No matter how much you will it, Mary Poppins isn't going to float down from the sky and land on your doorstep. Instead, finding the right nanny can take quite a bit of searching, whether you're relying on word of mouth, sponsoring someone from overseas or using an online agency like Nannies Inc. and CanadianNanny.ca, which help to connect parents with local nannies. It's like online dating, but instead of seeking a soul mate, you're finding Mrs. Doubtfire!
Like with any job, interviewing is a crucial part of the process, which should begin a few months before you needs your caregiver to start. John Phillip Green, CEO and founder of CareGuide, which owns and operates CanadianNanny.ca, explains that parents can get the most out of a nanny interview by asking the right questions and trusting their own instincts. First, he recommends screening the best candidates on the phone—much like in the broader job market—to see if they check certain boxes on the family's nanny wish list. Depending on how those go, parents would then narrow the candidates down to a handful of top picks before scheduling more formal, in-person interviews, often held over 30 to 60 minutes in the family's home, which Green says allows potential candidates to “get a lay of the land.”
Once you’ve gotten to this stage, it’s just a matter of getting to know the individuals so you can select your perfect Nanny McPhee. You can always do an online search to see if they have a presence on social media, which could give insight into their hobbies and family life. Then, with a mix of questions covering each applicant’s relevant experience, lifestyle, ability to handle various scenarios and desires for the position, your in-person interview will offer a well-rounded sense of who you’d be welcoming into your home.
We’ve gathered a slew of sample questions that you should be asking during a nanny interview.
In past interviews he and his wife have conducted, Green prefers to order his questions chronologically, beginning with the candidate’s work history, and when you’re interviewing for a nanny position, you want to question the applicant specifically about their experience with children. It’s also a good idea to ask for references and request a background check if the agency hasn't already done both. Here are some relevant questions to ask:
Besides their past experience, you want to get to know your nanny personally. This means questioning candidates beyond basic information that you would have gathered during the initial phone interview. Instead, ask about their habits, interests and what they’re looking for in a family.
For Fern Brody, finding someone who was comfortable in a close family setting was really important. The working mom of two and her family have had a live-out nanny for the past three-and-a-half years. Brody encourages parents to be extremely upfront with their expectations and seek out someone whose personality and way of being match with what you’re looking for. “Look beyond the employer-employee relationship,” advises Brody. “Someone could potentially become a part of your family.” Some questions you can ask during the interview are:
In a similar manner to inquiring about experience, you want to ask your potential caregiver about their attitudes and approach to childcare. “If they say something that was interesting, like ‘I worked at daycare,’ then you sort of drill in on that,” says Green. You want to get to know what kind of philosophies they may bring to raising a child. Be sure to ask questions such as:
Once you’ve thoroughly questioned the candidate about their experience, lifestyle and overall approach to childcare, next throw some hypothetical scenarios their way, covering a broad range of topics like discipline and medical emergencies. This allows parents to understand how the nanny might react in certain critical situations, explains Brody, while also offering insight into their sense of judgment. Some scenario questions you can ask are:
Towards the end of the interview, you want to clearly define the job description to the candidate and ensure that they understand what is expected of them while in your household. This is where you can ask whether they are willing to assist with household chores or available to work extra hours when needed. It’s also important to give the applicant a chance to address their expectations from you—like their ideal salary, hours, number of children to care for, etc. Brody recommends that parents briefly introducing their kids to the prospective caregiver as well. “You can tell very quickly whether someone is comfortable with kids or not,” she says. Questions you can ask about the job itself include:
According to Green, questions about age, race, religion, sexual orientation and relationship status should be off the table. Yes, you want to get to know the potential caregiver personally, but there are boundaries. Families often don’t realize that they’re becoming an employer just like any other employer in Canada, so they need to adhere to all the labour laws that go with that. Green continues: “That includes discrimination law and employment laws around paying taxes and, statutory holidays and so on.”
Once you’ve concluded the first round of interviews and are able to narrow down the list of candidates to the top two or three, the next step from there is to arrange a kind of trial run, during which you invite the top candidates to spend a few hours or a day watching your children, during which time you can see them in action. Green explains that he and his wife will pay the candidates during this round. Depending on how those go, you can continue to funnel down your list until you’re confident in the last nanny standing!