How to interview a nanny

You've decided that you want a nanny to look after your child, but how do you make sure you get the best person possible for the job? Childcare expert Amanda Coxen, who has a wealth of experience in this area, offers her tips

It is highly pertinent that when I wrote this, my first piece for Supernanny, I was in the process of interviewing nannies myself. I have been recruiting childcarers for almost a decade as part of my role at Tinies Childcare, and so I thought that when I was looking to hire a nanny myself, it would be a breeze. How wrong I was!

The interview process is so important and should involve many different stages.

Stage One - Filtering Out

I believe you only need to see an average of five nannies to find the right one (although a friend of mine interviewed 45 nannies before she thought she had found the perfect one – and that one left after a week!) To get to your shortlist, then you should spend time filtering out candidates on the telephone so you see only the strongest contenders.

Stage Two - Interviewing

It is an interview between you (and your partner) and the candidate. Keep the children out of the room – you can see how the candidates interact with your children as a later date. Get them to relax – nannies can be very shy and won’t show you their best side if they're too nervous. Some parents I know advocate offering a glass of wine to the candidate, but that puts nannies in a quandary: if they say yes, does that mean they are a drinker, and if they say no are they being rude? Offering them a glass of water, and asking general questions is the best way to get them to relax.

Have a structure in place

• Tell the nanny about the position and about your children. Discuss what the role entails (hours, salary, start date, duties, routines, holidays etc).

• Ask the nanny to tell you why she went into childcare and then go through her CV in detail, asking her to describe each childcare position and any qualifications that she has taken. Also ask her why she left each job.

• Run through a list of questions relating to the nanny’s abilities as a childcarer (what activities she would plan for your children? what books does she feel are appropriate for their age?); her views on discipline (how does she deal with a tantrum? how does she introduce good manners?); her cooking skills (what meals would she prepare for the children?); first aid questions (what would she do if your child was choking?) and questions relating to her own background.

• Ask the nanny if she has any questions.

Here are some of my top tips on conducting a successful interview

1. Only ask questions that start with What, When, Why, How, Where or Tell me about – this avoids Yes and No answers.

2. As my husband keeps telling me – stop talking! It is so easy to fill in any gaps in conversation yourself but it is really best to see how they open up and let them do the majority of the speaking. I once conducted an interview that when it finished the nanny knew everything there is to know about me, my family, my extended family, my sore knees and even on how to unclog a washing machine but I knew next to nothing about her.

3. Decide beforehand what questions your partner will ask.

Stage Three - Call Back

Once you have seen a number of childcarers, you may want to invite one or some of them back to meet your children and see how they interact. Before you do that, then you should check their references.

Stage Four - Decision

Hopefully you will have found your ideal childcarer, and so then you need to offer her the job, draw up a contract, discuss when she is going to start, organise induction etc.

The above processes should lead you to successfully employing your own childcarer. There are no guarantees in life – as I discovered when speaking to a client who had carefully followed all of the above, and thought she had found the perfect nanny, but a week before she was due to start the nanny called up and said she was sorry but she had a complete change of heart and was going to study to be an astronaut. I don’t think anyone could have planned for that to happen!

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Tinies Childcare are the UK’s leading childcare recruitment agency.

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