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6 interview questions every nanny should prepare to answer

Emily Starbuck Gerson
Oct. 10, 2018

Ah, the dreaded job interview. Regardless of the job you’re applying for, it’s pretty uncomfortable being in the hot seat, knowing that one wobbly answer could knock you out of the running. The trick, of course, is making that answer less wobbly. Being prepared for tough questions will help with that.

How do you know which challenging interview questions might come your way? Alene Mathurin, New York City-based founder of nanny community and advocacy group MyNannyCircle.com, recommends having an initial call to learn about the family’s goals and parenting philosophies. This not only helps determine if you click — and therefore if an in-person interview would be a waste of time — but also gives you insight into what’s important to the family so you know how to best answer questions at the formal interview.

In addition, be prepared to answer these common six interview questions — and follow our tips on how to best answer them.

Question 1: Tell me about yourself.

This vague statement question is deceptively tricky. Regardless of what you share, be honest and transparent, Mathurin says, “Because your office is someone’s sacred space, a home, and eventually they’ll find out exactly who you are.”

Skip the fluff and share aspects of yourself that are important for the job, she says. This includes your fundamental principles, your skills and your passions, which Mathurin says may encompass positive attributes, such as your ability to empathize or your ability to set boundaries.

But don’t try to be something you’re not. For example, Mathurin explains, don’t sell yourself as a punctual person if you’re always running a few minutes late, and don’t say you operate well under high-stress situations if you don’t. If in a few months they find out you misrepresented yourself, you might get fired, Mathurin says.

Be your authentic self from the start, and if it’s not a fit, another home will be. After all, “I think it’s naivete to think there’s a one-size-fits-all model for families,” Mathurin says.

Question 2: Why did you leave your last job?

This question can be difficult if you left your job because of differences or disagreements with your employer, says Thaty Oliveira. Oliveira is nanny and educator in Boston, Massachusetts, who runs CARETHATCS, a business that educates and supports parents and caregivers.

She recommends answering vaguely but honestly, such as, “We had some differences and our philosophies didn’t agree toward the end, and I was ready to move on.”

Question 3: What are your weaknesses?

When answering this question, balance being truthful about your weaknesses with highlighting your strengths, Mathurin recommends.

She offers this example: “I’m very committed to my job, though as you know, working with children can be stressful. I want to help the family and be there for them and make sure they’re content, but occasionally I find myself not being able to say ‘enough is enough’ or ‘no.’ For example, if I’ve had a tough week and am exhausted and I’m asked to work on Saturday, it’s hard for me to say no even though I need that day off.”

This response doesn’t make you seem weak, Mathurin says. Instead, it shows you’re very committed to the family you nanny, and it also opens the door for you to discuss setting healthy boundaries in the future.

She says these honest acknowledgments that caring for children can be stressful makes you appear more trustworthy.

“I think we forget that the people we’re being interviewed by are actually human beings like us who get stressed and who understand caring for children is a lot,” Mathurin says.

Question 4: What do you charge?

As simple as it is, being asked your rate can be tough, especially for experienced nannies who may be scared their number will be a dealbreaker, Mathurin says. To help justify your rate, she suggests saying something like this: “Although I charge $XX per hour, I bring with me a level of expertise that (fill in the blank.)”

Mathurin says you can fill in the blank by discussing “your experience, your education, your skills and your moral construct, because the combination of all of that makes an exceptional caregiver.”

If you prefer not to give a number, and the parents push to know your previous pay rate, Oliveira suggests explaining that your last salary isn’t quite relevant: “At my last job, my tasks or job description were different and the kids’ ages were different, and that of course reflects my pay grade.”

Question 5: How flexible are you?

Being too vague or accommodating in your answer can backfire and set you up to be taken advantage of, Oliveira says. For example, if you say, “I’m flexible and can do whatever,” you might get stuck with a family that comes home late every day, she says.

Instead, say you can be flexible every now and then, and explain what flexible means for you. For example, Oliveira explains, if you have a two-hour gap on some days where you can come in or work late, let them know that’s the only window in which you can be flexible.

Question 6: What is your citizenship status, are you planning to have kids — or any other questions that could lead to discrimination.

Employers aren’t permitted to ask about certain factors that are irrelevant to the job and could result in hiring discrimination, like race, national origin, age, marital status, if you have or plan to have kids, religious affiliation or citizenship status. Some families might not realize this, so be prepared just in case.

Oliveira answers these questions by making a friendly joke about it: “I’m happy to tell you, but I don’t think you’re supposed to ask me about those things.” It’s a nice way to make it clear they’re overstepping and shouldn’t ask those kinds of questions, she says. Then, it’s up to you as to whether you want to answer or not.

If you’d rather be more serious and leave no room to answer, Mathurin recommends treading carefully because you want to be diplomatic.

“You don’t want to lecture or sound arrogant — you want to be educational and conversational,” she says, especially for parents who are new to hiring and oblivious to the laws.

She suggests avoiding something vague like, “I can’t answer because of the law.” Instead, try saying something more like this: “I don’t know if you’re aware, but based on the laws in (your state), these are questions that I’m not able to answer.”

Read next: Tips for getting your first nanny job

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The Professional Guide for Nannies