Interviewing Families

There are several steps in the process to becoming a nanny, one of which is the interview process. As with any job position you apply for, you’ll have to go through a series of interviews, including placement agencies (if you choose to go that route) as well as families.  Because your role is so specialized, it important to use these interviews as an opportunity to ask your own questions and ensure you are able to find a great fit.

This reverse interview will help define the scope of the role and the expectations of the family.  As a nanny, you’re going to have a much closer working relationship with your employer than the average employee.  It is crucial to find the right fit to create a strong, long-term relationship and optimize the growth and development of the children.

It is crucial to find the right fit to create a strong, long-term relationship.

Qualified and highly experienced nannies can find themselves in the position of having to choose between several families. In order to provide accurate comparisons and make well-informed decisions, it is important to ascertain your chemistry with the family, ensure a job situation you’re comfortable with, and spot red flags before you get started. Some nanny questions to ask the family may include some of the following.

Background Info

Have you had a nanny before? This is a great question to open with if it doesn’t come up during the course of the interview.  Family/nanny dynamics are employer/employee relationships, but they’re also personal relationships. Listening to the way a family describes their previous nanny relationship, both the strengths and weaknesses, can provide significant insight into the role a nanny may play with the family.

What was your previous experience like? Understanding the relationship a family has had with past nannies, especially any areas where that relationship was challenged, can shed light on their current expectations, fears, and priorities.  Asking this question gives you and your prospective employer the opportunity to discuss what they liked or didn’t like about past situations with nannies so you have a clearer idea of the expectations facing you should you accept the position.  Pay attention to how parents speak about past nannies—it could give you clues to how they treat employees in their home.

Do you have any concerns about bringing a new nanny into the home? Encourage families to be honest about their experiences, expectations, and fears so you can avoid potentially sensitive areas and gain the best opportunity to succeed. Also, encourage them to talk about their children’s fears and willingness to develop a new relationship.

Responsibilities and Logistics

What duties do you need or expect for this role? The parameters for the role of a nanny can vary widely from one household to the next.  Keeping the children safe and cared for is a core part of this role, but many nannies also provide transportation, education, babysitting after hours and other duties. Becoming familiar with any other duties you will be expected to perform will be helpful and will provide an opportunity to discuss where you are comfortable (i.e. making dinners) and where you are not (i.e. doing laundry). 

What kind of work schedules does the family have? How consistent are they? If the parents travel often or are expected to participate in evening activities such as work dinners and may require additional assistance, this is a great opportunity to discuss that. Don’t forget, scheduling can change seasonally, such as between summer and the school year, depending on the age of kids, so be sure to ask about variations in hours when the family needs your services. 

What would be an expected start time and end time? What does the daily schedule look like? This will help you understand the logistics of your day as well as the compensation you would expect. Working 40 hours per week is much different than working 60 hours per week. Depending on your personal situation, such as your own dependents at home, this may be an important consideration.

How have you handled overtime or after hours work in the past? This will also help you understand how often families need after hours support. Also, if they consider part of your role to provide this support as needed or if it is paid as separate babysitting hours or overtime.

What works best for planning vacations and vacation time? Understanding how much vacation you can take as well as the flexibility the family may have around allowing you to take vacation to see family and friends will help your understanding of time off and getting to spend time with family and friends.

Parenting Philosophy

Can you explain your parenting style? While most families want a nanny who can take charge, manage children, and keep them safe and secure, especially when parents aren’t present, every family has different ideas about how to parent children, and they will likely expect their nanny to maintain consistency with their current methods.  It is important to understand their methods and your ability to maintain their methods before agreeing to a position.

What techniques do you prefer for discipline? Some parents use time outs for punishment while others believe in a more authoritative approach.  If you are uncomfortable with certain aspects of a parenting style, you need to speak up, ask about alternative options, or simply consider that you might not be the right fit for a particular family.

What is important to you as a parent? Knowing parents’ priorities where children are concerned is essential. Some families may priorities educational development, while others are concerned with social skills and discipline. This helps you define the parameters of your position and gives you the best chance to align with parents’ values, wishes, and existing parenting plan so you can succeed and create a stable and consistent environment for kids.

Get to know the children

If you don’t get to meet the children during the initial interview, request an opportunity to spend time with their children before you accept any position. It is important to get to know them as a family unit and get a sense for chemistry with the children before agreeing to a long term position. This can be in the form of a follow-up interview for an hour or a trial day, where you spend a half or full day with the family getting to know them.

What are your kids like? Since the bulk of your job centers on children, not parents, it’s incredibly important to know what the kids are like before you accept a job.  Learning about their schedule is not enough.  What are their personalities like?  What activities do they enjoy?  Will you spend most of your time playing video games with them or chasing them around the park? Listen to how the parents speak about their kids. It will provide good insights into what is important to them and any challenges they are focused on. 

Are there any specific challenges I should know about? Are there any potential difficulties you should know about, such as allergies, medical issues, learning disabilities, emotional problems, and so on?  Some nannies are up to the challenge of caring for children with special needs, but not every nanny is cut out to do so, and you need to be honest with yourself and the family about your willingness and ability to take on more challenging situations.

Finalizing the Deal

Do you have a contract or would you be open to using one? Contracts for work can help to protect both parties, not only in the event of a dispute, but in ensuring that everyone is aware of the parameters of the agreement from the outset.  Like any type of employment contract, your nanny contract should spell out precise expectations for duties and work hours, as well as the amount of sick/vacation time you can take each year.

It should also note specifics concerning compensation, including regular pay, overtime pay, payment for working vacations, bonuses, and any extras like health insurance, a work phone, a work vehicle, and so on. Aligning on a contract helps to avoid any misunderstandings later on. A great contract template is HERE.

Asking the right questions is important to understanding the fit with a family and their children. It is worth the time to set a strong foundation to create a strong, long-term relationship.


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