Tips for Choosing a Good Nanny

Finding the right nanny for your family can be a long and complicated process. Learn how to navigate your search.
Child Care: Tips for Choosing a Good Nanny
Child Care: Tips for Choosing a Good Nanny

Finding the right nanny for your family isn't always easy or quick. "We advise giving yourself plenty of time to find the right person," says Katie Vaughan, owner of Westside Nannies in Beverly Hills, California. "For new parents, we recommend starting the search process four to six weeks before you need a nanny so you have adequate time to find decent candidates, do background checks, and contact references." Ready to begin looking? Here are five easy steps to help you find a great nanny.

Write a Solid Job Description

Woman holding baby

Before you hop on a nanny search engine or start calling fellow parents for recommendations, think about what your family needs. Mary Poppins may exist only in the movies, but it's still important to list any important traits you definitely want your nanny to have. Vaughan suggests writing out a job description that includes the days and times you need, the expected responsibilities of the position, and the ideal qualifications or characteristics you'd want the nanny to have. Love to have a nanny who's bilingual? Looking for a nanny who is competent in the kitchen? "A complete job description will serve as your guide throughout your search and will help keep you on track," Vaughan says.

Find Promising Candidates

There are three basic ways to find nanny candidates: an agency, recommendations from friends, and online nanny listing sites. Nanny agencies are designed to find a qualified nanny who matches your family's specific interests and needs. "When it comes to hiring a nanny, there is nothing more reassuring then knowing that the individual you're hiring has been thoroughly screened by experts who know the business best," Vaughan explains. "From formally interviewing and reference-checking candidates to running criminal background checks, a reputable agency always has its clients' best interest in mind." Vaughan recommends finding legitimate nanny agencies through The Association of Premier Nanny Agencies (theapna.com), which provides a list of agencies that have been independently vetted and that adhere to high standards of professionalism. Looking for a cheaper option? Try asking friends, neighbors, and colleagues for nanny recommendations. This can be an excellent way to learn of a local college student looking for daytime work or a mom looking to care for another child during the day. Finally, you can use online sites such as Care.com, SitterCity.com, or Nannies4Hire.com, which have databases of registered nannies in your area. These sites often have filters for certain qualifications plus biographies, background checks, and the nannies' availability.

Do Thorough Research on the References

If you're using a nanny agency, it will handle the background and reference checks. If you're searching on your own, "don't scrimp on your due diligence," Vaughan says. "Often, families will feel so confident after interviewing a candidate that they will forgo formal background checks. Don't," she warns. "Make sure your nanny is thoroughly vetted before officially welcoming her into your home." This means running a criminal background check, asking for a drug test, requesting a clean driving record, and verifying references. When calling references, have a list of prewritten four to five questions that will help you get a good sense of the nanny's personality, work ethic, abilities, and trustworthiness. Be sure to ask how long she worked for previous families and the ages of the children she cared for. Vaughan also suggests checking the nanny's online presence by doing a quick Google search. Should you also check out the candidate's online profiles? Lindsay Heller, a child-care consultant at The Nanny Doctor (nannydoctor.com) and a licensed clinical psychologist, says it's a must. "Social media is very public and the nanny, in some ways, is an extension of your family. If what [she] posts is not reflective of your beliefs or philosophies, [she] may not be a great match, and [she] may not be someone you would want to integrate into your family system," Heller says.

Schedule an In-Person Interview

Once you narrow down your list of prospective nannies, invite each one over to your home for a face-to-face chat. This is your chance to get a better sense of her personality and ask her nitty-gritty questions about her experience with things like cloth diapers, peanut allergies, administering medicine and first aid, or whatever other particulars that concern you. Trust your first instincts. "Just like a first date, the first few moments will tell you a lot about your potential connection based on your gut reaction alone. Don't be afraid to trust this initial feeling -- it may be the deciding factor in who you hire," Vaughan says. If you have questions about the nanny's past employment or any concerns that came up in your background checks, address them during the one-on-one meeting. Consider having your children present during the interview so you can see how she talks to, responds, and interacts with them.

Invest in a Trial Run

Have you found a potential winner? Schedule a time to have her come by your home for a couple of hours. "These are times when the nanny will work in your home and have time to interact with your kids," Heller says. You'll have a chance to observe her personality, child-care style, and fit with your family dynamics. Although you should consider your first impressions, remember that the nanny needs time to get to know you, too. "Don't expect your nanny to be perfect on day one," Vaughan says. "Every new employee needs on-the-job training, and a nanny is no exception. Spend time in the beginning to build a successful long-term relationship."

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

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