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Calling nanny refs - what should I ask? What comments are alarm bells?(10 Posts)
What key Qs should I ask ex employers and shuld I be reading between the lines on any comments?
One thing about refs generally - don't accept mobile numbers and yahoo addresses only. You need something to identify that they are a real person - address, place of work etc and not a mate. Check that the details the nanny has given about the job match what the reference is saying. Always ask: would you employ them again? I have sometimes had interesting answers when I've asked : is there anything you did differently when you employed the next nanny. Which can sometimes give a clue.
I have to say that I've had three nannies, and three au pairs at this point. Of the nannies one was great, one was absolutely rubbish, another had significant health and attendance problems which were not disclosed to me. Although she was a lovely person and great witht he DCs. Two v strong au pairs and one jury-ish out but will probs get there.
I've only ever been given positive references.
I would follow up the references with a phone call
From experience I would say that a reference which is extremely factual (eg x looked after y for 2 months ....) with little elaboration may be a warning sign.
So be wary of the following:
Great with the kids but no mention of relationship with parents. Ask specifically how nanny got on with mum and dad.
Ideally suited to single parent family = caused problems in relationship. I say this about one of my ex Nannies. She had an inappropriate relationship with my now XH.
Look for the things they don't mention e.g no mention of punctuality = late; no mention of money = spent too much from petty cash etc
Very good with babies/young children or very good with older ones- ask why not with others if relevant
For live in roles ask lots of questions about what they are like to live with, how do they interact with kids when you are there and they are not working.
Hope this helps.
Gin/OP one thing is I guess I would only mention some of those things like lateness if it WERE a problem. Because for me it's so basic they need to be on time if I'm giving an otherwise decent reference, it means it wasn't an issue. But it's a good question to ask.
Ask for an example of a time when they had to ask the nanny to do something differently - what were the circs, did they take it well at the time, and did they do it immediately or did they have to remind several times to change.
What kind of support is she likely to need? i.e. very detailed written schedule, lots of feedback, or more of directions to the school and she'll get on with it.
I completely agree with the first comment GinandChocolate made (I have written that on a reference!!
Don't assume that because something isn't mentioned it was a problem. Sorry, but that's a really duff bit of advice. Many parents giving these references do not do this for a job and will say the things that were important to them! If the nanny was never late, it wasn't an issue - they are hardly likely to even give it a thought.
Definitely ask about:
- If they children are old enough to be asked - did they like him/her? What would they like another nanny to do differently (tells you more!!).
- What was their general attitude? (Happy, positive, cheerful (not to the point of vomit inducing though!) OR tired, negative, grumpy.)
- Time keeping
- Attitude if you are stuck in traffic or something else unavoidable happens & you are late
-Willing to muck in & help out with things (pick up some bits/dry cleaning etc or were they very 'not my job')
- Reliable - did they remember things that were scheduled, things the children needed (for nursery/school etc)
- Was sh/he affectionate with the children
- Their side of why the nanny is leaving them
& definitely, would they employ him/her again - if not, why not.
I would ask what were their strongest points and what were their weakest points - and probe if necessary. As someone else mentioned, people usually write good references but will tell you different things over the phone - written refs can be very carefully crafted and mention just the good points, so sometimes you need to read between the lines and ask about what was not mentioned. If the position is live-in, ask what the nanny was like to live with, if she was easy-going, discreet, tidy, respectful of family's privacy, etc. Generally, a written reference that is gushing (she was the best nanny we ever had, she became part of the family, she will be sorely missed by all of us, she was absolutely outstanding, etc.) will be a good unqualified reference even if you call the parents. One that is purely descriptive about nanny's role/tasks suggests some problems between parents and nanny. Always ask why the nanny left and if they would employ the nanny again.
For me the key qn is, as peony says, would you employ her again?. It unsticks even the nicest of mums, and allows for a very full understanding to pass between mums without anything derogotary, defamtory or otherwise unpleasant actually being aired. People usually like to be 'nice' (you wouldn't get the phone number if the nanny thought the relationship had been bad) but this qn always gives very illuminating answers
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