Monday, October 19, 2009

Interviewing Nannies and Babysitters

Interviewing nannies and babysitters can be awkward and stressful.  You are looking for a caregiver who can meet the same standards you hold yourself to – these would be tough standards for anyone.  Henry has a sitter once a week for 2-4 hours, and these few hours have made a big difference in my sanity.  I feel much more balanced, and Chris and I have fewer arguments now that we have a sitter. We have more than one sitter to ensure that we can spend a few nights a month out on our own – there are only so many Saturday nights that our friends are willing to come over to play nerdy German board games – and let’s face it, there are only so many nights we can spend playing nerdy German board games.  I found our babysitters through referrals and  In Chicago, many parents looking for sitters use Neighborhood Parents Network (  When doing a nanny search parents often use an agency.  Agencies will charge a flat fee ranging from $1800 to $3000.  I’ve heard that the following website is great for helping with nanny taxes, government filings, etc.

I have a few sample Caregiver Agreements (for nannies).  I would be happy to send them to you.  Please email me with any requests.

A good test for demeanor and personality is to see how he/she interacts with your child/children, but don’t forget that you will also have a relationship with this person.  An open line of communication is important to maintain a conflict free rapport.  The most difficult part of this relationship is remembering that she is an employee.  The lines will get blurred between friend/family and employee, and this is when drama may arise.  Regardless, it is worth it! 

Below are some questions you might want to ask during the interview process.  Note:  it will save you and the applicant time if you ask most of your questions over the phone before having a face-to-face meeting.

What is your schedule? – This is often a deal breaker, so best to get this out of the way before you get into more detailed questioning. 
What hours can you work? 
How many days a week?
Are you flexible? 
Are you looking for a long-term arrangement or something temporary?
Where are you from?
How many years of experience do you have in childcare?
Have you cared for more than one child?  Twins – if applicable?
Why are you a nanny?
What other jobs will you be working, if any?  What is the schedule for those?
What level of education do you have?
Why did you leave your last position? 
Tell me about the last few positions you have held?
Do you smoke?
Do you have First aid/CPR training?
Do you follow a schedule for feeding and sleep?
Do you have allergies?
Are you willing to do light housework while baby is napping?
Do you work evenings or weekends?
Would you be available for overnight babysitting or travel?
Are you married?
Tell us about your family:  do you have children, how old, grandchildren?
What are your hobbies?
How do you feel about children watching television? 
Do you play music for children?
What would you do if the child is injured or sick?
How will you get to our home?
Do you have a driver’s license?
Do you have a car?
Have you ever been in a car accident?
Do you have any speeding tickets?
Have you ever committed a crime? 
Do you have any health issues?
How much did you make at your last job?
How much do you want to be paid?
Do you mind if we pay in cash?

If you’ve narrowed down your list to one or two caregivers, it’s time to call the references.  Calling references can be tedious.  You are essentially asking a favor of a stranger who is already busy with his or her family.  There will probably be chaos in the background, and you want to be polite and patient.  You might feel rushed or awkward, but you will do your best to be thorough.  The references I called were all very helpful, and asked me to call again with additional questions.   

Questions To Ask References:
Overall were you satisfied with her performance?
How old was your child when she cared for him/her?
How did she play with the child/children?
How did she interact with your children?
What did she do that disappointed you, if anything?
Was she always punctual?
Was she reliable?
Did you feel confident when you left your children with her?
Why did you end the relationship?
How long did you employ her?
Did you speak to her references? 
Was she able to follow your instructions? 
Did you have a good relationship?
Was she difficult in anyway?
What did you like most about her as a caregiver?
What was your least favorite thing about her?
Was there anything negative about your experience with her?
Did she follow the schedule that you outlined for your child?
Was she able to follow your sleep training guidelines?
Was she able to successfully feed your child?
Did your child smile when he/she saw the caregiver?
How often did she cancel at the last minute?
How many sick days did she take? 
Did she take your child to the park?
Did she arrange play dates? (for nannies)
Did she give you advance notice when she took vacation? (for nannies)
Did she agree to the arrangement that of the 2 weeks vacation she took, you picked the date for 1 of the weeks?  (for nannies)

I used a number of similar questions phrased differently.  The lawyer in me wanted to ensure that I uncovered anything negative, and asking the same question in a different way can expose new information.  These questions are not exhaustive, and you will obviously have questions that will be particularly applicable to your situation.



  1. Great list! This will definitely come in handy someday...!

  2. Joyce,

    Your blog is so well written and quite informative for a first time mom-to-be. Keep up the great work you are doing!


  3. I love your blog! These are great questions to ask a potential babysitter, I used some of these when I hired my new nanny!