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6 Mistakes Families Make When Hiring a Nanny

Brenda Barron
June 21, 2018

Avoid these common errors when researching and interviewing prospective nannies.

Hiring a nanny isn't a simple process. You're looking for the right person to care for your child and the process requires extensive research -- it isn't something you can rush through. When you're thinking about how to hire a nanny, there's a lot to consider and remember. And sometimes details get lost in the shuffle.

"A lot of families aren't thorough enough," says Suzanne Royer McCone, president and placement counselor for Annie's Nannies, Inc. And that lack of investment in time and research upfront can be costly later.

Here are 6 common mistakes families make during the hiring process:  

  1. They Don't Write a Clear Job Description
    You know you want to hire a nanny, but did you take the time to actually write out a list of all the things you're looking for? "You need to be really clear," says McCone and can't just rely on subjective statements like, "It depends on the person." The job description needs to detail what's expected of your nanny, including duties, hours, flexibility, and pay. 

    Follow these Tips for Writing a Job Description.

    If the job description changes drastically a week or a month in, you may be forcing the nanny to leave your employment because the position isn't what they signed up for, McCone says. Don't suddenly ask for things like help with the housework, cleaning, or additional responsibilities -- without checking if the nanny is willing to help in those areas and without paying extra.
  2. They Aren't Negotiable About Pay
    Have you figured out how much you can afford to pay a nanny? Is that number flexible? You need to tell candidates how much you want to pay and that you're negotiable based on experience -- otherwise you may lose out on people who won't even respond, McCone says.

    And make sure you're paying the going rate. "If you think you got such a good steal for a nanny...she will likely either 1) become resentful or 2) be keeping her eye out for a better job," says Kathy Dupuy, president of Mom's Best Friend.

    Check out Care.com's rate calculator to learn how much caregivers cost in your neighborhood.
  3. They Don't Pay Legally
    Continuing on the money topic, one of the biggest mistakes families make is not paying their nanny legally. "If people get audited or a nanny gets audited, it can be a real problem," says McCone. "It's a huge industry with a lot of money that is paid under the table," she says.

    And the IRS is really cracking down. So make sure you give your nanny a W-2 and pay employment taxes. "Families taking on the responsibility of having a household employee should also take responsibility for knowing and understanding the payroll and tax laws in their state," says Tom Breedlove, Sr. Director of Care.com HomePay. "There is some work involved, but the benefits of legal pay for your nanny and the tax breaks you'll receive for doing things correctly are well worth it."
  4. They Fail the Interview Process
    One of the biggest mistakes is actually several rolled into one. It involves the interview. Or interviews, rather. Many families think having one interview is enough. But they couldn't be more wrong. You should definitely interview prospective nannies more than once: over the phone, in-person and then with the kids. Plus arrange a trial period to test out the relationship (learn How to Arrange a Trial Run With a Nanny).

    And make sure you're asking the right questions, from child care philosophy to experience. Don't be afraid to be specific and ask situational questions, like what would the candidate do if your child had a meltdown at the park? "Take your time to ask thoughtful questions," McCone shares, and you should expect "open and forthright" answers in response.

    Follow these 11 Tips for Interviewing Nannies.
  5. They Skip the Safety Step
    Don't forget to conduct background checks and actually call each candidate's references, too. "Ask probing questions about the candidate and their job description," suggests McCone, to verify the validity of references.
  6. They Forget a Contract
    An easy way to get everyone on the same page about things like responsibilities and pay is to create a nanny contract. It's a crucial step in the hiring process that many families leave out. It should lay out the details included in the job description, as well as any other variables you've discussed during the interview process. Both your and your nanny should sign it and re-evaluate it during the 90-day and one-year review.

    Hiring a nanny isn't something you can just accomplish overnight. "Most people don't understand how much work goes into it," McCone says. You need to find candidates, then invest time in researching those candidates, verifying references, etc. It's a commitment, but one that's well worth it when you walk away with the perfect nanny for your family.

I completely agree with you Rebecca R. ! I see SO many posts with the SAME things, i.e. \

User in Austin, TX
Nov. 19, 2014

Rebecca I agree. life and familys dont fit all into a box. if the parent cant take a moment to wright down what they need then I dont see how they are going to get the best help. As a nanny we coukd never get away with this. Also why cant we run background checks on the parents.

User in Visalia, CA
Nov. 16, 2014

I wish that people would stop using the job wizard and take the time to properly fill out a description that truly describes what they are looking for. That way we know what we are applying for and things don't change part way through.

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