How do you know you're hiring the right nanny? Rebecca Stewart, founder and president of VIP Nannies Inc., Household Staffing, one of Southern California's leading nanny and household staffing companies, shares her top six tips for making sure the person you entrust with one of life's most important jobs is truly up to the task.
Make a list of expectations.
Before you even begin the process of finding someone, you need to know what your ideal candidate looks like, says Stewart. It's as basic as asking questions like, What days/hours do you need your nanny to work? Live-in or live-out? Do you want someone with a degree in child development? What types of benefits will you offer (if any)? If you have an infant, multiples, or a special needs child, Stewart says to consider how important it is to you to hire a nanny skilled in this type of child care.
Use a reputable agency.
"Even in this Craigslist world, you still really want to work with a reputable agency to find your nanny," says Stewart. She recommends agencies that belong to the Association of Premier Nanny Agencies, a nationwide professional organization with a strict code of ethics and standards of practice for nanny agencies. APNA agencies check the references of prospective nannies, run background checks, and provide parents with resumes, letters of recommendation, copies of certifications and/or degrees, and a list of current references. Also, experience counts. Stewart's agency only takes on about 20 percent of the nannies who come in looking for work because they lack adequate time on the job.
Keep it legal.
Hiring an undocumented worker may save you money in salary and taxes, but that comes with a very big tradeoff, warns Stewart. If your nanny is not legal, there is no way to run a reliable background check. "There is no social security number or visa, you can't find alias names, where they have lived before, driving records, DUIs, other criminal activity—nothing!"
While many of these nannies may end up being wonderful care givers, Stewart's take is that it's just not worth the risk on many levels. Not only are you breaking the law, which is in itself a big no-no, "it's just too hard to predict the unpredictable," she says. "Don't put your child in that position."
Interview in person.
Some parents may be considering a nanny who lives across the country—or in a different country. Even if it means a long-distance flight, nothing trumps a live, in-person interview (not even Skype!). "Check for how a nanny communicates verbally and non-verbally. Think to yourself… Is this someone you want working in your home every day for the next x-amount of years?'" says Stewart. "A nanny could have excellent experience but if your personalities clash, s/he is just not the right nanny for you."
We've all seen the internet ads that offer background check services for a mere $10. But if you go this route, you will invariably get what you pay for. "Don't penny pinch," says Stewart, especially with your child. A comprehensive background report typically runs up to $100, including criminal activity and job reference checks. If you're using a reputable agency reference and background checks are conducted by the agency, the check is typically conducted at their expense.
Have a trial period.
"After the initial interview, I always suggest scheduling a time for your potential nanny to return to your home for a trial period," Stewart recommends. This is a time for both parties to get acclimated with one another and is a way to watch your potential nanny interact with your children.
If it seems like a good fit, try leaving the house for the afternoon and gradually start to lengthen the amount of time you are away from home. Yes, some parents will implement "nanny cams" and other security measures, which is a personal decision.
And after all this, when it's finally decision-making time, it often comes down to "going with your gut instinct," says Stewart. "When you've interviewed a few nannies, had them thoroughly vetted, looked them in the eyes, and seen them around your kids and your spouse, it's usually very clear who's best."