Whether you are trying to find a nanny job or are just starting your career as a housekeeper, you'll likely need to go on interviews. Putting your best foot forward before, during and after the interview is crucial to getting the job. From researching a family before the interview to knowing when to send a thank you note, having an interview for a caregiving position presents its own unique challenges.
Take these tips from two career experts, Steven Steinfeld, a job coach in Chicago and author of "3 Steps To Your Best Job Ever!" and New York City-based career coach Deborah Brown-Volkman, author of "Coach Yourself to a New Career," and put them to the test in your job search.
Do Your Research
Many articles on helpful career advice say that you should research the job and the company before going on an interview. As a caregiver, that can be difficult. While it's important to know a bit about the family you're interviewing with, it's trickier to research a family than it is to research a company. However, there are tools to help you find out more about a prospective family.
"If you have the parents' names and know where they live, use Google to find out about them," Steinfeld advises. "You'd be amazed to see what comes up online." For example, if a parent is involved with a charity, you might get a sense of their passions. "You'll want to see if you have anything in common with the parents so you can establish a common ground," says Steinfeld.
Other online tools include Facebook and LinkedIn. Both can inform you about a family's favorite activities or work history. You can also tap into your network and take your research low-tech by asking fellow caregivers if they, or someone they know, have worked for the family.
When you actually meet the interviewer, you don't want to come off as a creepy stalker and recite their birthday and their childhood pet's name. But it can help you get a sense of who they are beforehand, and topics you may want to bring up.
Refresh Your Portfolio
A portfolio is a crucial component of the job interview. Steinfeld advises keeping letters of recommendation from previous employers, references and copies of any certifications or licenses relevant to your job, such as a copy of your driving record. Make sure your certifications are up-to-date and valid in the state in which you are applying for a job.
For more information on what you need, read our article on 11 Things to Bring on a Nanny Interview »
It can be tricky to know what to wear to an interview for a caregiving position. You don't want to look too formal, but you definitely don't want to look as though you're ready to clean out the attic.
"No matter what you are interviewing for, you want to look as professional as possible. If you have a suit, wear the suit. If you don't have a suit, wear business casual clothes, like ironed pants and a blouse," Steinfeld says. For an extra touch, add a blazer. You may be asked to interact with a child or pet, so don't be afraid to get your clothes dirty -- washing machines were invented for a reason.
Arrive Early, But Not Too Early
Plan to arrive no more than 10 minutes before the interview, especially if you are interviewing at the family's home. You don't want the family to feel rushed by arriving long before the scheduled start time. If you're worried about being on time, get there earlier and park down the block. If you're running late, call right away and explain the situation (but don't be late if you can help it!).
Show you're interested in the job. "People get hired for their personality, so remember to come across as excited about the job," Brown-Volkman says, adding that smiling and nodding can go a long way toward showing your interest in the interview.
Talk about Yourself
Get ready to tell the prospective family what you can do for them. "Be as honest as you can be, but don't say anything negative, especially about a past employer," Steinfeld says. Limit yourself to two minutes when discussing your skills and accomplishments and try to bring in interesting or funny anecdotes when you can -- they will make you memorable and personable. Talk about an amazing craft project you did with a child or why you really enjoyed looking after a particular pet.
Ask to Meet the People or Pets
As a caregiver, you will likely spend the majority of your time with your charges. So focus on the child, pet or senior during the interview. However, they probably won't attend the initial interview with the decision makers. "During the interview, ask if you can meet the person or pet who needs care," says Brown-Volkman. By doing so, you are showing interest in the job and that you want to create a bond with the person or pet that might be in your care.
Follow up with a Note
After you've finished your interview, send a handwritten thank you note to the interviewing family that night. "Tell the family that you enjoyed meeting them, and that you are enthusiastic about the position. In addition, remind them of your qualifications in your note," Steinfeld says.
With a bit of preparation, you'll feel confident and eager during the interview process and you'll show the prospective family how amazing you are. After all, acing the interview is often the key to landing the job.
Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in "-er. " She loves nothing more than a great cupcake, and writes at I'm a Trader Joe's Fan. Her work can be found here.