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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

Azadeh in Renton, WA
June 13, 2017

The amount that I would pay for running back ground check is only for one person or once I pay, it os possible to run back ground check for others as well?

Azadeh in Renton, WA
June 13, 2017

Should I pay $59 for each person who I want to run back ground check for? Or once I pay the amount, I can run for others as well?

User in Visalia, CA
Nov. 16, 2014

I feel it needs to be stressed... when you're calling someone's reference... BE RESPECTFUL!! I shouldn't have to even say that, but recently I had a long standing reference ask me to remove them because one woman that called him was so nasty and ill tempered, she basically took her bad day out on my reference! It saddens me that he will no longer be a reference for me on this site, but I cannot blame him either. It's common decency and respect.

Care.com Member Care
April 24, 2013

Hi Katina S, As long as you are a premium member, you will have access to respond to any caregiver who either applies to your job or sends you a private message. As a premium member, you will have access to run background check options, as well as to write and view reviews. All of those features are covered under the subscription fee. I hope that helps you to understand the process a little bit better!

April 18, 2013

Okay - so if the person advertising \

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