No matter how much experience you have working with children, owners and managers of day care centers will have a lot of questions when you apply for a job at their facility. And, as with any other type of child care job you’ve applied for in the past, you need to anticipate certain day care interview questions and have thoughtful answers prepared.
Your interview is a great opportunity to not only highlight how well you fit a particular job description, but also to find out if this particular day care is a good fit for you. It’s also a great way to show how professional you are, so keep reading for tips on how to make a great first impression.
How to prepare for a phone interview
When a day care manager or owner likes your resume or job application, they’ll often schedule an initial phone interview before moving on to an in-person interview. To get ready for the phone interview, be ready to provide:
- Any skills you have that aren’t on your resume. If you’re fluent in another language or now have a degree in child education, this is the perfect time to let them know.
- Any salary requirements. Make sure you ask questions like, “What salary or hourly rate are you hoping to stay within?” or “I expect $X per hour. Are you comfortable with that?” Don’t be shy about this; salary is often the deciding factor for both parties, so get it out of the way sooner rather than later.
- Any non-negotiables. If you can’t work before or after a certain time of the day, make sure that those are all laid out on the table so you don’t waste anyone’s time.
If a phone interview is not part of the day care’s hiring process — or you’re immediately scheduled for an in-person interview — you’ll need to get together a few key items to bring with you.
How to prepare for an in-person interview
A day care interview can be a little different than a “regular” job interview. Normally they’re slightly more casual, so you should dress professionally but comfortably. In addition to planning your wardrobe, you should consider bringing copies of several documents that could be helpful for your prospective manager to have:
- Your child care resume or CV.
- Child care training certificates and/or proof of education (e.g., your CPR Certification card, a copy of your degree, etc.).
- References with first names, last names and contact information.
- Printed background check information (or permission for them to access it).
- A list of questions to ask the employer (Keep reading for a list of these.)
- The day care’s contact information, in case you get lost or are running late.
To that last point, make sure you plan to get to the day care facility 10-15 minutes early for your interview. This will show your prospective employer that you’re serious about the job and respect their time. Whether you’re taking public transportation or driving, research your route ahead of time to predict what your commute will look like.
Finally, write down some questions you think you’ll be asked and practice answering them as part of your overall preparation. Day care interview questions differ from nanny or babysitter interview questions, so your past interviews may or may not be an indicator of how things will go. The day care owner or manager may ask you anything from, “How long have you been caring for children?” to “What would you do if a child spills ketchup all over the floor?” These broad-to-specific questions are designed to help employers identify those caregivers who actually have the experience they say they do — and those who don’t.
How to excel during your day care interview
Once you arrive at the interview, be friendly and introduce yourself to any worker you come into contact with. Once you’re with the day care manager or owner, allow them to start the interview and guide the direction of the conversation. Assume you will spend about an hour with each person that interviews you, just to be safe.
Ideally, each conversation will start lightly with a few fun questions to give you both a chance to get to know each other better before diving into more specific Q&A. Give detailed answers based on what is on your resume, but try to avoid rambling off into unnecessary tangents. As much as you can, try to apply to your answers to what you understand about the position you’re applying for.
Remember that the manager or owner wants to identify whether you’re the right kind of day care provider for their business. You have this same goal, so listen carefully to their questions to make sure the job is what you expected it to be. Don’t be afraid to add follow-ups like, “Could you clarify on that?” or “Do you think that will happen a lot when I work with you?”
Questions to ask during your day care interview
A good manager will always ask the person they’re interviewing if they have questions about the job or the day care facility. To help you come up with a good list, consider the following questions:
- Can you walk me through a typical day?
- What are your routines for meals and who is involved?
- How many hours per week would you want me to work?
- How is outside versus inside play times determined?
- What resources and contacts do you have if there is an emergency?
- Do any children I may care for have any medical conditions or medications I should be aware of?
- What is the acceptable procedure for addressing bad behavior?
- What are some examples of scenarios in which I should bring in a superior for assistance?
- What is the procedure for contacting parents during the day?
- Should I be aware of any religious, political or cultural preferences?
- What do you expect me to do in the event a child becomes sick or injured during the day?
It helps to bring a list of these “must-ask” questions, whether in a notebook or printed off, so you can check them off as you go. Don’t be shy about taking notes as the manager or owners answer them. They may have been taking notes earlier based on the answers you were giving too.
How to follow up after the interview
Once you get home, you should immediately send a “Thank you” message to the people you interviewed with to let them know you appreciated their time. If you were asked to send any additional information, include that in the message. Keep your message short and close with a line like, “I look forward to hearing from you.”
If you hear back from the day care owner that they’ve found someone else, don’t panic. More often than not, their decision was not personal — it just means that someone else was a better fit for them at the time. The good news is that, in the meantime, you’ve kept yourself on the market by continuing to apply for jobs. Keep applying; you’ll find the right day care job in due time.
If you do get offered the job, congratulations! Your due diligence with preparing and anticipating the right questions clearly paid off. Hopefully you won’t have to apply to another day care position for awhile, but now you have proven method for how to perform well in your next interview.