In Search of Mary Poppins:: How to Find the Perfect Nanny

How to Find the Perfect NannyNine days before going back to work following the birth of my first son, I pulled an all stop and completely changed our childcare plans for my infant son. Those of you who live in large metropolitan cities like Houston with long wait lists at the best schools and childcare facilities know that a stunt like that typically results in disaster. Thankfully for my family, all ended well, but it was still a very stressful experience. This about-face was the result of my decision to do an unannounced drop-in at the childcare facility my son would be attending, after a wise friend of mine years prior encouraged me to do so just as a matter of due diligence before officially sending my son anywhere. The place came highly recommended by other parents in our area and we had him on the wait list for about 8 months before he needed a spot. Being a first time mom, I was understandably nervous about being away from my 3 month old son for so long every day yet hoped that the teachers and staff at the childcare center would be amazing. Unfortunately what I saw that day during my unannounced drop in did not leave me with a warm & fuzzy feeling.

That’s when I knew this was not a place that I was going to feel comfortable leaving my son in nine days. I had that pit in the bottom of my stomach feeling that all mothers get when something just isn’t right. Was what I witnessed neglect? Not really. Was it something that needed to be reported to the authorities? No. Could it have just been a very isolated moment of craziness and not the normal for that facility? Sure. But I walked out to my car and immediately called my husband and told him I didn’t care if we had to get a second mortgage on our home, we were hiring a nanny.{After making that bold declaration, I ended up doing a quick & very panicked Google search on nanny pricing to find out what I’d gotten myself into.}

My head was spinning and I wasn’t sure where to begin. But I eventually figured it out and we welcomed a true Mary Poppins type nanny into our home who was terrific. In the years since, we’ve been able to find similar nannies when one had to move on to college or other things. Here is my advice for how to find the perfect nanny for your family::

Step 1:  Let the caregiver sites work for you!

Gone are the days where you post an ad in the newspaper or on the classified boards at your office. Caregiver searches in 2019 consist of using a combination of caregiver sites and sometimes social media. I’ve personally had the most success with Care.com, but there are other similar sites out there that are just as useful. The secret to success with sites like Care.com boils down to the content in your ad. Be extremely clear on the following details::

  • Number of children
  • Age of children
  • Days/times of needed care
  • Additional duties, chores or tasks that are part of the job
  • Transportation requirements
  • Pay and any other perk benefits
  • Required experience, certifications, and/or training
  • Any other specific preferences or requirements that are important to your family

Many nanny applicants are parents themselves and want to bring their children with them. If you’re like me and that’s not OK with you, be specific about that in your ad. If you want someone to drive your kids around and insist on a clean driving record like me, be specific about that in your ad. If you need someone to help with laundry and meal prep like me, list those details in your ad and be as specific as you can.

Step 2:  Screen those online applicants carefully

When individuals start applying to your ad, what they reply with and how they present themselves in that moment is important. Only you know what you are comfortable with and not comfortable with and early in the process is where you can afford to be selective. You’re not hiring someone to do your grocery shopping – you’re hiring someone to watch the most precious thing in your life: your child! An immediate show stopper for me is an applicant who uses foul language in their reply {I’ve seen it, folks!} or someone who clearly hasn’t read the details of my ad. Whether right or wrong, applicants that write a “War & Peace” length reply are also immediately removed from my consideration. My husband and I are both “to the point” kind of people and need the same from our nanny. And finally, applicants that try and bargain with you on pay or duties/responsibilities are also out.

Step 3:  Conduct phone screens

There’s a lot you can tell about a person based on how they interact on the phone. It’s slightly less intimidating than an in-person meeting, yet still provides a glimpse into what I call the “3 P’s”:: Punctuality, Personality & Professionalism. If the person doesn’t answer when I call them or if they act as though I caught them off guard after we pre-coordinated a scheduled time to speak, they’re immediately out of consideration. Phone screens are great though because they are completely safe and many caregiver sites like Care.com offer the option to call through their app and assign a private number to both parties to ensure privacy if things don’t work out.

Typical questions I ask include::

  • Tell me a little about yourself.”:: I’m always so intrigued by life choices and what people choose to share about themselves.
  • Why are you interested in the opportunity?“::  This is key. Of course the real reason an applicant is interested is likely because he/she needs a job and you’re hiring, but you’d be surprised with how people respond to this question. I’ve had applicants tell me that they’re between jobs and need some additional income for a couple of months {which is usually a disconnect for me and how long I need someone stable in the role}.
  • “What do you like most & least about your current job?”::  This question helps to gauge overall fit with your family. If an applicant responds that they like being out and about all day interacting with others or dislikes routines/schedules, chances are that watching my infant child isn’t going to keep him/her engaged for long.
  • “When would you be available to start if hired?”::  Y’all. You’d be surprised how many applicants I’ve spoken with who are currently nannying for families, yet they tell me they could start immediately {which would leave the other family in a bind.}. Any applicant that doesn’t see the importance in giving an appropriate notice period to their current family/employer is immediately disqualified in my book. If they’ll do it to their current family/employer, they’ll do it to you as well. {Knock on wood} We’ve never had a nanny quit on us before but I can tell you a situation like that can turn a family’s life upside down instantly if you have no backup option available.

Step 4: Meet in person

Once you have 2-3 applicants that make it past your phone screen, it is time to interview them in person. Personally, I have never felt the need to meet any applicant in a public place for safety reasons. I have always invited them to our home while my husband and I were both there so we had safety in numbers. At some point, you have to have faith in mankind and {knock on wood} we’ve never regretted having applicants come to our home. We find it is beneficial for both parties to be able to see each other in the environment the nanny is being hired to work in and also for the applicants to be able to interact on some level with our kids before extending an offer to someone. Kids are very perceptive and if an applicant makes your kids uneasy, it is good to know that right away instead of after someone starts in the role.

In my experience with the face to face meeting, I know usually within 5 minutes or less if I’m going to hire someone. You just know and can feel it in your bones if someone is going to work out. I’ve had phone screens go amazingly well, only to be disappointed within the first minute of meeting someone and I’ve had so-so phone screens where the applicant knocks it out of the freaking park in person. Everyone is different and no two applicants are alike so try and keep that in mind.

Step 5: Extend an offer & complete the background check(s)

After you find that perfect nanny, it is time to extend an offer and formally hire him/her. You will need to confirm pay as well as start date and I always tell applicants that the offer is contingent upon a clean background check and driving record. The beauty of caregiver sites is that you can do this for an extra fee directly through their app or website without the awkwardness of having to do it on your own. Depending on the site, it usually takes a max of 2-3 days to complete and then you’re good to go!

After you make it through all five steps above, hopefully it is smooth sailing with your new nanny. My family has been incredibly blessed with the nannies we’ve had over the years and the young women have truly become extended members of our family. A wonderful, top notch nanny is truly worth her weight in gold for the peace of mind in knowing that someone who loves your kid(s) is there when you are away at work and can’t be.


 

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