Published on The Bump: https://www.thebump.com/a/how-to-find-good-nanny
Whether you’re returning to work or simply need an extra pair of hands, childcare is a non-negotiable for many families. But with prices on the rise and daycare centers rapidly filling up, it can be difficult to find appropriate help. That’s why many families are turning to live-in, live-out, full-time or part-time nannies to fill the gap. A nanny is an experienced provider who comes to your home and cares for your child (or children) based on an agreed-upon schedule. Hiring a nanny isn’t easy (or inexpensive), but it can also be a total game changer, freeing you up to work and get things done.
Scratching your head and wondering how to find a nanny? We’re here to help. Read our step-by-step guide on how to research your options, draft a job description, interview potential candidates and make a suitable offer.
In this article:
Step 1: Do your research
Step 2: Consider your needs and draft a job description
Step 3: Start the interview process
Step 4: Check background and references
Step 5: Make a smart offer
Begin your nanny search by doing some due diligence. Start off by asking friends and family for recommendations; head online to caregiver listings websites, local message boards and college job boards or send a general inquiry to a local nanny placement agency. Lindsay Thomason, founder and CEO of The Nanny League, a placement agency that matches families with college-educated nannies, advises parents to set aside at least one month to source and thoroughly vet candidates. Of course, every situation is different and you may need even more time. It can take a while to find someone you click with, and it’s not uncommon for there to be heated competition with other families; your ideal candidate could accept another position, further lengthening your search. Below, find a few resources that will help you find a nanny.
Caregiver listing sites allow users to search an online database of prescreened providers. These websites provide lots of information about a nanny, such as their experience, availability, salary requirements, background checks and references, to help you decide whether you want to meet them. These are a few popular online destinations to check out:
A placement agency recruits nannies and matches them with families in need of childcare. Agencies take on a lot of the legwork when hiring a nanny, and this often comes at a premium. So what’s the advantage of using an agency? “Agencies are a great route for families that are pressed for time and especially for first-time nanny employers. The agency can cut 40-plus hours of effort out of the hiring process,” says Kathleen Webb, co-founder of the company that runs NannyNetwork.com. An agency prescreens nannies and interviews couples to get a detailed snapshot of what they’re looking for and will send only those candidates’ portfolios that meet established requirements. Once a nanny is selected, agencies will help their clients prepare the employment offer and work agreement; some agencies even offer continual payroll support and mediation and conflict resolution services after the hiring process.
If you find a nanny through an agency, the fee will typically be 10 to 18 percent of the nanny’s annual salary. Nannies’ salaries can vastly vary, depending on location, contracted hours, the number of kids being cared for and their level of experience and education. Conducting an agency search? Here are a couple of nanny placement agencies to consider:
Of course, caregiver listing sites or nanny placement agencies aren’t the only ways to look for potential candidates. Personal recommendations, local job boards or even social media sites can help you in your search for the perfect nanny.
Parents tend to focus on the immediate needs of their newborn—basically, the need for a warm and nurturing caregiver—but Katie Bugbee, former executive editor at Care.com, says that parents should think beyond their 3-month-old. “Consider your child going from sitting to crawling, walking, running, jumping and leaping. Think of whom you want to handle discipline and control tantrums. A great nanny is someone who can grow with your child and challenge them along the way.” And while a nanny is there to care for your child, don’t forget to consider the needs of your entire family, as this person will become part of your day-to-day lives. When vetting potential candidates, Thomason looks for people with a positive attitude and professional demeanor, who can also anticipate a family’s needs without any hand-holding.
Finding a nanny that’s the right fit for your family is a personal process, so take some time to brainstorm the key qualities you’re looking for in a candidate. It may also be helpful to ask friends who have older children what they think are the most important attributes to look for in a nanny. Make a list of priorities and refer back to it when drafting a job description. Try to be as detailed as possible, and include information on daily tasks, personal qualities and working hours. Every job description will differ, depending on baby’s age and individual needs, but here are a few things you could include:
Don’t forget to list any special requirements, such as having a driver’s license or first-aid certification, as this will help filter potential candidates.
Posted an ad and received some interest? Narrow down the potential pool of candidates using the criteria listed in your job description. Once you’ve settled on three to five nannies as the best candidates, the interview process can begin.
After scheduling an interview, create a list of questions to ask them. Remember interviews can be nerve-wracking for both parties so start off with some open-ended questions to ease your way into a free-flowing conversation. Thomason recommends asking some of the following questions:
Once you’ve got a feel for their personality, move onto situation-based questions. Bugbee recommends that parents ask questions they think the nanny doesn’t expect. This will reduce the number of canned responses and will hopefully get to some truths. She also recommends asking lots of “what if” questions, such as “What would you do if you got locked out of the house with the kids?” or “What would you do if my daughter fell and hit her head?” This will get you a sense of how a nanny would handle an emergency. “You want to allow a candidate to think on their feet, since that’s what they’d be doing if an urgent situation happened,” Bugbee adds.
Dig a little deeper and ask questions to find out what a nanny’s discipline strategy is. “There are so many different parenting styles, so you want to make sure your nanny’s views and practices around discipline align with yours,” says Thomason.
You’ll also want to get a sense of their energy level and creativity, advises Bugbee. Ask, “What kinds of activities do you like to do with kids?” See if they have ideas for things to do that don’t necessarily cost a lot of money. You want someone who will actively play with your child, not just sit and watch.
As part of the interview process, have the candidate meet your child. Thomason suggests setting up a two-hour paid trial to observe how a nanny interacts with your little one before extending an offer. Does the nanny seem to enjoy it? Do they seem engaged? Confident? Take a moment to see what your child’s response is. Ideally, they’ll enjoy the interaction, but if they are tired or shy, you can always have a favored candidate return for a second (paid!) visit with your child to see how they get along.
Found the perfect candidate? Congratulations! Before moving onto the next step, it’s important to do some official fact-checking. If you used a caregiver listing site, job board or went off a personal recommendation, ask for references from previous employers and call to speak to them directly. Most nanny placement agencies will have vetted candidate’s job references ahead of time, but you can always ask for a copy for added peace of mind.
Once you think you’ve settled on a nanny, you’ll want to run a background check to be sure they don’t have a criminal record. Caregiver listing sites run basic checks, but it’s best to arrange a private background check. You can use a site like Intelius.com, which will provide you with a full background check for a fee, usually about $60 to $175, depending on how comprehensive the search is.
After you’ve made an official decision, it’s time to make an offer. But how much should you pay? Nannies’ salaries and benefits vary and are based on the specific job requirements, experience level, education, background, location and more.
Most professional nannies will have a predetermined rate, based on their qualifications and prior experience, but if they don’t it’s important that you pay them fairly. “Legally, nannies are considered household employees and have to be compensated hourly,” says Thomason. Online tools like Care.com’s Babysitter Calculator can help you to find out the average per hour cost of a nanny in your zip code. You can also ask around to see what other parents you know pay their nannies. But it’s important to note that a nanny’s hourly rate of pay must meet or exceed your state’s minimum wage requirement.
Furthermore, just like other employers, you’ll need to set policies for vacation time, sick days and overtime. Thomason recommends hiring a professional payroll service like HomePay or GTM to handle these logistical details.
It’s important to draft a comprehensive employment contract, so you can be sure everyone’s on the same page. “This protects you and the nanny. It makes everything straightforward,” says Bugbee. “Put your discipline policy in there and anything you don’t want your nanny to do, like talking on their cell phone in the car or in the house when the baby is up.” If you plan to use a nanny cam, make sure to add this to the contract, as you are legally obliged to notify a nanny if there are cameras in the home. Aside from this, the International Nanny Association (INI) recommends adding the following details to an employment contract with your nanny:
Once you have drafted a contract, both parties should review, sign and date it. Remember to keep a copy for your records.
Hiring a nanny is a process, and you may encounter some hiccups along the way. You want to find someone who will take good care of your little one. Doing the work now will pay off later.