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How to hire the right caregiver, nanny or au pair

Each year, over 30,000 families find their nannies, au pairs, babysitters, tutors, housekeepers, pet sitters and senior care providers through GreatAuPair. Our collective experience has helped us define an approach that may serve as a guide to your success.

Click here to learn how to use GreatAuPair to find a care provider job as an Au Pair, Nanny, Sitter or Cargiver. Or Click here to learn how to use GreatAuPair to find Care Providers for your family.

Once you have defined your general requirements and you've found several interesting caregiver candidates, you can start interviewing. This is the phase where you want to be quick and decisive to identify your top three candidates. Don't pin all your hopes on one candidate as caregivers may also be in discussions with other families.

During the interview process you will want to consider the following factors as you narrow your list of candidates and make your final decision.

1. Ask the question - Why us?

What specifically attracted the candidate to your position? If they have no particular reasons, then you could be one of many families to them and that doesn't make for a special experience. You want to be overwhelmingly chosen by your final candidates - for reasons that you believe are valid.

2. Confirm driving record & driving skills

If driving is required, make sure that you inquire about their driving record. Ask direct questions about practical experience and accidents. You can verify their stories by ordering a motor vehicle records search. Many candidates will say they can drive, when in truth, they have little or no experience behind the wheel. You are placing the lives of your children into the hands of an aupair or nanny every time they step behind the wheel. So choose wisely! Even after you've hired your ideal candidate, evaluate their driving skills when they arrive and if you are not comfortable with their proficiency level, arrange for time to practice driving in order to help them improve their driving skills.

3. Determine the candidate's motivations

Be sure to identify why the candidate wants to be a nanny or an aupair. If the first reason they mention is that they want to make enough money to buy a car or go to college, then you should be suspect. You want your candidate's first reasons to relate to their love of working with children, or their interest and experience in this line of work.

4. Verify everything

Check and verify all references and be sure to order criminal background checks. When checking references, ask yourself if you feel your standards are similar to those of the person providing you the reference. Someone with lower standards may have nothing but good things to say about your candidate whereas someone with higher standards may have been disappointed.

Also be sure that you verify the source of your references as who they say they are. Some candidates may have you call a relative or friend who could pose as a previous employer. Verify everything.

You should also consider the disposition, energy and compatibility of the candidate. Your home is your sacred space. You have to choose the right influence for your family or your home will not feel like home any longer. If you choose someone that is too incompatible with your family, there will be disharmony. You need to make sure that you have similar values, and that the candidate's energy has a positive impact on the family.

5. Trust your intuition

Even when all the reference and background checks are free of alarming incidences, if there is something that concerns you that you can't even put your finger on, then pass. Often, your intuition is your most reliable resource. There are many good candidates out there and you should never have to settle. These are your children that you are talking about and you need to ensure their safety and well-being.

6. An issue of the heart

Finding the right candidate is truly an issue of the heart. You can have a candidate that is well educated, or of a mature age and even experienced, but if she is lacking heart, your children will suffer. What are we asking our childcare providers to do? Aren't we asking them to be the parent's substitute in our absence? What do we do as parents? We serve in love and humility. It sounds simple, but it is sacred and beautiful. So, ideally we are looking for someone who has a humble and loving heart, someone that wants to make a difference in a family's life, someone that cares about the lives with which they are entrusted. It is a tall order - and it should be - where our kids are concerned.

7. Understand your candidate's priorities

You want to find someone whose priority is your family and not their social calendar. A caregiver's work should come first and they should put their heart into their work. If someone seems more concerned about their social life or calendar of events than the actual work that they will be doing, then it's a good indication that the candidate will be more concerned about themselves than your family.

8. Seek candidates who will give more than they take

Try to identify the candidates that come on strongly with the "What's in it for me" type attitude. These types of candidates will inevitably be more selfish and "taking" as opposed to selfless and giving. If the aupair or nanny seems overly concerned about how much money they are going to make, their benefits, overtime-pay, paid vacations, unlimited use of a car, etc. you may have a problem on your hands. Normal interest in being justly compensated is to be expected, but if a candidate is in negotiation with several families and their deciding factor will be the money and benefits package, then you would be hiring someone that is in this business for the wrong reasons.

9. Evaluate responsiveness & follow-through

You want to find a candidate that is truly interested in your family and that is appreciative of the opportunity that you are offering. One of the ways that you can identify if someone is appreciative of and truly interested in your opportunity is to notice how responsive they are throughout the interview process.

  1. Do they deliver on their promises and commitments in a timely manner?
  2. Do they respond to your emails and return your calls in a timely manner?
  3. Do they ask for your references in order to contact your previous childcare providers and gain further insight into your family?
  4. Do they make an effort to stay in touch with you throughout the interview process?

These actions are all indicative of who they are so keep your eyes open for tell-tale signs of good communication and responsibility.

10. Be sure communications are open & easy

Do you feel comfortable when talking to the candidate over the phone or is your conversation stiff and uneasy? Is the candidate open and communicative? Does she/he laugh easily and reach out in conversation? There may be some issues with the language barrier or the phone connection, but nine times out of ten, the way they are on the phone is the way they are in real life. So if you don't feel comfortable talking to them over the phone you probably won't feel comfortable with them in person. Don't accept excuses of "oh I'm just so nervous". You don't want someone who is easily intimidated. Taking care of kids requires confidence and energy. Look for it in your candidates.

11. Seek candidates who are genuine

Often times we will hear candidates that say all the right things but their walk doesn't match their talk. You don't want someone that just sounds good on paper; you want someone that is all they claim to be. Check and verify all references. Trust your intuition. Look for signs of inconsistency in their story. One quality that is indicative of someone that is genuine is consistency. You are looking for someone that is consistent in tone, manner, and all communications. Challenge the inconsistencies. If you get the run-around, pass. Your children are the best judge of this. They can intuitively tell if someone is just going through the motions or if they genuinely care. You want someone who really cares.

12. It's a learning experience

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, with the best reference checking and candidate evaluation, you will find that the aupair or nanny that you have selected is not the right match for your family. Ideally you want to make the best choice going in, but there may be certain unknowns that won't surface until after the candidate is already with your family. If you should find yourself in this situation don't be afraid to admit the truth and start over again. It may seem like a waste of time, money and effort, but take it as a learning experience and move on. You are better off starting fresh than trying to salvage something that you know just isn't right.

13. Enjoy the process

Hopefully now you are a little more prepared to hire the right aupair or nanny. Have fun with the process. We sincerely wish you the best of luck with your search and hope that you will find a great aupair or nanny for your family and possibly a friend for life!