it can give you the information you need to make the right hiring decision for your family.

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