How to Choose a Nanny

Having a nanny gives your child a consistent caregiver, but how do you choose the right one? See more parenting pictures.
Having a nanny gives your child a consistent caregiver, but how do you choose the right one? See more parenting pictures.
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When you become a parent, it's natural for your child to become the most important thing in your life. You want to be able to provide the best home and care for your baby. Whether you're planning on continuing with your job, or you just need a little additional help so that you can run errands during the day, a nanny can be a beneficial childcare resource. Having a regular nanny provides a consistent secondary caregiver in your child's life, and a trusted nanny can sometimes even become a valued member of a family. But choosing a nanny can be nerve-racking. How do you know whom you can trust with your child?

The first step in choosing a nanny is to understand what the job entails and what your family needs from a childcare provider. Do you just need someone a few hours a week so that you can run errands, volunteer or work part-time? Or do you have a demanding career and require a full-time helper, such as a live-in nanny? Identifying your needs is an important first step in finding the right type of childcare.


Once you know what you need, how do you find the right person for the job? You may have heard of services that can find nannies for you and wonder whether this is a necessary tool or if you can conduct the search on your own. There is plenty to think about, but there also are many resources out there that will teach you how to search for, interview and hire a nanny. Your knowledge of your child and your family are the most important tools you need when searching for a nanny, but a few hints and tips can help you make the most informed decision possible.

For example, your options might include whether you would prefer a live-in or live-out nanny. Read on to learn what additional compensation a live-in nanny usually requires, and whether it could be worth the cost.



Do I Need a Live-in Nanny?

After you have decided that a nanny will be the best childcare option for you, you will have to decide what type of nanny you would like to hire. If you have older children, you may need someone only in the afternoons, running kids from school to practices and supervising homework and playdates until you return from work. However, if you have an unpredictable schedule or are looking for full-time help, a live-in nanny may be a better option.

As the name indicates, a live-in nanny will live in your family home full-time. In addition to a salary, you will provide room and board for the nanny. Having a live-in nanny can be very helpful because she is there at all times. A live-in nanny can help the children get ready for school in the morning and can be there late at night, which can be helpful when a child is young and wakes up often during sleep. If you have unpredictable work hours, a live-in nanny often has more flexibility than a live-out nanny, which is also helpful in a home where the parents travel for work, since it means there will be built-in overnight care.


If you also need someone to do light housework or run errands, you can specify this in your search for a live-in nanny, though it is important to note that these are not responsibilities you can automatically assume a live-in nanny will want to take on.

As an employer, you have to be sure in advance that you have a home suited to providing for a live-in nanny. Though a live-in nanny is around your family much more than a live-out nanny, she will also need privacy, off hours and vacation. A live-in nanny should have comfortable private quarters to relax and spend time away from the family. Often a guesthouse or a room with a separate entrance is preferable.

Although your home needs to be suited for a live-in nanny, this type of nanny is not just for the wealthy. In fact, nowadays, live-in nannies are present in many types of households, including single-parent situations, in which the parent is reliant on his income to get by, or two-parent households in which both parents want to maintain their careers [source: Nannies4Hire].

In addition to flexible childcare, a live-in nanny can become an integral part of your family and a lifelong friend. For tips on how to find a nanny, read on to the next page.


Should I Use a Service to Find a Nanny?

Once you have decided what type of nanny you want to use, you then need to decide how to begin your search. There are many different avenues you can go down to find a nanny. One of the first things you will need to decide is whether you want to use a nanny-placement agency to find the perfect candidate.

One of the most convenient things about these agencies is that they do the majority of the work for you. Agencies are trained to match the nanny's qualifications with the family's childcare requirements. They will also do the screening work for you, including background checks that screen for criminal records and bad driving records and checking the nanny's references. The downside to using an agency is that there is a placement fee -- anywhere from $800 to $5,000 [source: International Nanny Association]. If you have the money, an agency can be a very convenient option. They also are helpful in that they will usually refund fees or replace a nanny if it does not work out for whatever reason in a certain time period [source: International Nanny Association]. Because there are many agencies out there, be sure to do your research before committing to anything.


If you cannot afford an agency and don't have the time to do your own legwork, either, you still have many other options for finding a childcare provider. You can place an ad in the local newspapers or at your community center, house of worship or gym. Friends or acquaintances that currently employ nannies are also a great resource for recommendations. There also are many online services now that allow you to advertise for nannies and allow nannies to post their qualifications and availability.

Once you have advertised, you will have to screen as an agency would, deciding who to call back, interviewing candidates and running background checks. Although you will have a bit more work to do, you may find the personal involvement of going through this process will help to find the best-suited nanny. Deciding whether to use a service is a personal decision.

By now you should know what kind of help your family needs. To find out whether your childcare expectations are realistic, read on to the next page.


Necessary Nanny Skills

When selecting a nanny, the most important thing is that the candidate you select fits well with your family, interacts well with your child, and is someone you trust. That person may come with years of experience and an early childhood education degree or may just have a love of children and experience with younger siblings. It is up to you to decide what level of experience you feel comfortable with, but there are several skills that will be necessary for anyone planning to work in childcare.

First, a nanny should have experience dealing with children that are about your child's age. A nanny who is great with elementary school children may not always be the best choice for a newborn, and vice versa. You need to find someone who is comfortable with the needs of your children. In addition, a nanny should have emergency training fit to the needs of your child, including CPR and first aid. If your child has special needs, your nanny must be equipped to deal with those, too.


A nanny also must be reliable and have great time management skills, as in many cases she will be responsible for getting your child to and from school and activities. You need to be able to trust that your child is always where he needs to be. While a nanny must be able to manage your child's day efficiently, she must also be flexible enough to deal with any changes that are likely to come up.

Finally, your nanny must be able to work within your parenting plan. Do you want to limit the hours your children can watch TV? Would you like the nanny to play educational games with your child or sometimes have other children over for playdates? These are all necessary questions to focus on before hiring a nanny. Be sure that you are on the same page as your nanny, and that your parenting style won't conflict with her childcare style. Having realistic expectations of each other is the best way to ensure a healthy relationship with your nanny, and a written contract of expectations should be lined up before your nanny begins her first day.

You know what you need to look for in a nanny, but how can you know whether a certain candidate is the right fit for you? Read on to the next page for tips on how to interview for a nanny.


Interviewing Nannies

As with any other job interview, a potential nanny candidate needs to display her qualifications and show that she is a good fit for the expectations you have. Although it is important to feel a personal connection to a potential nanny, you don't want to lose sight of the necessary skills you require just because you enjoy talking to the candidate. Having a set list of interview questions will help you to narrow down the field of applicants and keep you focused as you hunt for the perfect nanny.

If you are conducting your nanny search on your own, you may want to do a phone interview first with any candidates who seem desirable. Your questions for a phone interview should consist of your bottom-line questions, and if a candidate doesn't answer them to your liking, don't bring her in for a face-to-face interview.


When interviewing a potential nanny, you will want to ask a mix of questions that help you to get a good feeling about the type of childcare provider the candidate is. First, get a feel for her last place of employment, especially if she was a nanny for another family. Understanding how she worked with that family and why she left will help you to evaluate how she would fit into your family.

Secondly, ask questions related to what you expect from your nanny. Does she feel comfortable with light housework? What is her style of discipline? These types of questions will reveal how her style lines up with your family's needs.

Also, don't be afraid to ask hypothetical questions to gauge how the candidate reacts to less-than-desirable situations. If your toddler is going through a phase of temper tantrums, how will your nanny handle this? Be realistic about what your child is like on a day-to-day basis, and don't be afraid to ask difficult questions.

When you think you have found the right candidate for your family, consider doing a paid trial run where the nanny babysits your children for a few hours. It is just as important that your children respond well to the nanny as it is that you do.

Before you hire your nanny, you should check her references. Read on to the next page for advice on how to do this efficiently and accurately.


Checking a Nanny's References

Looking for a nanny can be a long, exhausting process. Once you've been through the interview and found a nanny you really connect with, your first instinct may be to hire her on the spot. But no matter how much you like a potential nanny, you need to first check her references. A candidate might sell herself well, but a former employer's opinion and good reference is invaluable. If you've never hired a nanny before, you may be unsure how best to check references, but you don't need to worry. It is an essential step, but not a difficult one.

You should always ask an applicant for at least two childcare references that are not family members. Former employers are especially great references to consult. If a candidate seems reluctant to give references, this should be a warning sign, though it is reasonable that she ask you not contact her current employer if she hasn't given notice. Every applicant should expect you to check her references, and if she doesn't, she may not be someone you would like to hire.


When contacting a reference, introduce yourself, keep the call short and be prepared to call again at a more convenient time. Ask unbiased questions and listen carefully to the person's tone and enthusiasm. Although many will not definitively say not to hire someone, it may be easy to infer from the way someone talks about the candidate. Listen carefully and try not to interject.

If you want to understand how your nanny might react to a certain situation or task, don't be afraid to ask the reference. You can make a list of certain questions to ask to ensure that you make the most of your time speaking with a reference. Keep your questions consistent between each person you speak with in order to check for any differences in answers.

Check references to ensure that the person you are bringing into your child's life is the right one. It can reinforce your gut feeling about a candidate and help ensure that you find a nanny who will fit into your life. For more information, check out the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • "Checking Nanny References: How and Why." 2010 (Accessed 1/3/10).
  • "Nanny Interviewing Tips for Success." 2009 (Accessed 1/3/10).
  • BabyCenter. "Childcare Basics." 2010 (Accessed 1/3/10).
  • BabyCenter. "Legal requirements for employing a nanny." September 2006 (Accessed 1/3/10).
  • "Interview Questions to Ask a Potential Nanny." 2009 (Accessed 1/3/10).
  • "Live-in Nanny Interview Questions." 2009 (Accessed 1/3/10).
  • Clark, Helen. "Hiring a Nanny: A Road Map for Parents." NannyNetwork. 2010 (Accessed 1/3/10).
  • eNannySource. "Live-in nannies -- All you need to know." 2009 (Accessed 1/3/10).
  • eNannySource. "Screening, Interviewing and Nanny Background Checks. 2009 (Accessed 1/3/10).
  • International Nanny Association. "Frequently Asked Question -- A Nanny for Your Family." 2002 (Accessed 1/3/10).
  • Nannies4Hire. "Live-In Nannies." 2010 (Accessed 1/3/10).
  • NannyNetwork. "So I am thing about becoming a nanny…" 2010 (Accessed 1/3/10).
  • Riley, Ruth. "What is a Nanny?" 2009 (Accessed 1/3/10).