15 Things You Should Ask a Potential Babysitter (Some Will Surprise You!)

nanny questionsHiring a nanny is a truly scary endeavor. Having just started a search for someone to watch my kids part-time and walk them to their various lessons after school, I know this better than anyone. We are in a new town where we know almost no one, so for us, good interview questions are a must.

But how do you really get at the heart of who someone is in an hour-long (or shorter) interview? We all know to ask about schedules and CPR training and experience with children. But there are other questions that are a little more unusual that can both break the ice and allow for a deeper insight into the character of the person you're considering for a position caring for your most precious possessions.

Here are 15 must-ask, highly unusual questions for potential nannies:

1.) What do you believe a child's role in society/a community is?

Jenni O'Connor is a former nanny and someone who has worked with young people for 10+ years in a variety of capacities. She is also the founder of witnesshumanity.com, a blog devoted to family travel. "This question will immediately inform a parent if the nanny they are interviewing views children as integral members of society or as 'challenges' to be controlled. A clear view on this topic is essential for consistent care that is in line with the views and beliefs of the family."

More from The Stir: Little White Lies Moms Tell Their Babysitters

2.) Can you give me examples on how you ensured the children in your care were learning and growing?

Ingrid Kellaghan, child-development expert and founder of Cambridge Nanny Group in Chicago, says that behavioral questions over traditional interview questions are the key to finding a good nanny. “Does her answer reflect that she's not just a babysitter?" Kellaghan says. "Did she plan activities that demonstrate her commitment to a child's cognitive, emotional, and physical development?"

3.) Tell me about a time when a personal circumstance or situation impacted, or had the potential to impact, your work. What happened and how did you handle it?

Kellaghan says: "Does her answer reflect that she's a responsible employee or a drama queen who has the potential to wreak havoc on your life?"

4.) You've got 8 hours to spend with my child and $50. What would you do?

This demonstrates enthusiasm and structure, says Amanda Raposo, the co-founder and president of Project Playdate, a New York City-based company that throws parties for little ones to link up with nannies who many choose to hire for private care. "Ideally you will hire someone that is not content with sitting at home and watching TV," Raposo says. "You want to know that this person can be an engaging and inspiring force in your child's life. The answer to this question will not only reveal creativity and enthusiasm, but also an ability to be organized, resourceful, and structured."

5.) If I walked into your room right now, what would I see?

The question helps the family know how the sitter or nanny organizes herself or himself. Also: "As she talks about specific items in her room (books, music, art, workout gear, etc.), you can gain insight into her interests and lifestyle," says Susan Robinson, the Vice President of Communications and Director of Cultural Care Kids First Foundation at EF, Education First. 

6.) How do you feel about taking care of a child with special needs?

Even if you don't have a child with special needs, the increasing rates of autism and ADHD mean your childcare provider may come into contact with special needs children in play groups or other social situations. "Her response will give you insight into her flexibility, temperament, confidence, and empathy," says Robinson.

7.) What does a family owe its child care provider?

This is a really great question that gets at the heart of compatibility, says Robinson. "A family learns about the candidate’s expectations -- both the material (salary, car, insurance) and the less tangible (respect, trust, a sense of humor)." That sounds like something we ALL need to know upfront, no?

8.) Do you have long-standing friendships? 

"It would be important to know that the person caring for my children was a friendly person and could easily get along with others and has the ability to form good relationships with people," says Kristy, a placement coordinator at Go Au Pair. "If the person didn't have long-standing friendships, it would lead me to believe that she/he might be a difficult person to get along with and may not be able to form a strong relationship with me and my children."

More from The Stir: 10 Requirements for the Perfect Babysitter

9.) Tell me some of the things you have accomplished that you are proud of. 

This is a clever one because it seems simple, but it actually tells you a lot about a person. "If their proudest moment was when they were able to eat 1,000 hot dogs in an eating contest, they might not have very high goals," says Kristy. Good point. Meanwhile, if their proudest accomplishment has more to do with selfless, loving behavior, they will likely be a good candidate.

10.) If you won a million dollars, how would you spend it?

This is a fun question that also reveals a lot about the person before you, says Kristy. Are they spending that money on their family? Or buying a diamond watch? Depending on who you are looking for, it's a quick way to get to know someone.

11.) What’s your five-year plan?

"It’s important to gauge how long your candidate plans on being your nanny, and how seriously she takes her career," says Katie Bugbee, managing editor of Care.com. "No, he or she isn’t interviewing at a Fortune 500 company. She’s probably meeting you at a coffee shop. But, she should still have an answer to this question."

12.) Can I be your Facebook friend?

"I love to see a candidate’s reaction to this question. Sometimes I throw it in at the end of an interview. If the immediate answer is yes! Great. He or she has nothing to hide. But, if they are hesitant, it makes me worried," says Bugbee.

13.) What would you do if you got locked out of my house without your keys, your phone -- and my kids were inside?

"I like questions where you can test a potential babysitter’s on-the-spot reaction. My babysitter said, 'I’d take that brick and smash that window open. I’m sorry, but that’s what I’d do,'" says Bugbee. "I liked that answer and hired her. And I haven’t moved the brick."

14.) What is your blood type?

If a sitter doesn't know her blood type, it COULD mean she isn't likely to be serious about the health and well-being of your child, says Bugbee.

15.) Do you blog?

"It’s important that you know your candidates’ Internet habits," Bugbee says. If your candidates are always online, then your children might also start showing up online as well. It’s important to be aware of their online usage in order to protect your family’s privacy. 

What do you ask potential sitters?


Image via andjohan/Flickr



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worki... workingmama86

along with asking questions, it's very important to contact references and do a criminal background check. Anyone can lie when questioned. 

LoveM... LoveMyKBabies

I think some of those questions are very personal, some just completely random & shouldn't be asked. Why do you need to know their blood type!? My DH doesn't know his & he is wonderful with kids & would make sure they got medical attention if needed it. He is also CPR certified. If they're bloggers & you don't want your family mentioned, have them sign something that makes it illegal for them to do so. I would find a fun, responsible, playful person without a criminal record to watch my kids.

nonmember avatar Cass

You have two 13.s and I'd walk out the door if half of these came up in a an interview. I get that you want someone perfect for your precious snowflake. The sitter wants a job with a sane boss. Be sure those two don't conflict. Yes, ask about the sitter's education if that's important to you. Their blood type and the cleanliness of their room? Not important whatsoever and way overstepping your bounds as an employer. 4, 6, 9, and the first 13 are okay, although I can't fathom why anybody would ask about a child with special needs if theirs is fine. Seriously people- it doesn't matter if your babysitter is a virulent racist, hardcore fetishist, and thinks that the rapture is coming. It just matters that they care for your kid and entertain them within the bounds of your limits. I assure you, you aren't paying your babysitter enough for them to want to put up with you meddling in their private lives.

purpl... purpleflower514

I have one sitter and she is my husband's college age coworker (one of the fun things about the military is a wide range of ages in the workplace). She is smart (has to be to work in the shop my husband is in) and sweet (she radiates sweetness) and my kids loved her right away. No stupid qyestions required (heck, I do not even know her major because it isnt any indicator as to how well she will care for my children).

nonmember avatar kat

I guess I define "babysitter" and "nanny" differently. The former seems to be more sporadic and/or short-term, and the latter, not so much. I don't think I was ever asked any of these questions for either position less than a decade ago, when I was a teenage babysitter. I was, however, often recommended by word of mouth, since I worked at an after school program with most of the kids I wound up babysitting. That said, some of these questions seem a little off-base. I'd rather ask someone to just produce the documentation for a CPR/first aid class than ask if they know their blood type. Also, on once you're added on Facebook, that doesn't mean you can see everything the other person posts--they could put you in a group that sees only certain updates, and you might never know it. I guess, in the end, I'd ask some of these of a college-age nanny, but a high school babysitter? Nah.

psych... psychofab

I think 5, 8, 12, and 15 are too much. My bedroom is none of your business. My friendships are none of your business unless they are affecting my work. No, you cannot be my facebook friend because I keep work and social as separate as possible and I don't believe you need to be in on my inside jokes. 15 I can kind of see, but I still wouldn't appreciate giving out this information.

nonmember avatar JEN526

I am currently a family (working for a doctor & lawyer) and before this job I worked at a preschool. When interviewing for my currently family - I was never asked any of those questions, although as did add me on Facebook as soon as I left my interview which I quickly accepted, I have nothing to hide. I do not know my blood type and I don't see what that has to do with anything. I would do anything for these kids and take amazing care of them. Just talking to someone, you can learn a lot.

the4m... the4mutts

I would answer most of these like this "with all due respect, I prefer to keep my personal life to myself. May I please tell you what I feel makes me qualified to care for your children?"

Snake... Snakecharmer76

oh wow these questions are highly invasive and most of them are totally irrelevant (knowing you blood type makes you care more about someone's kids?!?! Really??). Also, am I the only person who sees a stark distinction between hiring a babysitter and hiring a nanny? The former is usually on a casual basis for a few hours and can be a responsible teenager...the other is usually older and has a very specific schedule where the expectations (and therefore the pay) are higher. I feel like people are blurring the two together far too much these days!

femal... femaleMIKE

number 8 might actually be an illegal question.  I get that you are looking to see if she can keep friends.  Sometimes "friend" can be interpreted as a boyfriend. 

I wouldn't ask any of these questions.   If i won a million dollars, i would pay off all my debt and go on several vacations.  would you hire me?

I am very responsible around kids and myself,  I just learned my blood type at my prenatal apt. last week.

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