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August 13, 2012

Top 5 Mistakes You Might Be Making on

Blog-nanny-hiring-tips-hard-wayThis is a really busy time for parents. The summer is winding down and back to school season is looming. You're trying to get all your memorable summer moments into the last few weeks while also buying school supplies and planning car pools, after-school activities and creating an after school care plan.

My son hasn't picked up a book all summer, so of course there's also that last-minute cramming, too!

These days are also really busy for With so many new and returning members coming to find babysitters, nannies and part-time nannies to help make the school year flow as fluidly as possible, it occurred to me that it might help to learn some tricks to finding the perfect care match.  We've been around for almost 6 years now, and getting better with age. So here is what we have found are the most common mistakes made when finding a caregiver, especially if you only want to go through this process once!

Not making a detailed job post.

I often tell people that a job post might take a few days to draft. This is the chance to really explain the exact candidate you want. What his or her personality should be (neat-freaks only, please!), the interests and skills (must play soccer, be crafty and speak Spanish), the experience level, age, access to a car, etc. Take a day or more to write down what your ideal candidate would be like. Then include this description in your job post. This way, applicants with these traits should only apply.

I also suggest you share a little about your family. Maybe even upload a picture of yourself. Talk about your interests as a family (hiking, reading, singing), the ages of your children, what they like to do for fun, what skills and activities you're trying to encourage. What your challenges are. This way, the best applicants will respond directly to what you're aiming for. Is one child learning to read? One candidate might explain her teaching process in her response. The more you give, the more the sitters can connect with you in their response.

Using the wrong job title.

Often we like to think of our after-school childcare support as babysitters. It might be because they're only needed part-time, or because a nanny sounds like Mary Poppins. Who knows? But as I mentioned in a previous blog, sometimes using the term Part-time Nanny can get you more qualified job applicants. If you are looking for someone on a regular basis, with set hours you can always rely on, who can challenge, teach, tutor and plan fun activities with your children, try posting an ad for a part-time nanny instead of a babysitter.

Looking for the wrong qualities.

Sometimes applicants look great on paper. The resume is outstanding, the education is exactly what you want, the experience is perfect. But after you hire her, you realize she isn't organized. Or, she isn't silly with the kids. Or, she's a Type-A personality like yourself. And these things keep nagging at you. She just isn't the perfect fit. She isn't doing what you'd be doing if you were home with the kids. She isn't leaving the toy room pristine and teaching the kids to clean up after themselves.

Remember, if this person is going to be in place of you, you want him or her to share the same qualities – and doing similar things (if not cooler things!) while you're not there.

Not calling references.

Make sure you call past employers, whether your candidate worked for a family or at a business – and dig! Ask about strengths as well as weaknesses. Ask if the reference would hire her again. Ask her to explain their relationship. Look for details and examples of why the candidate is responsible, mature, quick on her feet, fun, a healthy cook… whatever is important to you.

And don't just call the references the candidate provides. Ask for a former coach, neighbor, boss from a job outside of the nanny industry. If your candidate can't provide more than 3 references, it's probably a bad sign.

Trying to be too flexible.

Sometimes when we are looking for an ideal person – and think we've found her – we'll try to fit our lives around her schedule. I've seen it before with parents who hire college students and suddenly they are trying to change their work schedule to fit around the nanny's classes. Don't get me wrong, I love college students as nannies, but don't rearrange your life around your nanny's schedule. Ask your college caregiver to commit to a predictable schedule, and if not, just keep looking. The right person will come along.

I'd love to hear from you as well. What are the tricks you've learned to hiring the right nanny or babysitter for your family? What have you learned the hard way?

See a full list of the most common mistakes made on >>


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We fell into the trap of accommodating a part time nanny (30hr/wk) for her college schedule. Initially it was a morning class 3 days a week -- finished by mid morning and then on to our house. After 3 months we started accommodating her sudden passion to teach/mentor youth at her local community center, meaning she left early on Fridays... Which turned into no Saturdays either, so we also had to balance a sitter schedule. 10 months into working for us we were working around: school, community center commitments and week-long absences to go on missions trips. Juggling the nanny and now 2 sitters, a husband who travels 4 days a week and running a small business... I gave up the ghost, and went on a new nanny search. Took me 6 weeks to find the perfect fit (, but now we're happy and settled with someone who is committed to being with us and happy to be here! Learned something in the process: short term/one-off flexibility is fine, but comtinously making accommodations and being ultra flexible is not going to work out in the long run. As soon as you find yourself getting in this rut, it's time to start looking for someone new.


I'm curious about a situation I came across last week. After interviewing a potential nanny, she mentioned a couple of former employers so I thought it a good idea to call them, in addition to the ones listed on her post. The one I reached wouldn't give me ANY information unless they had a signed releast statment from the former employee. I never asked for it but it seemed odd. Is this typical?


I really agree with most of your article. We had two nannies before and none of them lasted for more than 4 months. We had some of the common mistakes you listed.

1. The wrong qualification

The 1st Nanny was a lady from Thiland. She married an American and moved to states. She was a MBA student and had taken care of a baby from 8 months for 18 months until the family moved to another state. She looks nice, has good references.

We have 3 kids: 7,4 and infant. The lady finally could not handle my 4 yr and constantly complain that my 4 yr hit her during the play time. She could not perform any displine and time out with the 4 yr. What she finally figured out was to keep giving my 4 yr candies and cookies.

She spent almost all day to watch TV while holding the baby. She also turns on the TV for other two kids and let them watch TV for hours.

2. Trying to be too flexible.

Our 2nd nanny was also a college student. She had most of her classes at night so we hav no problem with schedule conflicts. However, she asked too many hours off for her doctor appointments and car problems. Then we have to take vacations to cover her time off for many times.

There are many other things that we could not stand for the two nannies. My 7 yr and 4 yr were afraid of telling us the truth becasue if they were the nannies would be mean to them.

To have a good nanny, I believe the parents should have the following neccessary requirements for yourself:

a. Have backup sitters from the family ( grandparents or relatives). If the nanny finds out that she is the only one that you can depend on, she will develop the attitude for her work;

b. Ability to work at home or install a spy system: The nanny has to know that her job/work is under monitor.

Even with the above condition, do not expect any anny can replace over 70% of the parent. I strongly suggest when the baby is under 2 yr considering stay home or ask grandparents for help.

Nanny job is more suitable for older kids instead of babies as they could not tell you what exactly happened.

Good luck for all !

Betsy Levine brown

I had a great older nanny for 10 years and she was not like i am at all. She was uneducated but she was the most doting, loving person. The type of person who held my kids on her lap for hours when they didn't feel well. She loved to cook( I don't) and put together toys and games and blocks. ( I don't) I didn't care that she couldn't help my kids with schoolwork or offer advice or had bad grammar. My husband and I could Provide those attributes. Sometimes COMPLIMENTARY skills are as good as similarities as long as the core valyes( for me this was being attentive and loving) match.


Very glad I read this. Iam yet to meet with my applicants. Although my job posting is not as descriptive, my discussion and interiews will be. I invited them for a paid interview before I make my decision.


Just wanted to note that if you feel the NEED to install a nannycam, get rid of the nanny. All it will do is show you what you suspect to be true is true, or (worse) it won't catch it and you will THINK you are taking care of the issue but you aren't.

and if we had the ability to stay home wiht a child under two, I don't think any of us would be looking for a nanny. just not a really helpful comment.


Great Blog post.
I agree that you need to post a VERY detailed job description, it narrows the field of candidates for you to sift through. I like for just that reason- nanny referrals from friends would be lacking important characteristics (doesn't drive, doesn't speak english, has only cared for infants) that I would specify in my job posting.

Another few tips- don't feel the need to continue the interview process with everyone you contact- I message them a few times, talk to them on the phone, have them come and interview with ME alone, then have them come to the house to meet with the entire family. If at any point I have decided they are not the right candidate for me- politely tell them so. Don't waste your and their time.

make sure their commute is reasonable- living in a traffic-y town, I cannot hire someone who lives more than 30 minutes away- as much as she thinks it is OK, I feel guilty having someone drive an hour to and from work, and I worry about running late to pick up the kids.

decide how much you want to pay- put it in your posting, be VERY clear. This will save you from finding someone you really like, then finding out that they expect twice the salary you are offering.
try to find someone who has done the exact type of job you are offering- infant experience, doing homework with older kids, cleaning and cooking for the family- I learned this the hard way after hiring a nice nanny who loved to play but could not handle sibling previous experience with multiple kids....


Would like to know about checking references - tips. I called several caretaker's references - of course, always good. Later found out that they were personal friends posing as references. How do you avoid that?


Hi. I had a question about low-cost Nanny Health insurance. Is there or can you tell me of a specific web page or give me any information? Thanks.


We have had a number of caregivers for our special needs son and bonded with 2 of them only to find out that they were stealing from us. Jewelry went missing, money was removed from my wallet etc.......
We thought we knew these girls well but were proven to be wrong!


Great blog...couldn't agree more. We learned the hard way when hiring our first nanny.

Her only references that were family/friends/neighbors - nothing work-related, because she had never been a nanny before. This wasn't a college-aged kid - she was 46 - and we (mistakenly) believed that her experience raising her own children made her qualified to be a nanny. It turned out that she was incapable of following direction and just wanted to do her own thing. In hindsight, it should have been a red flag that she didn't have any employers as references. (We never bothered calling the friends/family, because we knew they'd probably be useless.)

In terms of flexibility, we needed someone who didn't need to leave at 5pm on the dot, because my job frequently runs past standard hours. Our first nanny claimed during initial emails and the interview that she could be flexible, although she did mention she hoped to be home by 5pm fairly often (to meet her youngest son when he got home from school). I adjusted my work schedule (at a new job) before she even started, to accommodate this. Early on, she had a few family emergencies, which we accommodated. A few times, she had her oldest daughter sub for her.

But whenever my job ran late, she would just sit our one-year-old daughter in her high chair in my home office and turn on the TV. When I asked her to adjust her hours twice a week to plan to stay late, she claimed that was impossible. We tried to make it work, but at the end, we realized we were doing everything we could to accommodate her, which she was doing very little to hold up her end of the arrangement.

Ultimately we decided to hire an au pair. We gave the first nanny two months' notice, trying to make sure she had plenty of time to find another position. Shortly after that, just when she knew we had no backup available and really needed her, she showed her true colors and quit with no notice (saying we were mean because we hadn't included her in the "family" decision to replace her).

Moral of the story: Always check references, and if your candidate can't provide any relevant ones, move on. And if you feel like you're the only one being flexible in the arrangement, move on.

Elizabeth's dad

Just wanted to thank all of you for the your tips and advice. It's a challenging task, finding someone you are comfortable with to watch your children in your own home when you are not there. I feel a bit better now about being able to pull it off.

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