In Search of Mary Poppins

indexMany parents become overwhelmed when recruiting and screening nannies. Often this leads them to rely on a stereotypical idea of what makes the perfect nanny. But even though Mary Poppins may seem to have a lot to offer, parents require more that a spoon full of sugar and a song to meet their expectations.

Although the recruiting and selection process can seem complicated, it is manageable when you break it into these smaller stages: telephone screening, resume review and the interview process.

Telephone Screening

Advertising for childcare usually results in many telephone enquiries. This is a good time to assess language ability and ensure that the candidates meet your basic requirements (ie: live in or live out, part time or full time, salary expectations, experience and availability). Ask only the short-listed applicants to forward a resume and ensure that they have good references that can be contacted to verify past employment.

Resume Review

Screening resumes will save you time as you will be selecting only qualified candidates for interviews.

Here are some guidelines for reading and interpreting resumes:

  • Does the applicant have childcare or early childhood education certification?
  • What other educational designations does the candidate possess (first aid, food safe, cooking classes etc)?
  • Examine related childcare experience. Focus on the past 5 to 10 years.
  • Look for volunteer work that may have enabled the candidate to acquire knowledge and develop skills that may be useful as a nanny.
  • Pay close attention to gaps in work history and make sure the applicant has a reasonable explanation.
  • Look for patterns in a candidate’s work experiences (like frequent career changes, employment instability and short term work assignments without legitimate reasons for leaving positions).
  • Does the candidate live close to your home and if not, do they have reliable transportation?
  • Remember that first impressions from a resume can be misleading. You may find a very good candidate from an incomplete resume if you pursue the missing links and information gaps. But be sure to do this on the phone before arranging an interview.

The Interview

Once you have short- listed to a small number of applicants, send them a detailed job description before you start to interview. This will allow you to spend less time talking about job details and more time listening as the candidate discusses qualifications and experience. While interviewing, pay attention to past experience. Remember, the best way to predict future behavior is to examine past behavior. Creating behavioral- based interview questions will help you assess the applicant’s childcare knowledge.

Safety, discipline philosophy, creativity, time management, nutrition, organizational ability and communication styles are important subjects to consider. Here.are some questions you might ask:

  • Tell me about a time when you were caring for a child who was acting out. What steps did you take to address this behavior?
  • In your previous nanny positions what type of activities did you plan and provide for the children?
  • Can you describe a time in a previous position when you had a conflict with an employer and what steps you took to rectify the situation?

During the interview it is important to verify information from the resume. Try to follow up a yes or no answer with an open-ended question in order to gather more information. Discuss your childcare philosophy only after you have asked the applicant these questions. Otherwise they may answer in a way that is compromised by their knowledge of your preferences. Ask all candidates the same questions in order to make comparisons based on the same criteria.

Although it is important to incorporate the children in the interview process it is less distracting for you and the candidate if you conduct the information gathering portion of the interview while the children are being taken care of by someone else. They can meet the candidate near the end of the interview. You might also ask the nanny to come back and spend a few hours with your children on a different day. This will give you a sense of how the nanny and children will interact.

Finally it is also important to trust your instincts. Balance facts gathered in the interview with your intuition. Sometimes you just know when an applicant is the right one, (or the wrong one.).