Finding and hiring a nanny you deem suitable for the delicate role of caring for your child is no mean feat. It is such an emotional decision and a complicated process, especially if you know nothing about it. It can take several bad experiences before getting the right one. Don’t feel guilty going through the daunting process again and again.
When you hire a nanny, you are hiring the most important person you’re going to entrust your kids’ lives to when you can’t. Someone who will not only feed and clothe them, but will provide love, care, and structure, teach life skills, and engage them every day. The thought of giving up control and care of your child to another person is already terrifying.
When I moved from daycare services, my very first nanny was a live-out nanny. I went through a reputable nanny agency to recruit her. It was a rigorous exercise, but background checks were necessary. The level of professionalism was pleasant to see.
She was much older with a wealth of experience. Unfortunately, she used that to impose her decisions in the household. I had almost no say on how to raise my child during the short stint. We mutually parted ways after a week.
Armed with lessons learned and stories untold after several local agencies’ attempts, I retreated to word-of-mouth referrals. Nannies recommended via word-of-mouth are usually reliable and experienced, with an extensive “portfolio” of toddlers and children they have brought up in the past. The referrals from 2 or 3 different mothers give you a more expansive view of her strengths and weaknesses.
My first live-in nanny had no experience with babies whatsoever, and it showed in her work. She had only taken care of tweens before. By her 4th day, she was tired and had packed her bags to leave. It was back to square one.
Our second installment of the 3 part nanny series highlights how to find a nanny, what to look out for during the nanny search, and how to interview a nanny before hiring one.
1. Think about and establish your needs
Think about the qualities and needs that are most important to you when hiring a nanny. Establishing these needs makes it much easier to find a trustworthy nanny who will blend in well with your family.
Take some time to decide upon and outline your needs and expectations in the form of a job description. Include nanny’s duties, anticipated schedule, and salary. Write down personality traits you’d prefer, but keep an open mind.
A few things to consider:
- Is education important to you, or would you prefer someone with more hands-on experience?
- How much experience should the nanny have being around children?
- Is it vital that they be proficient in a second language?
- Do they have a clean driving record?
- Are they CPR certified?
- How many hours should the nanny work for, including start and end times?
- What kind of household have they worked in?
- Would you consider hiring a male nanny? If this makes you uncomfortable, why?
- Do you want them to help with housework? If so, what is your budget for them to take on the extra work?
- What is your approach to discipline that they should stay consistent with?
2. Decide on whether you want a full-time nanny or a part-time nanny
Depending on the needs, budget, and schedule outlined above, the decision to get either a live-in nanny or a live-out nanny is entirely upon you.
If you established that you need a nanny more often and have an extra room, a possible live-in nanny situation would help cost-save. Some parents value their privacy more and opt for a live-out nanny instead.
If you need less help with child care but want some international cultural influence on your kids, then an au pair may work for you. If a nanny’s cost exceeds your budget, a nanny share arrangement where you share child care costs with another family is a good option.
3. Find nanny candidates
There are several ways to connect with your potential nanny. If you want to find a nanny, the first thing to do is talk to your networks. Learn from the shared experiences of your friends and other moms and dads in your neighborhood. You can trust them to help refer you to reliable nannies they know of or recommend the nanny finder they used.
If you want to widen your pool or don’t have time to track down the recommended leads, you can reach out to a nanny placement service to do the leg work. Local nanny agencies are highly unregulated. Meeting with the agent face-to-face helps put your mind at ease. Ask about their vetting process, replacement guarantee, and training, if any. These agencies come at an extra fee; hence it’s advisable to ask the agent about it.
Suppose you prefer a nanny search on your own, then websites and even parent and nanny support groups on Facebook are good nanny finders. For ex-pats looking for full-time help from a qualified nanny, hiring legally from reputable nanny services in the country is usually a safer bet.
However, this can be such an expensive route if you want to hire an international nanny. Some employers opt for the Facebook groups, which have become popular hiring grounds if they wish to avoid the cost of flying in a new nanny from overseas. Just make sure you do the heavy screening of the candidates before meeting up.
4. Interview multiple prospects
Schedule interviews for each of your potential nannies to assess their personalities, caregiving style, and expectations. Hold the talks in a public or neutral place the first time for security reasons. You can also do a short phone interview before committing to meeting up with them.
Ask the right questions. You are becoming an employer, so professionally ask your questions to set the employer/employee relationship right from the get-go. Authorized background checks and in-depth questions are essential for screening potential nannies. At the very least, request formal identification and make copies of their official documents.
You can use the list of questions when establishing your needs to interview the candidates. My interview list for the first live-in nanny was not good enough. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have missed the part where she had not taken care of a toddler before.
In some agencies, they hold group interviews where parents and potential nannies all meet. It’s advisable to still do one-on-one follow-up interviews in your home where you can gauge how they interact with your kids and routine. It should feel more of a conversation than an interview at this point.
5. Ask for and check references
Call their references (not friends or personal contacts). Remember, you are trusting them with your precious child. Be thorough and find out as much as you can about their former nanny employers.
Ask the references and ask questions like, “What did you like or dislike about the nanny?” or “How long did they work for your family, and why did they leave?” Here you’ll get an insight into the nanny’s strengths, weaknesses, or trustworthiness. Narrow your list down to just 1 or 2 options.
6. Make the decision to hire
If you have 2 potential nannies and you’re unsure about who to pick yet, do a paid trial run for a few days, and see how you feel after observing them at work. If your child is older, ask them their opinion. You want a comfortable fit, after all.
As for a nanny agency, the agent gets to point out how the candidates feel about the family. It ensures both parties are equally comfortable and enthusiastic about working together.
If you still have any hesitation about the nanny, trust your instincts, and don’t hire. Yes, you had invested so much effort, but you’ll be happier and at peace hiring someone you’re confident in.
7. Ensure you put it in writing
Once you have settled on someone, write a binding work contract covering all the legalities set by law. You can find free work agreements online or create your own nanny work agreement.
Clearly outline the work environment, job responsibilities and rules, compensation, additional benefits, household equipment use, disciplinary action, or grounds for immediate dismal.
Include shared expectations such as stipulated work schedule, leave period, overtime, public holidays, and mandatory tax deductions. Do not leave out what you think might be obvious. Write everything down.
Confirm the day the employment will start. Have your nanny go through the contract and sign it.
8. Pay your nanny on the books
When you hire a nanny to work in your home, you officially become an employer, and the nanny is your employee. Pay her what she deserves as an employee. Ensure you follow all the tax, wage, and labor laws in your country of residence regarding household employment.