Finding a nanny is a daunting task. You’re trying to find a clone of yourself whom you can trust with the most important thing in your life:
The problem is it’s so hard to find the right one!
I’m not suggesting to compromise with somebody who isn’t a good fit. It’s your kids we’re talking about, and they need great care.
Nanny recruitment services can do a great job with sourcing, interviewing, and background checks. But it comes with a hefty price. Some charge up to $1000 on top of other fees like retainer.
You CAN find a nanny on your own. I will help you. Use my experience as a recruiter. I share my skills with you as if you hired me to find an amazing nanny for your family.
1. Source From Friends
By far, hands down, the best nannies are found through friends.
Friends who get asked for a recommendation know you trust their word. And they can’t stand to lose your trust.
The other side of this is that the best nannies are probably already working for your friends.
Watch for these perfect nanny snag times:
- Friends’ kids at a transitional stage or going into school full-time
- Right before the Medical New Year, which is July 1st, when medical families are most likely to move
If you are moving to a new area, the medical community may have some leads. Reach out to Side by Side and the Medical Alliance. There are also Facebook groups such as Lives of Doctors’ Wives and Dads Married to Doctors.
You can also contact local churches, mom groups like MOPS, babysitting co-ops, and your co-workers.
Other good sources are care.com and Sitter City.
2. Phone Screen Early
Start early and don’t rush the screening process. That means that if you are planning to move in June, you need to screen before April. If you’re expecting, start in first trimester and not when you’re 36 weeks. You don’t know if you’ll be caught up in stressful job or moving-related problems or put on bedrest that will take time away from you.
Then, pick as many suitable candidates as possible to do multiple phone screenings in one sitting. You want to do at least five of them in a day because you want to streamline the process and not re-invent the wheel.
3. Ask The Right Questions
This is the most important part.
First: Take a step back and understand her big picture. It’s in the big picture that you see the details come together.
- If she is in between jobs, is she only nannying until the next best thing?
- If she is in college, does she need to be off for breaks and holidays? Will she move after graduation?
- If she has lots of gaps of unemployment, what are her reasons?
- Does she plan to have kids, and if so will she continue to nanny for you? (Note: You can’t legally ask her if she’s married, pregnant, or plans to be. You just have to listen if she mentions it.)
If she gives explanations that don’t make perfect sense, check her off the list.
Second: Come up with your list of questions. There are many “ultimate lists of questions” articles you can Google to help you out.
- Related: How to interview a nanny by Care.com
It’s beyond this post to go over all of these one-by-one. Just be sure that your expectations and her reality come together.
Third: Go over these three things so it’s crystal clear.
- Must haves (e.g. light household work while kids are napping)
- Pluses (e.g. foreign language)
- Deal breakers (e.g. playing on phone when not taking pics of the kids)
It’s helpful to her to know what she absolutely can’t do, or can do.
Fourth: Tell her your worse case scenario and ask if she’s OK with it. Keep in mind many women in interview situations feel uncomfortable saying flat out “no.” So if she replies:
“I’m not sure…”
“I have to think about it…”
It means don’t count on it.
Fifth: Not all nannies are the same. Tell her what type of nanny role you’re looking for.
- Executive (where she has to be very independent and make all decisions as if she were the parent)
- Parental Partner (where she is more of a co-pilot to you)
That way, she doesn’t have to test the boundaries and read the situation as much.
4. In-Person Interview
Do 2-3 in-person interviews a day for no more than one hour each.
Nanny aptitude shouldn’t be based on the ability to sit for an hour and go through question after question, answering eloquently while looking polished.
Your kids should be around when you interview. You want your kids to run around wrecking havoc in their natural habitat. This is the nanny’s work environment. There is no better way to assess her style and abilities first-hand than real-time observation.
Also watch for these:
- Did she arrive in time?
- Did she look neat?
- Is she nosey and always looking around? (I would have never thought of this but a friend said it eliminates the possibility of her only wanting to be around a rich family)
- Did she come prepared and organized with nanny references like you asked?
- How is her energy level around the kids?
- Is she warm and social?
- Do the kids like her?
Before the interview ends, ask permission to check her nanny references and do a background check.
5. References & Background Check
While life is busy, and calling for nanny references from strangers can give some introverts anxiety, it’s absolutely really worth the effort. It’s in these references that you will get a ton of information.
Here is the key to getting references: 10 times out of 10, her references will all speak well of her. Your job isn’t to make sure her references are all positive. They all will be. Expect it.
Instead, what you are doing is listening to what they’re NOT saying and inferring what her weaknesses may be.
“Sarah was great with our son Jack. She was nice and he liked her. I’d hire her again.”
This reference is vague, non-specific, and has no examples to stand out in memory. That doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s a bad nanny, but it could also mean that nothing is exceptional. They could be hiring her again because they don’t know anybody else to nanny for them. There’s just too much to infer either. This reference provides little value.
Now compare with this:
“Sarah was the top 2 or 3 best nannies we ever had in our family. She handled our son Jack well when [this emergency] happened. Even though she wasn’t familiar with the 1-2-3 Magic method we use at home, she was able to learn. Before she left, she always made the house even cleaner than it was when she arrived. I know her hard work will be great for your family.”
This reference is measurable and gives context to how she ranks among other nannies out there. There were specific examples that stood out in memory. This recommendation is a much stronger recommendation than the other one.
Another great value of referrals is that this is your chance to know which areas she can improve. If the families say they had no problem areas, then mention your worse case scenarios and ask their prediction of how she would handle those situations.
As for background checks, use a service to run one so it’s easy for you. You want to get the one that checks both 1) criminal and 2) motor vehicle records.
Even if she’s not driving your kids anywhere, the driving record could give you a more complete picture of her attention to details and temperament. Several speeding and parking tickets could flag that she has some issues.
6. Do A Trial Period
Once you found the one you want to try out, ask her if she can babysit immediately for one day because “you’re in a pinch.” This will be her trial.
7. Always Have Backups
Nannies get sick or take vacations. Sometimes they leave town to go back to school, move with their families, or start their career they were studying for.
Sometimes your own needs change. Your kids may need somebody to go over homework with them now that they are older. So now you want somebody who fits that new need.
Because of any of these situations, always have a list of backup. Not one, not two. But at least three. If you have three, it means your backup has a backup.
Remember how I said you should phone screen several candidates in #2? If you have already thoroughly screened many others before, you will have great second and third picks.
- Ask friends and family.
- Phone screen early.
- Ask the right questions.
- In-person interview.
- References & background check.
- Do a trial period.
- Always have backup.
As a recruiter, these were the 7 steps I would take if I were hired to find a nanny for your family.
To Strong Medical Families,
How did you find your nanny?