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How to interview a nanny: Your questions checklist

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So you’ve vetted your list of nanny applicants, you’ve picked your favorites, and you’ve scheduled the interviews. Now what? It’s time to draft up your question list so that you cover all your bases and find the best nanny for your family.

Of course, you want the conversation to flow naturally, but it helps to have a few questions to ask so you can get a feel for each nanny’s level of experience and style. You also need concrete answers to important aspects of the position. The in-person interview is often the last step in the hiring process, so be thorough. To make the interview easier, you can use this list of sample interview questions.  

Start with the basics  

Start any interview by getting to know the candidate. As a basic indicator, make sure that your conversation is flowing naturally and that she is giving you sufficient answers. You don’t want one word answers, but you also don’t need her entire life story.

You can start the interview by asking basic background questions like:

  • How long have you been caring for children?
  • What age groups have you cared for?
  • What is your favorite age to care for? Why?
  • Do you have other work or life experience that helps you as a nanny?

Explore the discussion here if you want, but these should be fairly straightforward answers.

Training and education

The best part about hiring a nanny is that they are highly-qualified child care providers. Make sure you dive into what makes them best-suited for the job. Try asking:

  • Are you trained in CPR? First Aid?
  • Have you taken classes in child care? Would you be willing to take classes if necessary?
  • What is your education level?
  • Are you fluent in any other languages besides English?

Feel free to add questions relevant to your children’s specific needs, such as secondary languages, medical conditions, and so on. 

Previous nanny positions

By now, you’ve (hopefully) called nanny references and established a decent work history. However, those families could be vastly different from your own. Get a feel for how her experience lines up with your needs by asking:  

  • What was your most recent position? If there was a gap, what did you do on your hiatus?
  • What was your typical daily routine with your last family?
  • What were some of the best things about your previous job? The worst?
  • Have you had negative work situations? If so, what have you learned from them?
  • How have you handled difficult situations, like a baby crying uncontrollably or a child talking back?
  • Have you ever had a child care emergency? What happened?
  • What is your experience with children who have/need/are [insert specific situation]?
  • What was your longest stay with a family? What was your experience with them?
  • Are you looking to stay long-term with a family or what is your time frame for your next position?

This is also where she may ask more questions about your family to see if you align with her needs. If she’s serious about the position, expect to answer a lot of questions.

All about the position

Now that you’ve established that this nanny is a potential finalist, you can get into the nitty gritty of the job descriptions or your requirements. This could include discussing the hourly schedule, days off, or benefits packages that weren’t discussed before.

You should also ask questions to see how well your position requirements mesh with her expectations. Ask questions like:

  • How flexible is your schedule? Would you be available if we occasionally need you to arrive early or stay late?
  • Are you willing to cook/do light housework/take care of pets/[insert other task]? Does your salary requirement increase if so?
  • Do you play sports, play musical instruments, have any specific hobbies, [insert other activity that is important to your family]?
  •  Are you open to caring for more children if we have play dates or family visiting?
  • Are there any activities or responsibilities that you can’t or won’t do?
  • Are you comfortable with the physical demands associated with the position?

You should also always be upfront about any unique requirements your family has, whether cultural, religious, dietary, and so on. You can ask about her experience or ability to work with:

  • A strict diet (food allergies, vegetarian or kosher diets, etc.)
  • Your religious or cultural practices
  • Special needs (autism, ADHD, or other conditions)
  • Medication needs (insulin, Epi-Pens, inhalers, or generic medications when a kid is sick)
  • Your family, school, or professional situations (divorce, a recent move, crazy work schedules, a child who needs help in school, etc.)

This might be a breaking point for some nannies, so stay tuned into how they’re responding. If you feel they’re not willing to meet your job requirements, you can always politely end the interview.

Caregiving style

If the candidate meets your job requirements, you can discuss the most important part: the kids. As many families choose to meet candidates without children for the first interview, this part of the interview can be dependent on that important introduction.

If you like her answers to these questions, it’s time to introduce her to the kids:

  • What do you like best about being a nanny?
  • What do you find most challenging?
  • What’s the hardest day you’ve ever had as a nanny and what did you do to handle it?
  • Do you prefer more or less structure in your day? What do you think works best for children?
  • What have you found worked the best when working with parents to help raise their child? How would you handle a medical/behavioral/educational/other situation with the children? How would you address the situation with me?
  • What is your view of disciplining a child? What should be the nanny's role?

Did you love her answers? It’s time to bring in the kids (or schedule a time to introduce them). Were you a little less than impressed with her interview? Interview the next candidate; you will find someone you really trust so don’t settle.

Questions you cannot ask

As with any formal employee hiring process, you have to follow legal guidelines about the questions you ask. Even though hiring a nanny is a highly personal decision, you cannot ask a candidate about their:

  • Age
  • Race/ethnic background
  • Religious views
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status/plans on becoming pregnant
  • Disability
  • Arrest record

If these things come up in the course of the conversation, you can also not legally claim them as reasons for not hiring her.

Now that you know what to ask your potential nannies, it’s just a matter of time before you find the one that is best for you.

Comments

The portion of this story indicating that an employer cannot ask questions about age, religion, criminal background, disability, etc. is incorrect for household employers. These prohibitions are to prevent discrimination pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies only to employers with 15 or more employees.

I would have to politely disagree as well with some of the suggestions in the Do Not Ask column. For starters, as a parent, we should be able to ask if our nanny is above 18 years of age. And I most definitely would like to know if our nanny to be has a criminal record. It is not a violation of privacy to ask a nanny to be truthful about their record. It is up to them whether they would like to divulge the information. But I would like to know if they have any serious crimes like theft, violent crimes, harassment, or sexual harassment. As a nanny, I can definitely say that I have never found it disrespectful or a violation of privacy when parents have asked me about my criminal record. To begin with, I don't have one so it was never an issue. But I always placed my self in their shoes before getting upset. You have to understand that a parent is placing their child's life in your hands so they will need to know everything about you. Down to your quirks. So don't take offence to their questions about your history and if on chance you do find it a violation of privacy just move along to the next parent :)

In regards to "questions you cannot ask", it seems unreasonable to not be able to ask about a felony or an arrest record and what it was for. I totally disagee with this as a legal guideline. Secondly, if this nanny is planning to become pregnant I can see how that would also get in the way of handling the job she needs to do for you with your children. This person is not filing or typing or answering phones like in an office. They are handling the most important and precious people in your life and their safety comes first, which includes the person you are choosing to hire and help take care of them. Children cannot speak up for themselves. We are their advocates and we cannot hire the safest person to be with them if we are unaware of felonies or arrests. Is anyone with me on this one?

User in Elizabeth, NJ
July 18, 2018

This is a great story. Thanks for sharing.

I AGREE WITH ALINA. MY CHILD'S SAFETY COMES FIRST. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE BACKGROUND CHECK?

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