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How to Get What You Want from the Nanny

Interview Questions
The key to interviewing anyone, including a nanny, is to frame most of your questions in an open-ended way. The questions should prompt the nanny to explain her reasoning, experience, judgment, and preferences. Before you begin interviewing her, briefly describe the parameters of the job (ages of the children, whether both parents work, whether she'll need to drive), but don't go into detail. You'll only do that if you're satisfied with the nanny's responses during the interview.

The following list covers issues that are fundamental for any family. Before your interview, think about additional questions that would address your family's specific needs.

  • Is being a nanny your primary career goal right now?
  • What made you decide to become a nanny?
  • Have you had any formal training in child development?
  • How many nanny jobs have you had in the past?
  • Describe some of those jobs. What did you like about your employers? What did you dislike about them?
  • Describe some of the children with whom you have worked.
  • What types of activities do you enjoy doing with children?
  • What are some problems you have had to resolve in your other positions?
  • How would you spend a typical day with a child the age of ours?
  • What types of discipline have you found to be effective?
  • What do you enjoy doing on your time off?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you have any allergies?
  • Do you have any health restrictions we should know about?
  • Are you trained in first aid and CPR?
  • Have you been tested for TB?
  • The baby has been crying for twenty minutes and doesn't appear to be hungry, tired, or wet. What would you do?
  • The two-year-old is thirty minutes into a tantrum. How would you handle it?
  • The toddler has fallen and hurt her arm. Both parents are at work. What would you do?
And, if applicable:
  • Do you have a driver's license?
  • Do you own a car?
  • Do you have auto insurance?
  • Are the safety features on the car current and in working condition? (You should double-check this yourself and instruct the nanny on how to properly attach the child seat.)
  • Have you ever been in an automobile accident?
Magic Words and Deeds
Experienced nannies are veterans of many interviews and have learned to look for certain words and behaviors that bode well for them. The following will raise your value in the eyes of the nanny.

Tell her that you care a great deal about your children's happiness and well-being. Don't assume the nanny already knows this. Nannies experience a great deal of anxiety when they must care for children whose parents neglect them, and they look for reassurance on interviews that this isn't the case. Says Leah H., "Some people just want a nanny so they can get away from their kids. I want to know that the people I'm working for are not like that."

Approach the interview in a professional manner. Be prepared to discuss hours, compensation, overtime, sick pay, and vacations. "I want to know that they are looking at this as an employer/ employee relationship," says Leah H. "A lot of families expect you to just fall in love with them and not consider the financial portion of the arrangement."

Take your time. The list of questions in the previous section may seem long, but good nannies expect to be queried closely about their child-rearing views and experience. Rushing through the interview signals that you don't value your child's welfare or the nanny's job.

Ask the hard questions. "Parents never ask if I am CPR or First Aid certified," says nanny Jennifer Sibre. "They should ask if I know where the nearest hospital is, how would I react in an emergency, and can I stay calm under pressure. Parents rarely ask about my driving record or if I have ever been involved in a car accident. They tend to ask the 'safe' questions." Tough questions don't insult a good nanny, they reassure her that you are a caring, conscientious parent.

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From Say the Magic Words by Lynette Padwa. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, go to Amazon.


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