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Jennifer Eberhart @JenniferE2

How to Interview a Housekeeper

7 things to keep in mind when interviewing cleaning help.

After you post a cleaning job on Care.com, you should always interview the top three candidates to see who you like best. But what questions should you ask when you interview a housekeeper? What should you keep in mind? What red flags should you look out for? It can be very confusing.

With the help of Melissa Homer, chief cleaning officer at MaidPro; Amy Olson, director of marketing at The Maids International; and Carolyn Stolov, family life expert at Care.com, we've gathered seven things to focus on when you're interviewing a potential housekeeper. They will help you establish whether or not the housekeeper you're thinking of employing is the right person for the job.

  1. Your Needs
    Don't interview an applicant and expect them to automatically know what you need done in your home. Have a plan in mind. Where do you want the housekeeper to clean? Do you want her to organize the kitchen, pick up the children's playroom, make the beds, clean toilets? If you don't have a clear set of goals in mind, you won't get the best work out of a housekeeper. Be sure to indicate your goals to your applicant. Use this checklist for ideas.

    Then make sure the candidate can handle each of the tasks. If you have a problem area in your house, like a streaky refrigerator door or a soap scum in the shower, ask how they would handle it.

  2. Qualifications
    The housekeepers who apply to your job will share what makes them great in their responses. You can also check out their individual profiles to see what their skills are. During the interview, bring up key points that stuck out to you on individual applications -- perhaps the applicant doesn't have many years of experience or she usually cleans apartments and you have a large home.

  3. Experience
    Of course, experience is important, but it isn't everything. Someone who is just starting out might be just as adept at cleaning your house as someone who has been in the business for years. But you need to make sure they can handle the job. Some questions you can ask include:

    • Have you cleaned houses or apartments similar in size?
    • How long have you been working?
    • What sets you apart from other housekeepers?

    Additionally, ensure the housekeeper is familiar with how to clean certain surfaces in your home. "Many homes have surfaces like granite, marble and stainless steel that can be seriously damaged if cleaned improperly," says Homer. "Before hiring a housekeeper, make sure that they are aware of any surfaces or items in your home that require special care and ask how they plan to clean these areas. If you really want to test a potential maid service, ask how they will prevent spreading germs from another client's home to yours. Make sure that only clean tools are used in your home to prevent from spreading germs."

  4. Schedules
    Timing is everything, and when it comes to deciding when to have your housekeeper over, this is especially important. Talk about your schedule during the interview and make sure she can come when you need her. Is her schedule flexible in case your needs change?

  5. Cleaning Supplies
    Go over who is responsible for handling the supplies. If you want green cleaning products, talk about your options.

    "Some independent housekeepers, as well as some services, expect you to supply all cleaning products and equipment," says Olson. "Check out what's included with your house cleaning. Ask what products will be used and if they are environmentally preferred, or harsh, toxic chemicals. If equipment is brought into the home, ask how the equipment is serviced and cleaned in between homes."

  6. Pay Options
    My budget is _____. Know what you can afford before deciding to hire someone. As Stolov notes, "This should be discussed up front during a phone interview with an individual, so they know your budget. What are you willing to pay and what would the responsibilities be?"

  7. References and Background Checks
    If you didn't ask for references during the application process and the interview went well, ask for references and follow up afterward. If you're looking at using a cleaning service, Olson recommends asking "if employees' references are checked and their residence status is confirmed. Some established company policies include screening for honesty and dependability. This provides added security."

    You should also run a background check (you can get one through Care.com) on your final candidate. References and background checks can mean the difference between hiring a great housekeeper and an okay one.

Other Housekeeper Interview Questions
You might also want to consider some of these other questions, which Stolov suggests are good ways to get to know the interviewee on a more personal level:

  • What was the most recent feedback positive or constructive you received from one of your clients?
  • What did you do with the constructive feedback?
  • What do you like most about being a housekeeper?
  • What's your favorite cleaning supply?
  • How would you describe your housekeeping standards?
  • How would you describe your style of service?
  • What would other families who use you say about you?
  • Why do you like doing this type of work?

Remember, you're the person hiring a housekeeper. If you are not 100 percent happy with the interview and your potential hire, then continue interviewing other people. Don't stop until you're satisfied that you can trust that the person who will be cleaning your home will do a good job.

Jennifer Eberhart is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found here.

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