Getting to Know Each Other
If you ever babysat as a teenager, you'll remember how disconcerting it was the first time you worked for a new family. You walked into a strange house, met the parents, were paraded in front of a few kids, given a five-minute overview of the job, and left to figure it out for the next few hours.
A 15-minute visit a few days prior to the job can pave the way for a smooth exchange on Friday night when you're rushing out to catch a movie. When I get the name of a new sitter, I first call her parents to introduce myself, let them know how I heard of their daughter, and ask if she is free to babysit. I inform the parents where I live, the age of my children, and how long we plan to be out. This five-minute call puts parents' minds at ease and puts the decision of whether or not the job seems like a good fit in the hands of the folks who know your potential sitter best.
Next comes the meet-and-greet, where the kids get to meet the sitter and everyone can ask questions, get the layout of the house, and generally feel comfortable that it's a good match. If she shows up early, she's a keeper! If you're not sure about a potential hire's infant skills, have her feed the baby while you talk or have her describe her past experience with young babies.