As you’re gearing up for back to school season, we at Care.com are too. In fact, it’s one of our busiest times of the year. Here, Katie Bugbee hashes out a plan on how to hire after-school help that will make the school year easier – for the whole family.
And while the structure and more disciplined routine will be back (whew!), it’s the work we have to do now to make school a success that overwhelms.
Most specifically: finding an after-school sitter or nanny. It’s actually the second most popular job request on Care.com (after date night sitter). So if you’re reading this, dreading the next few weeks of your hiring search, I’m hoping to make your life a whole lot easier.
- Name the post correctly: The terms “sitter” and “nanny” have different feels of professionalism, without much change in the salary. A sitter is a more casual role, and someone who calls herself a nanny takes the job up a notch.
- Add responsibilities that will really help you: Consider this a chance to make your life easier. Family dinners done when you get home. Homework finished and kids showered. Laundry washed, folded and put away. Starting with a new person means you can rewrite the job description to make your life easier. Be sure all responsibilities are communicated well, and written in a nanny contract.
- Consider splitting the job: When you only need about 4 hours a day, you might have trouble finding one person who has this availability every day. It might end up being a college student Monday, Wednesday, Friday and a retired teacher Tuesday and Thursday. Tip: If using two college students, try to have them from two different schools so the spring breaks don’t fall at the same time!
- Get serious 3 weeks prior: I know many of you probably had a job post up a month ago and feel pretty frustrated without many leads. Please, don’t worry. I was actually in this same boat last December. And what I realized is that many sitters and nannies don’t get serious about their job search until about 2-3 weeks before they need a new job. So three weeks before school starts, be active on Care.com. Use the Care app and immediately respond to the top sitters or nannies who apply for your job post. The best ones go quickly. So call them that day. Try to meet them in person within 24 hours. Call references that same night. Have a second interview (with the kids) the next day and start running a background check (a “Preferred Plus” check is recommended, especially if this person will be driving your children). You can literally commit to a person (with an out-clause if the background check raises any concerns) within 72-hours of meeting her. But it just means acting very quickly and letting her know how committed you are asap. (>Read the 7 things I learned hiring a new nanny)
- Be open to more hours than you really need: If you’re offering 20 hours, but the person you LOVE really needs 25 or 30, consider what you might be able to do to make this work. It might mean that you create more hours for her by committing to other times that could help you – like Saturday nights or a few mornings at the gym.
- Ask the right interview questions: On top of past experience, education and skills, you really want to use the interview to gauge the candidate’s level of responsibility (and personal life-saver skills) with some tough questions that will give you a sense of her maturity. (Remember: she’s there to act like a parent and there might be some tricky situations you’d want her to handle the same way you would.) Here are some examples: My son has a tough day, how would you get him to talk about it?; My daughter punched her brother, how would you react?; My son refuses to do his homework, what do you do?; You have dinner to make, laundry to do and the kids aren’t doing their work– how do you gain control?; You get the sense that my daughter is hiding something?; My son swears?...you get the idea.
- Be a “Fair Family”: I just learned that one of my dear friends cancels on her nanny without paying her. I was shocked. I urge anyone reading this to read (and take) our Fair Care Pledge. Nannies work incredibly hard and deserve to be paid a going rate (always above minimum wage), have paid time off, and have the job expectations clearly written out. You or I wouldn’t take a job any other way, and nannies shouldn’t either. And when you cancel or decide to come home early one day, remember that this nanny has bills to pay as well. She was counting on that money, and shouldn’t have to default on payments because you had a half-day.
- Line up back-up care. Nannies get sick. Snow days happen. And to be really prepared, you should have a back-up plan in place. Will you stay home? Will your partner or in-law? Also, check with your HR department and see if they have a subsidized Back-up Care program (or if they could add one). It will help you feel less stressed when your kids get the sniffles.
Hopefully these tips will give you a better sense of how to hire someone you’ll consider your family life-saver. There are wonderful nannies/sitters out there who want to be a part of a family and really help in every way. And when you find this perfect person (or persons), appreciate her, reward her, celebrate her birthday and treat her fairly. The nanny is a special type of employee. She’s family.