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assessing references for a potential nanny(16 Posts)
We are in the process of hiring a nanny and after interviewing over the last couple of weekends we offered the job to our first choice yesterday, whom we interviewed in the first place because we had used her a couple of times as an emergency nanny and been very impressed. She seems keen and has forwarded all her references, referee contact details etc. The references - which we also read at interview - are all good - and not just standard but quite detailed, convincing etc - but I have now spoken to two of them in person and on the phone they were a bit more mixed. One was still very positive with just a couple of niggles - and said herself she thought they could have been ironed out with better communication. The other is more mixed and seemed torn between genuine good points (excellent with the child, very reliable etc) and some drawbacks - some of which overlapped with points made by the other referee, others didn't. A couple of things I think we would mind less about than the referees in any case - e.g. not a great cook, but DS is with a childminder at the moment and just has packed lunches, so any lunchtime cooking would be a bonus really.
Nothing either said is enough to make me feel we definitely shouldn't employ her, but on the other hand they have raised some doubts and I don't know what the etiquette is in this situation. Should I ask to discuss some of these issues with her and see what she says? Has any been in a similar situation and how did they handle it?
I would discuss them with the nanny and see what she says.
I was a nanny for a family for about 8 mths before I moved away. We kept in touch, met for coffee when I came back to the area, sent birthday gifts back and forth etc.
I got a new job as a nanny and gave previous family as reference - as Mum had said was happy to - and the reference pulled up a few things that at no point had been discussed with me and could have gone against me. Fortunately I had glowing verbal references from 2 other families so it wasn't a problem but it could have been. I was quite upset too as felt she had said these things without even discussing them with me - and they were silly niggles/crossed wires which easily have been resolved had something been said.
Thanks daiso that sounds sensible. I'm going to discuss it with DH - he's away at the moment - and then probably suggest that the nanny gives me a call to discuss the issues that have been raised.
It's a tricky one. Giving a glowing reference on paper and then a less than glowing one in person doesn't make me think much of the other families. They should at least have made the nanny aware of any issues they had.
Are these niggles factual things like lateness/number of days off sick or more opinion based e.g. the nanny was rude/lazy/difficult?
No they are both very clear that she was v. reliable, punctual, never off sick etc, so no issues there. The common factor in both seems to be mostly about communication - both said that they thought the problems that did arise could have been avoided if they had been clearer about exactly what was expected (e.g. how much tidying constitutes 'tidying up' at the end of the day, or exactly what they consider to be naughty behaviour, or a suitable lunch or whatever). One referee (the more critical one) was one 'half' of the nanny share and clearly things had not gone well with the other family, and the lady I spoke to was trying to be fair and suggest that there was fault for this on both sides. She said that she had given the good written reference because the nanny was very good with her little boy who loved her and still asks after her, so she thought that was the main thing. Also that job was maternity cover for a nanny share while their (much-loved) regular nanny was on mat leave, which sounds like quite a difficult situation all round really.
Most paper references will be better than the verbal ones.
Unless the verbal ones are dreadful i would consider them things to work on when she starts - if its food, make sure you go through in detail meals you would like cooked, make sure they can cook them and if they can't, show your nanny and provide recipe cards.
you basically don't want anyone - unpunctual, dishonest, unreliable (or with a poor sickness record), lazy or a smoker.
Communication is two way. Perhaps the families were not good at communicating their wishes, perhaps the nanny was not good at communicating any issues that arose. People have different standards - what constitutes tidying up. Today I picked up the jigsaw pieces the youngest had scattered over the kitchen floor but I did not hover the floor.
If you need things to be very tidy at the end of the day, then you need to be clear on that from the start. Perhaps the family were not clear on that, did not talk to nanny about it during probation period.
It is hard to know, go by your gut feeling. Are the families identifying things that would be a problem to you? If so, talk to the nanny about your Standards for those things.
I would not say directly what a referee said in a verbal conversation, as people will say more than they would write. Making the nanny aware of your standards for things though before they start is a good idea, also discuss how you will communicate with each other. My boss and I use email, text, phone occasionally, brief chats, digital calendars. Come up with ways in which you will communicate with your nanny, make sure they are happy with that and know that for there for be a good employer:employee relationship, there needs to be open communication between all involved.
Thanks both. After thinking about it and discussing with DH, I texted the nanny to say I'd spoken to two referees and the references were good but there were a couple of things I'd like to discuss more and could we speak on the phone at a convenient moment. She texted back immediately to say I could call then and we had a good conversation I think. I tried to be clear and professional - I didn't report verbatim the other's comments but asked for her perspective on three particular areas - stressing that I was interested in her input. I was impressed that she wasn't defensive and though one or two remarks sounded a bit 'excuse-y' most of what she said seemed pretty reasonable. I thanked her at the end for being so open and helpful in a potentially difficult conversation and she said she was grateful that I had raised the queries with her immediately. She has emailed this evening with contact details for a fourth referee for me to follow up. Overall I think this is a good sign - I'm sure she's not perfect and I certainly found the conversations useful as karole says in terms of working out what we need to be very clear about, but I thought it was encouraging that we had been able to talk quite straightforwardly. Although one of the referees had obviously found communication a bit difficult, both DH and I felt she someone we would be able to communicate with - that could be just a matter of personality I suppose. nannynick I think you're right, and in fact both the people I spoke to admitted they were partly to blame for not being clear enough themselves.
The only thing that would concern me is, could she be lacking in common sense? How far off was she on the definition of tidying up/healthy lunch etc? I would organise a second interview and as well as gently raising any issues that came up from the references, ask her some 'what would you do if...' type questions and see what she says.
It's really important when you do hire someone to keep the lines of communication open. Tell them immediately when they're do something wrong so they can correct and make sure they're happy to talk to you about any concerns they have.
Actually re: the tidying up the woman I spoke to did admit that she was "a bit obsessive" about things being tidy and the nanny corroborated that; so I think it was probably not so much lack of common sense as maybe a bit of a personality mismatch. Communication is obviously the key.
Hi kalisada. Our nanny had similar comments from one of her referees - not a very imaginative cook and one or two miscommunication episodes. Otherwise however her referees were very positive.
As you say, we felt cooking wasn't so important, and we felt she was someone we could communicate with. So far neither of these things has been even slightly an issue and she has been fab.
Your potential nanny sounds good to me
I think nanny shares can be the trickiest with respect to communication. Often there are 3 invested parties in every issue. If the families are not a brilliant and understanding match for each other it can be very difficult for the nanny however fab they are.
Nanny shares are so hard as the nanny is possibly trying to please 4 people. Sometimes in non share jobs the mb and db differ opinions in stuff - add in another 2 adults and often they disagree/want diff stuff
Take food for example one family may be ok with fish fingers and woffles and beans - other wants salmon mash and peas
I am daily tidy but have worked for very untidy and also OCD - both are as bad as each other in sanity /annoyance stakes
As long as you are clear in the beginning then can be sorted
If a nanny is punctual - healthy - loving and honest (happy to talk to you) that's a good start and sounds like this nanny is so employ her
Thanks all. Yes, I got the impression that one family was verging towards the OCD and the other was a bit slovenly! Sounds like a bit of a nightmare as an employee I agree, especially as both are "equally" your employers, there's not really one who is more the boss.
Anyway, we have decided to proceed and we are now negotiating the details of the contract etc. Thanks for your input everyone!
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