With the busiest season of the year for nanny job changes fast approaching, many nannies and families will be facing the prospect of interviews. We know from experience that some of the most experienced and well qualified nannies can struggle in the interview stages of jobs, even if they have a great CV and a track record of excellent references. Equally, families must not underestimate the importance of coming across well themselves at interview. The relationship between nannies and families is completely two way, and it is important to ensure that your prospective nannies feel that your house is a place that they would like to work!
Firstly the basics…
- Make sure that you know in advance who is going to be at the interview – is it just the parents or will the children be there too. This will affect the dynamic of the interview a lot!
- Do not be tempted to “fall back” on your references – whilst they are important, you also need to sell yourself verbally. Some excellent nannies really do find that this is very difficult and does not come naturally to them – so think in advance about how you might do this and perhaps practice on friends and family who are likely to be your most critical audience! Remember, other candidates will be doing this so you need to tell the family why you are better than the competition.
- Do your homework – try to gather as much information about the job and family as you can, so you can ask sensible questions and know why you would be suitable for the job.
- If the children are there, make sure to give them LOTS of attention. It is surprising how many families feed back to us that when the children are there the nannies do not demonstrate their childcare skills. This is understandable, as especially if it is a first interview demonstrating how great you are with the kids is difficult when also trying to answer questions from the parents. However, the parents will be looking for this.
- Avoid speaking negatively about previous roles. Even if your they weren’t perfect, stress the elements that you enjoyed about them. If you project an image that you were unhappy, families may feel concerned that you will not be happy in their job either and/or that the only reason you are looking for a new role is to “get out” of your current situation. Which leads us to…
- Make sure you are able to explain all your reasons for leaving previous jobs, if asked.
- Don’t over-promise. If you feel that any element of what the family is asking you is not up your street, be very clear upfront. If this is important to them, then the role isn’t for you. And if it is something they can live with then they will appreciate your honesty which makes for a much healthier working relationship.
- Make sure you know where you are going and how to get there, allowing for traffic/public transport hold ups. Have the right phone numbers to hand in case you are held up.
- Present yourself appropriately – smart casual is a good rule of thumb.
- Take along relevant documents – families enjoy seeing a few written references, meal plans, paediatric first aid certificates.
- Be yourself, relax as far as possible and remember to smile!
- Families need to “sell” their job just as much as nannies need to sell themselves to you. More than perhaps any other job, nannies see an intimate part of your life – the workings of your family home. It is extremely important to nannies to feel comfortable with any prospective job, so connecting with them on a personal level is very important.
- Think carefully in advance about exactly what your role will involve so that you can give your candidates as much clarity as possible. If you come across as unsure as to what you are looking for then nannies will probably not be filled with confidence that this is a suitable role for them.
- Be realistic in your expectations about what you want from your prospective nanny and how this comes across. Just looking after children is a very full-on job in itself – nannies know this and could be put off by families who may appear to be setting unrealistic expectations from their nanny.
- Review the nanny’s CV ahead of time, so you know something about them and what they have done – this will also prompt questions you may wish to ask.
- Think about whether you would like the child(ren) present for some or all of the first meeting or not at all – this is down to personal preference and logistics. In our view, it is probably easier to have a two stage interview process – firstly with just parents, and then later with the children. It can be difficult for nannies to demonstrate their competence with the children as well as answering your questions professionally, so this tends to work better.
- Try to avoid asking your nannies about their salary expectations – this is one advantage of going via an agency! We can handle this side of things and help to guide you as to appropriate rates for your role and the experience of your preferred candidates. The main priority in an interview is to get to know each other, and getting involved in discussions about money can be awkward from both sides.
- If you would like the nanny to bring anything in particular along with them, such as their documentation, make a point of raising this in advance.
- While you naturally wish to find out as much as you can about your prospective employee, you need to be mindful of wording your questions appropriately in order to avoid any possible direct or indirect claims of discrimination. These include questions about their marital status, sexual/religious preferences, whether they have children or are planning a family, disabilities, age, nationality and ethnicity.
- Your nanny may be very nervous – try and make them feel at home, so they can relax a bit and you will get the best out of them – would they like a cuppa or some water?
Now for a few ideas as to questions you might conceivably ask/ be asked:
- What do you most enjoy about being a nanny?
- Why did you leave your most recent job?
- Do you enjoy cooking and what would you cook?
- Have you had any experience with weaning/potty training?
- Are you able to support with homework/reading? Have you done this before?
- Can you give examples of craft activities/baking you might do with my child(ren)?
- During your work with children have you had to deal with any accidents/emergencies – how did you handle this?
- Would you be happy to babysit and if so how often?
- When did you pass your driving test and are you insured to carry your employer’s children in your car?
- What is your approach to disciplining children?
- How do you like the working relationship to be with your employer?
- Have you ever been on holiday with the family you have nannied for and how did this work out?
Nannies: you might also consider asking some of the following questions if not specifically covered in the interview:
- Have you had a nanny before – if so why did they leave?
- As a family what is your approach to discipline?
- Do you have any house rules I should know about?
- Have you had any issues with previous employees I should know about?
- Do any family members have any allergies/food intolerances?
- For a live in position, there might be questions you would like to ask about how the living arrangements work.
Good luck, enjoy and remember to give us your feedback!