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Looking for Mary Poppins

Hiring a nanny is super stressful. I know, I’ve been there. These are a few helpful questions to ask when in search of Mary Poppins:

Start with a telephone interview. State the start date, hours and salary. If your alarm bell is going off or this person is not a good fit, move on. If you like the answers the prospective nanny is giving you, discuss the responsibilities you’re looking for. You’ll go into greater detail in person when you meet face-to-face.

General Questions and Topics to Discuss with Your Potential Nanny:
Describe your ideal family/employer.

How do you comfort children? How do you deal with separation anxiety?

How do you discipline a child? Give me an example of a previous discipline problem and how you handled it.

How do you feel about playdates, and what are your favorite activities to do with a child?

Discuss your expectations on the types of activities that you want your child to be involved with throughout the week.

Do you smoke? If so, bye bye.

Are you willing to do light chores while the child is sleeping? Be very clear what housework you would like to be done if they’re willing to do any. This can get sticky once you hire a nanny if they were not expecting to take on the required housework. Tension can mount very quickly. Note that it is typical for a full-time nanny to straighten and/or clean the child’s space.

Will you stay late? Babysit on the weekend?

It is imperative that you (the employer) make a personal copy of their driver’s license and/or passport. This allows you to do a criminal search online before hiring, and if there were ever to be a problem, you have copies to provide to the authorities.

Questions About Safety:
CPR and Infant/Child First Aid certifications

Crib safety

Address safety concerns such as car seat installation and helmet use (scooters and bikes for older kids)—and for those mamas in NYC or an equivalent metro, taxi safety needs to be addressed

Choking hazards—cut food into strips to avoid choking (hot dogs and grapes, this is a huge requirement for my nanny)

Familiar with 911, Poison Control numbers, local hospitals—where to go in the neighborhood in general

Questions About Previous Experience:
What previous experience do you have?

How many families have you regularly babysat for in the past?

Describe your last childcare experience and why it ended?

What are the ages of the children you’ve looked after?

What is the most important thing you’ve learned from your previous experience?

Can you provide me with the names and addresses of two previous employers? If not, why?

Use references to confirm facts that your potential nanny has told you. Verify details of employment, job title, year in school or when graduated, and other fact-based questions. This helps to validate the truthfulness of the reference. I once had a reference call, and the nanny had lied. Not smart.

Specify your schedule

Discuss pay schedule

Holiday pay

Will you pay for holidays?

Number of sick days


Gas money

Metro Card for those NYC-ers

Required start date

Discuss any probationary period

I’ve also had several friends audition the finalists to observe the chemistry between the child and the nanny. If any of you mamas want to add to this list, we would love to hear from you.


Monday 18th of June 2012

And I would also emphasize that even if your candidate aced the interview and totally impressed you with her answers to your questions, it's still best to trust you instincts. If something deep within you just doesn't feel she's the right one, then listen to it.


Wednesday 13th of June 2012

Part of the process of hiring a nanny can include coming up with a job description so that potential candidates can assess whether a nanny position with your family is an ideal match. In order to come up with the best possible pool of candidates, being clear on what you’re looking for in your nanny job description is essential. Here are some of the things you should think about.

Before you write a nanny job description, first sit down and write a list of essentials that your nanny must have. Then create a secondary list of “pluses”, which include things you would like your nanny to be able to do, but aren’t essential.

The nanny job description should clearly identify key important areas that you’d like your nanny to have. These include what types of hours you’d like your nanny to fulfill, whether she’ll be live-in or live-out, the age of your child or children, the amount of experience she has, and whether you require any special certifications like CPR training.

Next on the order...


Tuesday 12th of June 2012

You are so right, Ingrid, about us being fortunate for having day care services. There are countries, especially in Asia, where day care centers are unheard of and you really need a nanny if you are a two-income household. My sister married an Asian and she needed to get a nanny to take care of her baby when she works. It's a trial-and-error kind of thing, she says... which is actually very difficult and sometimes risky considering that we are talking of our babies! And she says that finding someone who would stay long is just as hard as finding someone trustworthy.


Monday 11th of June 2012

Yes, you can say that again! Getting the right nanny is such a stressful and sometimes even heartbreaking process! I think we're lucky, though, because we have day care centers or child care services where we could entrust our little kids when we have to work.