Questions to Ask When Calling References
When you do a reference check on a potential caregiver, what should you ask?
Tiffany Smith, Senior Associate Editor
Articles> Questions to Ask When Calling References
mother holding baby and on the phone

The end of the hiring process is in sight. Whether you've narrowed down your search to a couple candidates or there is one who seems to be the right fit for your family, reference checks should validate what you've observed in the interviews. Make sure to cover everything from work ethics to challenges on the job to personality quirks with their former employers -- the tough stuff matters.

Use this list as a guideline for the kinds of questions you should ask in your potential caregiver's reference interview to help you make a good choice for your family.

Employment History

  • How long did you employ her?
  • Why did she leave?
  • What was her compensation level?


  • What are her strengths, and what about her do you most respect?
  • In what areas could she improve?  (This is a really important question! Let the former employer complete her list first. If she can't think of anything, you may offer up an instance that the caregiver raised in the interview, such as: "She mentioned that she sometimes loses her patience. Have you experienced that before? If so, can you describe an incident where that happened?")
  • How are her communication skills? (Both with the parents and the children.)
  • Does she have initiative?
  • Is she organized?
  • Does she handle stress well?
  • Is she warm and social?
  • How is her energy level?
  • Can she work independently, or does she need very specific directions?
  • How would your children describe her?
  • If you were to rate her overall performance as a caregiver, would you consider it excellent, average or poor? Why?
  • Would you hire her again? Recommend her?

Duties and Fit

  • Other than caregiving, what did her duties entail? Was she open to other responsibilities?
  • Let me tell you more about the duties I'm planning to give her. I'd love your feedback on whether this is the right job for her given your own experience with her.


  • What advice can you give me on managing her?
  • Do you have any final comments?
  • Please let me know which aspects of the reference check I can share with others and which ones are strictly confidential.

If you feel uncomfortable reaching out to references, can record interviews with the caregiver's former employer for you, with the caregiver's consent. Either way, reference checks are essential to the hiring process.


Tiffany Smith is the senior associate editor here at She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite

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(13) Comments
Rebecca R.
Rebecca R.
I feel it needs to be stressed... when you're calling someone's reference... BE RESPECTFUL!! I shouldn't have to even say that, but recently I had a long standing reference ask me to remove them because one woman that called him was so nasty and ill tempered, she basically took her bad day out on my reference! It saddens me that he will no longer be a reference for me on this site, but I cannot blame him either. It's common decency and respect.
November 16, 2014 at 12:53 AM
Member Care.
Member Care.
Hi Katina S,

As long as you are a premium member, you will have access to respond to any caregiver who either applies to your job or sends you a private message. As a premium member, you will have access to run background check options, listen to recorded references, and write and view reviews. All of those features are covered under the subscription fee. I hope that helps you to understand the process a little bit better!
April 24, 2013 at 5:48 PM
Katina S.
Katina S.
Okay - so if the person advertising "caregiver" does not pay for an ad you can not respond to their email? Because I found a caregiver and then it told me she wasn't an active member and I couldn't email her.
I was under the impression that did background checks and did some verifying too, I stumble around here, I think the parents/person looking to hire, has to pay extra to have all that done? Am I correct?
April 18, 2013 at 10:27 AM
Member Care.
Member Care.
Hi Aimee T,

I am a membercare representative who is here to help you with your question. You certainly do not need to upgrade your membership in order to apply for jobs on our site. It is free to have an account and to send out applications. Ultimately, it is the families on our site who initiate contact for interviews and hires. Families utilize the tools on our site to help them with their selection process such as; reviewing background checks, listening to prerecorded references and reading online reviews. Our best suggestion is to make sure your profile is as up to date as possible and that you are utilizing all of the profile strengthening tools that we advertise.
January 21, 2013 at 12:20 PM
Aimee T.
Aimee T.
Hello I had posted an ad as a Nanny in need of work about a month or 2 ago
and have been applying for several positions and havent recieved one response. hmm? I also looked at profiles of Babysitters in my area.. and unfortunately I viewed all 14 pages and didnt see MY profile anywhere. I did not pay the $20 this the reason? If so...the site should not advertise as "free". AT
January 19, 2013 at 12:58 PM
Constance W.
Constance W.
It's a problem when you state: "Listen to a typical recording" under "References". I click the appropriate box, yet hear no "typical recording". I am concerned about using a reference who could be bombarded by numerous requests. Therefore I listed none.
January 3, 2013 at 1:54 PM
Michele M.
Michele M.
Donna M:
I am seeking childcare, posted an ad and received several responses back. I had been responding back to e-mails, only to learn that they were not receiving my responses, because I had not paid for a package. Perhaps others do not realize that interested caregivers will not receive an e-mail response unless the person who posted the ad has paid for a package.
January 3, 2013 at 12:24 PM
Member Care C.
Member Care C.
Hi Carolyn,
I'm sorry you are having trouble so far. We do discourage people from sharing their personal contact information right away from safety reasons, but we do want to give you the best possible experience finding a job. Do's and Don't sounds like a great idea for an article! In the mean time try checking out some of the other helpful pieces on the site such as this one If you are looking to increase how often you hear back from seekers. Thanks!

p.s. this is always there is you need it!
October 12, 2012 at 9:53 AM
Carolyn P.
Carolyn P.
I think that this company should have a DO and a Don't page for us newbies. I applied to only 4 jobs. And each one is saying" No to what"? You needed a babysitter, right ??, I wait and check and wait and hear nothing. I didn't know that you CAN'T use your PERSONAL EMAIL OR YOUR PERSONAL PHONE NUMBER. Since there are NO RULES. I didn't know that. No body tells you anything. So it's trail and error.
October 11, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Donna M.
Donna M.
why is it that ive applied for numerous jobs but get no responses back am i appling correctly
April 8, 2012 at 7:40 PM
Beverly P.
Beverly P.
why Is it that I have asked my other employees to give references and they say they have but i have not seen or heard them .
April 1, 2012 at 2:12 AM
Angela S.
Angela S.
Go on the care givers profile, near the top of the page there are tabs that say something like "Profile" "Video" "References" etc.Not all have one readily available, but if they do, that's where I have found it. Good Luck!

-Mom looking for safe and dependable care
March 28, 2012 at 2:33 PM
Patricia K.
Patricia K.
How does a member hear these recordings?
March 16, 2012 at 11:49 AM

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