As Boomers age, there’s a growing need for senior care providers. Naturally, families hiring for these jobs want to make sure they’re finding top-notch caregivers for their loved ones.
Consider Lucas Travis, a family caregiver in Leesville, Louisiana, who helped arrange care for his grandmother. “Our grandma does not like the idea of hiring a care provider — she always used to say that she doesn’t need it, and she is still strong,” he explains. But his family wanted to make everyday life a bit easier for her by hiring someone they could trust to look out for her.
Travis’ experience is a case for being genuine in your pursuit of caregiving work. “Your honesty, patience and strength of character will help you get the job,” he says.
Even if you have those traits, you could be susceptible to common pitfalls leading up to and during the hiring process. Here, experts help us break down common mistakes candidates for caregiving jobs make and how to fix them before they cost you a job.
Mistakes that can keep you from getting a senior caregiving interview
You can’t get the job if you don’t even land an interview. Here’s how to make sure you get to the starting block.
1. Mistake: Your profile is uncompelling or unprofessional.
Landing an interview as a senior caregiver often starts with posting a profile to a job site. And if your profile is out of date, riddled with typos, hard to understand or your profile photo is unprofessional (for instance, if it’s racy, overly filtered or shows alcohol or cigarettes), you could be talking yourself out of a job before you even get the chance to say a word.
How to fix it: When writing about yourself, strive to be natural and conversational, as though you were talking to a colleague. “It’s better to use the first person when you’re talking about your experience,” says Grant Aldrich, career coach and founder and CEO of the educational platform OnlineDegree.com. “That will make your profile more welcoming and personable to employers, increasing the chances of you landing an interview.”
He advises grabbing attention by choosing specific language over more general and common terms. For instance, instead of something like “full-time caregiver,” he suggests a more nuanced, compelling description that feels personal to you, like “patient and nurturing caregiver.”
Aldrich also suggests listing any certifications or accreditations, such as certified home health aide, to give your profile more authority and credibility. “Since there are hundreds of senior caregivers listed, there’s a huge necessity to stand out,” he says.
2. Mistake: You’re disorganized or unresponsive.
If you’re late to respond to a message when you’re looking for a job — or you don’t respond at all — you’re unlikely to land that interview. On Care.com, that behavior will lower your “response rate” score and could discourage a family from contacting you in favor of a provider who responds more regularly.
How to fix it: Consider the following best practices to stay on top of your job hunt:
- Stay organized and connected while you are job-seeking. Make a plan to check your messages regularly — even at certain times every day so that you are consistent and are less likely to forget.
- Be responsive. Even if you get a “no thanks” email, quickly respond in turn thanking the family for their time. It’s a professional practice and takes little time.
3. Mistake: Your resume is riddled with errors.
A messy resume is a quick way to lose out on a potential interview — no matter how great your experience may be. “If there is something that can derail your caregiver interview before you even get started, it’s a poorly written resume,” explains Eden Cheng, an experienced hiring exec and founder of WeInvoice.
What has a typo got to do with being a good caregiver? “Common misspellings or grammatical errors can tell the recruiter that the person lacks sufficient attention to detail or pride in their work ethic,” she says. “In this line of work, those elements are critical, so the employer expects to see that in your application, too.”
How to fix it: You don’t have to be a Pulitzer prize winner to compose an effective resume. Start by simply having a trusted friend or advisor help you proofread.
Beyond that, there are many tools available to help you craft flawless content. For instance, Cheng advises, “You can make use of grammatical tools like Grammarly to help make sure that any missed errors are spotted in advance.”
Mistakes that can keep you from landing a caregiving job
Once you’ve landed the interview, you haven’t yet sealed the deal. Here’s how to make it happen.
4. Mistake: You show up late.
While this one might seem like a simple rule of thumb, it’s also fairly common misstep. Glenn Lane, president of Westchester Family Care in New York, shares a shocking stat from his hiring experience: “Two in three applicants don’t show up for a confirmed interview.”
While punctuality is a best practice in any industry, it’s even more important in the caregiver niche, because families need to know the caregiver is going to be on the ball when it comes to an aging relative, says Cheng. “Timeliness is everything,” she asserts.
How to fix it: Plan carefully. Here are some guidelines that can help:
- Give yourself plenty of time. Starting with the time you want to be there, count backward, accounting for time to prepare, commute, park and find the interview location — with plenty of cushion baked into the timeline. “Know where you are going. Give yourself time to arrive early,” says Cynthia R. Chimienti, president of Circle of Care, a caregiver registry based in Portland, Oregon.
- Gather your materials. “Always have your materials and references all together.”
- Build in enough time to compose yourself. “Be ready to enter in with a present and positive attitude,” she says.
And if you do encounter a bona fide issue preventing you from arriving on time, don’t panic and go dark: Instead, communicate your issue succinctly, and give as much notice as possible. “If you have an emergency and need to reschedule, always call to explain the situation in advance,” Cheng says. “Apologize and reschedule the meeting for a later date.”
5. Mistake: You behave unprofessionally.
If you show up at a virtual or in-person interview dressed inappropriately, take a virtual interview in an inappropriate setting (such as from bed) or you have a ton of preventable tech issues, you look unprofessional as a candidate and unappealing as a hire.
How to fix it: Consider these tips for presenting yourself as professionally as possible.
- Take some time in advance to pick out an outfit appropriate for a job interview.
- Prepare a neutral setting for a virtual interview without distractions — such as against a white wall — and attend the meeting while sitting up in a chair.
- Prep your tech as needed, such as downloading any necessary teleconferencing software in advance.
“Be prepared, be professional, have your docs and written material in good order,” Lane says, emphasizing that you always want to prove you are someone they can trust to take care of their aging loved one.
6. Mistake: You seem unenthusiastic, disengaged or just plain negative.
Families, recruiters and hiring managers want candidates who are fully engaged in the work — and a candidate who seems bored or unenthusiastic at an interview demonstrates they’re just not up to the task. For this reason, you’ll want to be sure not to appear passive, timid or disinterested in the job, suggests Chimienti. “And also don’t just go on about yourself.”
Further, caregiving requires quick thinking, problem solving, emotional intelligence, compassion and kindness — and all of those flow naturally from a senior caregiver with a positive attitude. If you show up to an interview with an obvious negative attitude, you won’t land the job.
How to fix it: See your interview through the eyes of a family hoping to secure the best care for a loved one — a circumstance that may already feel daunting and emotional. Then, consider making the following moves:
Be curious and openly engage with the interviewer. “If the senior you will be working with is present, greet them, introduce yourself and ask them a question,” says Chimienti. “Listen to them and then reflect back to them what you heard. Then, ask if there is anything you can do for them.”
If you get stuck on a question, stay engaged and take an intentional pause for further consideration, a professional strategy that looks impressive to interviewers. “Try not to use just one-word ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses to interview questions and definitely no ‘I dunnos,’” Chimienti suggests. “Instead say, ‘Let me think about that for a minute,’ and then craft an articulate and heartfelt response.”
Demonstrate that your heart is in it. Sabrina Beaumont, CMO of Passion Plans and a family caregiver in Raleigh, North Carolina, recently had to go through the challenging process of finding a senior care provider for her aging parents. She interviewed 10 caregivers and found that, with many no go candidates, she could tell that their hearts weren’t really into it. “You hear a lot of horror stories, and I didn’t want my parents to have to go through that,” she says.
Her experience is a case for showing how much you care, which can be done by:
- Communicating your sincerity, authenticity and empathy in an interview.
- Listening to the family’s specific concerns.
- Asking questions.
- Offering stories about why you got into this work.
- Sharing any on-the-job experiences that might have really transformed you.
Ultimately, Beaumont went with a candidate who proved herself to have “profound empathy” — a trait she didn’t see in other people she interviewed. Bottom line: When seeking a senior care job, be prepared, be professional and let your sincere enthusiasm and empathy shine, and you’ll be right on track.