How to Handle Reference Checks
Tips for checking references when you're hiring a new nanny or caregiver.
When hiring a nanny, it's important to find out as much about the person as possible to help you make the right choice. One of the best ways to learn more about an applicant is through personal reference checks.
Whether you decide to call references on your own or use the recorded reference feature on Care.com, which provides recorded answers from the applicant's references, communicating with former employers is vital, says Carolyn Stolov, child care expert at Care.com.
If conducting a reference check on your own, as Stolov suggests, parents should ask for the names of five people, three of which should be child-care related references. The other names can be of a friend, teacher, or an employer from a non-child care job.
"The reference check is extremely important," Stolov says. "You're talking to a human being. They will tell you a lot about this individual. You'd be surprised."
Through reference checks, you can truly get to know your applicant. They help verify that the applicant is who she says she is, has the experience and qualifications necessary, and most importantly, is someone you can trust and will be a good fit with your family.
"Don't be afraid to dig deeper. Don't be afraid to ask hard questions of the references," Stolov says. "You're protecting your children when you check references."
To make the most of your conversation, Stolov recommends preparing your questions ahead of time and focusing on topics that will help you decide if she's a good fit. Here's her list of must-ask questions and the topics you should cover:
Employment Background and Personality
While an applicant may come recommended from a friend, Stolov suggests using reference checks as a way to confirm information on an applicant's resume.
1. What were the starting and ending dates she worked for you and what were her responsibilities? What were the names and ages of the children she cared for?
2.What are her strengths in working with children, and what are her weaknesses? If you did a performance review, what areas was she working on? What were your goals for her?
3.What were the circumstances of her departure? If there are two sides to the story and you feel like there's a red flag, probe the issue further, Stolov says.
4. Would you hire her again?
5. Ask the reference to describe her personality and temperament. On a scale of one to 10, ask the reference to rate her maturity, initiative, responsibility, ability to communicate.
Asking questions about each parent's experience with the applicant can help you decide if she's a good fit for your family, says Stolov.
1. How did you supervise her and what kind of style worked with her? Did she like to get feedback?
2. How does she handle feedback? Is she open and approachable? Give an example of when you asked her to do something differently. How did it go?
3. Did she feel comfortable bringing an issue up with you? Give an example and explain how you worked through it.
4. Is there anything I need to know that would help me supervise her better?
5. Did you and the nanny share the same philosophies on things like discipline, or how neat to keep the house?
6. Can you give me an example of when your nanny had to manage a challenging behavior with the child? What was the situation and how did she handle it?
7. Did you ever have a concern about how she handled a behavior issue with your child?
Because you want your child to be protected when you're not there, "the reference check is going to be one of your biggest indicators of the safety of your child," Stolov says.
1. Did you ever suspect the nanny had a drug or alcohol problem?
2. Did you notice anything - personal or professional - that interfered with her ability to do her job? Was there any specific safety-related feedback you needed to give her?
3. Did she come to work on time? If she was late, what do you think the reason was?
4. Did she ever take your kids any place without your permission? Did she let friends or a boyfriend come to the house without your permission?
5.How did she respond to a real emergency? What happened and how did she handle it?
Now that you've talked to all of her five references, take some time to evaluate your conversations. If all five references aren't glowing, ask follow-up questions to clarify anything negative that surfaces, Stolov says. "If someone says she was late, go back and call the others and ask if she was late."
Overall, your reference checks should make you feel confident about your applicant. "If the reference isn't raving, you probably don't want to hire the caregiver," Stolov says. Use your best judgment and trust your instinct.
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