Performing Third-Party Safety Checks
Before you hire a caregiver, follow these five steps for vetting candidates through different sources.
Hiring a caregiver -- whether for your children, home, elderly relative or pet -- can be stressful. You have to sort through job applications, read resumes, schedule interviews, etc. But one step that can't be overlooked is the third-party safety check. You want to make sure the person you're bringing into your home is reliable and qualified.
If you're hiring a caregiver, a background check is essential. Look for red flags such as a criminal history, driving infractions or personality traits that would make you uncomfortable.
In addition to the background check, you should do some sleuthing on your own. Here are five tips on where to start from two safety pros.
Don't Do it All Yourself
The first step is to enlist a background check company as part of your team, says Melissa Sorenson, compliance and contracts officer for the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). As a long-term professional in the field of third-party safety checks, Sorenson brought her own, unique understanding of the process when she hired her own nanny through Care.com. Other moms and dads may need to do a little more homework.
"Fees vary by screening company and the thoroughness of the screen you conduct," Sorenson says. "Do the most thorough screen for any potential nanny hire, as those include a criminal screening."
A complete, thorough criminal investigation is a piece of the safety-check puzzle best left to a professional company. Once compiled, pay special attention to the individual's traffic record if they will be doing any driving.
To make it easier, you can also get a background check through Care.com. To learn more about your options, read our Background Check Guide ?
Search Social Media
"Background screening companies are required to use the best possible sources of information available in order to perform checks, and typically eschew social media websites...so as to be in compliance with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission restraints and the Fair Credit Reporting Act," says Lynn Peterson, vice president of PFC Information Services, Inc.
Since the companies can't check these sites, you have to! Look for your potential caregiver on popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Myspace, etc.
In addition, Pinterest might provide clues about a person's interests and hobbies. If they have a review history on Yelp, the site could offer clues as to the types of places they frequent as well as their buying habits.
Many people have no privacy settings on their personal pages and treat them like a tell-all. Look for objectionable photos and status updates. Pay careful attention to the person's Facebook friends and those who comment on their page. This may provide clues about lifestyle and personality. Peterson also suggests looking for rants about past employers or relationships.
Look for News and Blogs
Perform a Google News search. Search for any news stories written about them or in which they're quoted. Look for any personal blogs written by your potential hire to get an idea of their views. As with social media searches, be careful to ensure you are looking up the right person, as any number of individuals may have similar names.
Rely on an Interview's Clues
"Even the most comprehensive background check is not foolproof," Peterson says. Families should interview any potential hire carefully. She suggests asking general background questions, asking about the way the person was raised, their relationships with friends and family and jobs they've held.
Practical questions such as, "How do you take an infant's temperature?" and, "What would you do if my 2-year-old got really cranky because he's teething?" can be very telling, she says.
Ask about discipline, but rather than asking if you would ever spank a child, ask, "When do you think it's appropriate to spank a child? Please describe a situation." This will yield more information.
Check the Reference's References
Employment and reference checks are part of any standard, third-party safety check, but how do you know an individual's references aren't BFFs from grade school or next door neighbors? Peterson suggests using online tools like Spokeo or Zillow to see where the reference lives -- especially if something doesn't seem quite right. Do what you can to ascertain their identities.
Hiring someone to care for a loved one can feel overwhelming and scary. A background check can go a long way toward easing your mind and allowing you to go through your day knowing your loved one is being cared for in the best way possible: by a responsible caregiver you can trust.
Corey Whelan is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, N.Y.