Hiring 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:
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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."
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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."
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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 © iStock.com/Marcus Lindstrom