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Questions to Ask When Calling References

Tiffany Smith
Feb. 26, 2018

When you do a reference check on a potential child care provider, what should you ask?

The end of the hiring process is in sight. Whether you've narrowed down your nanny or babysitter search to a couple candidates or there is one who seems to be the right fit for your family, reference checks should validate what you've observed in the interviews. Make sure to cover everything from work ethics to challenges on the job to personality quirks with their former employers -- the tough stuff matters.

Use this list as a guideline for the kinds of questions you should ask in your potential child care provider's reference interview to help you make a good choice for your family.

Employment History

  • How long did you employ her?
  • Why did she leave?
  • What was her compensation level?


  • What are her strengths, and what about her do you most respect?
  • In what areas could she improve?  (This is a really important question! Let the former employer complete her list first. If she can't think of anything, you may offer up an instance that the child care provider raised in the interview, such as: "She mentioned that she sometimes loses her patience. Have you experienced that before? If so, can you describe an incident where that happened?")
  • How are her communication skills? (Both with the parents and the children.)
  • Does she have initiative?
  • Is she organized?
  • Does she handle stress well?
  • Is she warm and social?
  • How is her energy level?
  • Can she work independently, or does she need very specific directions?
  • How would your children describe her?
  • If you were to rate her overall performance as a child care provider, would you consider it excellent, average or poor? Why?
  • Would you hire her again? Recommend her?

Duties and Fit

  • Other than providing care, what did her duties entail? Was she open to other responsibilities?
  • Let me tell you more about the duties I'm planning to give her. I'd love your feedback on whether this is the right job for her given your own experience with her.


  • What advice can you give me on managing her?
  • Do you have any final comments?
  • Please let me know which aspects of the reference check I can share with others and which ones are strictly confidential.

I'm not going to lie: Contacting a prospective caregiver's references can feel awkward at first. That said, reference checks are an essential part of the hiring process that, ultimately, will help you pick the right caregiver for your family. Plus, the good news is that the more you do them, the easier they get!

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Tiffany Smith has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite

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