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top tips for choosing a nanny

26 replies

hatstand · 14/06/2005 13:07

anyone got any? Particularly how would you rate the importance of:

  1. how they are with the kids
  2. how much initiative with regard to organising activities (someone you could happily leave to it vs someone who'll need guidance)
  3. not having a qualification and therefore difficult to guage how they might be with regard to safety and first aid, and with regard to mkaing the link between fun activities and their educational value
  4. whether you personally click with them
  5. whether their circumstances/what they want out of a job match what you're offering (ie if they are really after f-t but you're offering p-t - even if they accept the job they might bugger off if something f-t comes along)

    This is the third time I've had to do this and you think I would have got the hang of it, but I think I feel more uncertain than ever. I've found someone who pretty much gets 10/10 for nos. 1, 4, 5, but not so high on 2 and 3...
OP posts:

hatstand · 14/06/2005 13:13

re no. 5 - my main motivation for this is coz I crave someone who's going to stick around for as long as possible. I hate the idea of my kids having a "string" of nannies - the less the better imo

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SoftFroggie · 14/06/2005 15:50

I've never yet 'done it' at all, but my views on 2 & 3 are:
2 - can you organise something into each day (singin group / toddlers / specify outing / whatever) then leave them to do something with the kids the rest of the day?

3 - send her on a first aid course. pay for it yourself if need be. WRT safety, I think a good amount of common sense and what Libby Purves calls "morbid imagination" beats training. WRT activities / eductational value I'd prompt them to do something outside (likely to cover gross motor skills); something crafty / drawing etc (fine motor skills); some singing, reading etc. Pretty few SAHPs explicitly say "I do baking because the children learn things from the following areas..." most say "I do baking beacuse it's a good thing to do".

I've currently got a childcare student on placement with me. Whilst she's had the training, I don't think she'll ever click about the fun activities / education link when she's working. I'm hoping to interview an unqaulified but experienced nanny who's references suggest she's totally clued up to child development. You could offer to pay for a 2 day training course each yr she's with you after a yr (might help with retention)? or if it's a part time job, would she like to do a qualification by day-release?

An unqualified nanny of our aquaintance told us that trained career nannies are advised to move every couple of yrs, while unqualified nannies may tend to stick around for longer. Clearly a HUGE generalisation for which there are many exceptions, but may be a trend?


bigdonna · 15/06/2005 11:44

look at her references to see how long she stayed in other jobs.I went to interviews where the employer said they wanted what my previous employer had ,basically someone who stayed a long time .Lots of my nanny friends stayed in there jobs a long time.As for no 2 you can tell her where the groups you want your kids to go to are or you can buy arty stuff and say would you mind making ,glueing,painting,with my kids as they love doing these things.Maybe write a list of things your kids enjoy doing.Encourage her to take them swimming to softplay and to read to them lots.No 3 you could always ask her what she would do in a certain situation,i was asked this question at an interview.


mishmash · 15/06/2005 15:23

I would ask her what she considers to be the role of a nanny.


beachyhead · 15/06/2005 15:42

This is the first time I have had a 'local' nanny and it has made a huge difference in terms of where she takes the kids, as she is much more aware of what is available. Just ask for actual places she has taken her previous charges. I also asked mine to do a bit of research into farms, castles etc and she has always excelled on that. Also buying books on local activities or picking up leaflets from libraries etc will give her the idea of the kind of things you like.

I always ask - would you sing to the kids? - as I think it is quite telling how they respond.
What are your views on McD/crisps/sweets etc - once again, gives you an idea of how similar she is to you and your family.
I have asked - have you any experience of having to call an ambulence or take a child to casualty? and then drill down why and how she did?

I think paying for a first aid course for an unqualified nanny is a good idea. With a qualified nanny, I would ask her how she keeps her qualification/first aid certificate up to date?

I always ask - what was the best thing bout your last employer and what was the worst? so you can get a feel for the good/bad experiences she has had.




hatstand · 15/06/2005 18:03

thanks everyone. I hate interviewing, it feels all formal and invasive - so I just end up having a chat and I'm not sure I get the info I need to make a good assessment. I also have had to do it with kids around - which is a total nightmare. Think I need to rethink my strategy. I hate this whole thing with a real vengeance. Beachyhead - your questions are good ones, thanks. I feel I kind of need to write this whole week off - I've had 7 people round and don't really feel any further down the line than at the beginning of the week. any nannies out there who can let me know what they expect at an interview and how formal they expect it to be?

OP posts:

uwila · 15/06/2005 18:58

I put high on my list her ability to communicate with you when she has done something you don't like. For example, if after discovering she allows your kids to eat chocolate for breakfast, you tell her that you don't want them to eat treats until after lunch, does she a- say "oh sorry. I won't do it again." And then not do it again. b- tell you that "it's only chocolate and they already ate their breakfast" or c- say "oh sorry. I won't do it again." And then continue doing it anyway.

I always think of something to disagree with them on just to see how they take to being corrected. Obviously, in an interview, you can't distinguish between a and c above. But, if a potential nanny proceeded to tell me why she was right and I was wrong, that would be the end of her.

Yes YES I still have open wounds from recent nanny who was in the habit of telling my her way was better and mine would not be followed.


hatstand · 15/06/2005 20:29

I agree that's important, but I'd say that's a respect thing rather than a communication thing - my big communication thing is her ability to communicate when you've done something she doesn't like. My first nanny had a problem and instead of telling me handled it very badly and I feel it had a lot to do with our poor relationship. I know as the employer you should try to spot problems, and open up chances for them to air them, but the other side of the coin is they need to come to you too and not let things fester

OP posts:

hatstand · 15/06/2005 20:32

thinkign about it, same nanny also had a problem like yours. She didn;t agree with me that dd2 was ready to drop a nap and left me a stroppy note telling me how tired dd was, what a horrible day they had all had and how it was entirely normal for a child her age to wake at 6 am (missing the point that she had previously happily slept til 7.30and that I -spending 4 days a week with her - not to mention every night, and 24 hours a day for 8 months - might perhaps know her better). yes they do leave wounds. I was in tears about that one.

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binkie · 15/06/2005 20:54

I don't know how helpful this is to you, hatstand, but thinking back our best nannies have effectively "chosen us" - that is to say, they were/are the sort of people who have enough experience of families to know what they're looking for and to know when they feel comfortable - then the interview is about sort of gauging how reliable those comfortable feelings are, and on that you get as good feedback from chatting about their own families, and what they like to do when they're not on duty, as you do by checking they know what the signs of meningitis are. Actually in terms of how they might manage disagreements, you get a better sense I think. Have any of your 7 candidates given you the feeling that they "know" where you're coming from?

Totally agree that dealing with a nanny's disappointment or resentment is by far the trickiest bit. Fraid I deal with it by being an apologetic pushover - but then I am the employer, so just in terms of the power relationship I think if there's any doubt about where blame is, it's got to be with me.


uwila · 15/06/2005 20:57

yes, I see your point, but how do you measure level of respect in an interview. So I do like to throw out a bit of disagreement and see the reaction. I also like to push a few buttins and see if she can stand her ground (in a professional and courteous manner) because as you say I want to know if she can tell me when she is unhappy rather than saying "yes, yes, yes" and then I find out later she was terribly unhappy.

Our new nanny starts in August. She is Canadian so hopefully there will be much less of a cultural/language barrier between her and me (I'm American). Just wait 'til she finds out that she in fact does not speak English.


hatstand · 15/06/2005 22:19

bit of a bump into tonight's active conversations. I'm really desperate for advice. Found one lovely nanny but she rejected us cos we wanted more hours than she wanted to work. found another one who struck me as fun, easy-going, flexible, but possibly not very up on child development - a natural with kids - but more of a potnetial friend than a carer. and got a gappy picture of her cv - she's czech and didn't have a written one. also is there any point in getting a police check for a czech?

OP posts:

Skribble · 15/06/2005 22:38

I got a job when I was 17 straight out of school with very little experience of under fives. Looking back I would never have employed me!

As it happens I took to it and did allsorts of activities and trips. I went on to college.

If you have a baby I would strongly recomend a quailified experienced nanny. Babies shouldn't be a learning experience in a first job. Make sure you understand what qualification they have as there are allsorts now as well as the newer version of the NNEB.

I would hold a more formal interveiw first where you see there certificates, asks lots of questions about there experience, previous charges and how they would cope in certain situations.

Think up a couple of good ones like- What would you do if you were going into town on the bus and DD no1 vomits on DD no2 and you have 15 mins until you get to the bus stop. Its not about right or wrong answers but how they can think on the spot and how they see themselves dealing with things.

You need to suss out how practical they are, how imaginative, their opinions on disipline and if living-in there habits.

I agree send them on a first aid course, and if lacking in imagination daily suggestions for activities, but you really want someone who understands the benefits of play.

Just watch you don't end up with a babysitter rather than a skilled nanny. The fact that someone has studied child care at college for 2 years shows they have more than a passing interest in children and a bit of staying power.

Skribble SNNEB . (Always wanted to show of my letters).


Skribble · 15/06/2005 22:40

I meant to say I would then have a second more informal play interview where you maybe set up a painting or baking activity and chat while the kids play. You can see how she interacts and responds.


NannyJo · 15/06/2005 22:49

just read softfoggy's comment about trained nannies are advised to move on every couple of years. God knows where that came from but i certainly wouldn't want to move on from a job if i was happy and settled with a family, surely longevity is best all round for everyone???

I would advice you also ask the nanny what she is looking for in the family. There is nothing worse than an unhappy nanny who is just working for a wage, if her heart is not in it then i don't believe you can get the comfortable relationship that is essential for good childcare.

If you get an honest answer and you don't have what she is looking for then i would look again.

I was offered a position then persuaded (bullied) into accepting lower wages, more hours, less holiday and a very different routine etc to what i was used to and soon became unhappy. Nannying should never just be a 'job'


elastamum · 15/06/2005 22:55

We have hired two nannies 1st for 3 yrs second hopefully forever! I always look at qualifications and how long in previous jobs. Past peformance is a good predictor of what might happen next. We dont interview anyone without good references and I always have a written structure but also trust my instincts. If it is not right at interview it wont be in 6 months time. I alwas personally take up references and talk to previous employers. If they are not positive on the phone it is a big red to me and i wouldnt hire the person. Also to follow up on your point if they dont want what you are offering chances are they wont stay.


Wireart · 16/06/2005 09:20

I don't think that qualifications are everything; I have met and interviewed lots of nannies, some who are qualified and some who are not and I think it much more about the persons attitude than whether they hold a qualification.

I have met some extremely intellegent and competent nannies who are not qualified and some half whits who can't even boil an egg who are qualified. (Also some half whits who aren't qualified and extremely intellegent girls who are qualified) Just goes to show that it is the individual that counts, not just a piece of paper in their possession.

And why not employ an unqualified nanny to look after a new born baby? As long as they can demonstrate the relevant experience, I can't see the issue.

Would you take on a girl just out of college over someone who had no qualifications but a few years experience?

So in answer to your question Hatstand, i think all of the points you raised are of equal importance as long as they are important to you; you should never compromise the quality of childcare and I certainly wouldn't reccommend a qualified person over an unqualified person if they were the right person for you.


JRW · 16/06/2005 10:48

If anyone is interested I offer a unique service in the London area for help with all aspects of nanny recruitment. I am not an agency so no expensive fees to pay. I can help with CV checks, police/reference checking, telephone interviews and also face to face interviews. I make a shortlist for my clients, conduct the first interview and then families can meet them for the 2nd interview to see if personality fits etc knowing that all checks have been done. I have families that use me whether registered with an agency or advertising privately.
If anyone wants more info please feel free to call 07709399885.


NannyL · 16/06/2005 11:31

JRW... i just 'asking' (not being rude!) but how can you check nannies, then tell the parenst and NOT be an agency?

i thought thats waht agencies did... had nannies on their 'books' checked refs, and then told families about suitable nannies that they had!

Have i missed something? what makes you NOT an agency?

as i said im just curiouse and wondering!


JRW · 16/06/2005 13:39

To NannyL, thank you for your interest. In response to your message a lot of parents don't use agencies and place a private ad themselves where I can help with screening calls, telephone interviews, reference checking, interviews, contract help etc. For the families that do choose to use an agency you are correct in that an agency does check references etc but you must remember that the agencies do try to sell their girls to earn their high fees. If a family uses an agency I still check through all CVS that are sent and conduct telephone interviews and make a shortlist for the family. I do not favour one agency over another and therefore offer an impartial opinion with the aim of matching the right nanny to the family. I am not an agency in that I work purely for the families and not for the nannies and only charge a small fee.
I hope this has given you some idea of the service I provide.


NannyL · 16/06/2005 18:57

Thank you for clarifuying that JRW...

so as a nanny i couldnt come to you when i needed a job (is that right?)

(which i hope wont be for several years yet... but 'hypothetically'!


Skribble · 16/06/2005 21:04

I did mean qualified or experienced for a new baby. Most courses don't give you work experience with babies anyway. I just wouldn't have someone to green looking after a baby.


mishw · 17/06/2005 09:24


I've joined this post quite late, but was amused by your comments - surely you are still an agency whether you like to think of yourself as one or not. You interview candidates, you check references, you offer a short list to your clients and I'm asuming that unless you are a very generous person you charge your clients for your service. Wheres the difference?


Skribble · 18/06/2005 00:06

I wouldn't say that was an agency, its a vetting service. If they had nannies on their books that would make them an agency. If the parents find the nanny and just want a hand with interveiwing and checks thats not an agency. Anyway surely it doesn't matter as long as those involved know exactlly what they are getting.


jothorpe · 18/06/2005 17:42

I hate to think what the legal side is to this... when is a vetting service and employment agency?

Hmm, anyway, I expect that if nannies can not approach the vetting service directly, and instead the parents are the ones doing all the finding of potential nannies, then it's not an agency, though if the vetting service advertised the position then I feel it is an Employment Agency.

It's a nice idea of something to do though... very enterprising JRW. Hope you do well - though do check the Employment Agency regulations

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