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Interviewing babysitters: Here’s what every parent needs to ask

Dec. 11, 2018

One of the most important parts of hiring a new babysitter is getting the chance to interview them about their qualifications. The word “interview” might sound intimidating to some people, but in reality, the interview is your chance to get to know a potential sitter on a deeper level — to see what makes them tick and most importantly, to determine whether you want to open your home, and expose your children, to them.

While you may be inclined to get to know a potential sitter on a more personal level, you’ll also want to be sure to ask the right questions so that you glean the information needed to make an informed decision about their child care skills. We asked two industry experts, NannyTrack co-founder Leah Clarkson and the Babysitting Company founder Rachel Charlupski, to tell us the must-ask questions parents should bring to any interview. Here’s what they had to say.

Basic interview questions

If you’re planning to hire a neighbor or someone who was recommended by a friend, you likely won’t need to conduct as extensive an interview as you might with a stranger. But you’ll still want to ask some baseline questions about their experience, talk about any specifics related to house rules or discipline and go over any must-know information about your children and family. You might ask questions like:

  • How long have you been babysitting?

  • Are you ever available on short notice?

  • Do you have reliable transportation?

  • Do you have experience caring for children of [X] age?

  • What activities do you like to do with kids?

  • How comfortable are you enforcing household rules?

  • How do you typically deal with behavior issues?

  • This is a [screen-free/sugar-free/dairy-free/pet-friendly/non-smoking/etc.] home. Are you comfortable with that?

How to thoroughly vet a candidate

If you’re speaking with a candidate you’ve never met before or someone you’re hoping to hire on a long-term basis, then you’ll likely need to conduct a more thorough interview to really get to know them. In those instances, says Clarkson, have a list of things that are important to you and ask very specific questions about those things.

Get to know their child care background

In addition to the questions already mentioned above, seek more detailed information about the babysitter’s skills, experience and what kind of job they are looking for.

  • What’s your favorite thing about babysitting?

  • What do you look for in an employer?

  • What do you find most challenging about caring for children?

  • Have you taken any child care or safety classes? If so, may I see copies of your certifications?

  • Would you be willing to submit to a background check?

Clarify duties and expectations

Think about what a typical “shift” might look like for your babysitter, and tailor these questions to the exact kind of care your children need. Do not forget to ask about special circumstances like allergies, pets, special health needs and house rules.

  • This job will require changing diapers. How comfortable are you with that?

  • Are you willing to prepare meals and snacks for my child?

  • Are you willing to assist with homework?

  • How often do you rely on screens when caring for kids?

  • Do you have experience caring for children with allergies?

  • Do you have experience caring for children with special needs?

  • What would a typical day/evening/afternoon caring for my children look like?

Ask about safety

Make sure your potential babysitter knows how to ensure your child’s physical safety, particularly if you have young children or the sitter will be responsible for driving them around.

  • Do you have safety training in CPR, First Aid or water safety? If so, can you provide your certification?

  • Are you aware of the current recommendations for safe sleep and preventing SIDS?

  • Are you familiar with the foods that cause choking and how those foods should be prepared?

  • Have you ever had to handle an emergency while on the job? What did you do?

  • How long have you been driving and do you have a clean driving record?

  • Are you comfortable using and installing car seats?

Give them scenarios

If you still have questions about whether or not a potential babysitter is a fit, try giving them scenarios and asking them to explain how they’re respond to each situation.

  • You’re putting my child to bed and you notice he or she has a fever. What do you do?

  • The baby starts choking while playing with toys. How do you react?

  • My child won’t stop crying for me after I leave. How do you respond?

  • The toddler is throwing a tantrum. What do you do?

  • The baby had a huge blowout in his diaper. How would you handle it?

Red flags to note

The interview is an opportunity to get an overall feel for the babysitter and to make note of any areas where they might fall short of what you’re looking for. Look out for someone who:

  • Forgets about an interview

  • Doesn’t return calls or emails to schedule the interview in a timely manner

  • Shows up late

  • Speaks negatively of past clients or children they’ve cared for

  • Seems unwilling to perform the basic functions of the job

  • Seems distracted or unenthusiastic

“You want someone who is really great with children, but you want someone who is also a good role model for them, as well,” says Charlupski.

Read next: How to check babysitter references

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