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Just like with almost everything else in the nanny field, nanny interviews are unlike any other type of job interview. Why? Because most of the time, a nanny interview involves the nanny having to articulately converse with the parents while simultaneously interacting with the children. It's like the ultimate test of one's ability to multitask. While nannying certainly requires a strong level of multitasking and kids should absolutely be a part of the interview process, the initial in-person interview (notice I did not say initial phone interview) should not involve any multitasking or any kids. I personally feel it's unreasonable to expect a nanny to enthusiastically engage the kids while also discussing important things like parenting style, job roles/expectations, pay, etc. As a nanny who has had to do this MANY times at job interviews, I'm here to say that it is a hard...VERY hard...thing to do. The few times I've interviewed with parents sans kids, I was able to think more clearly and express myself better.
Take a second to imagine what this would feel like in any other profession. If you're a doctor and you are interviewing at a new hospital -- imagine that during the interview, you have to actively tend to patients while also discussing the job with the interviewer and trying to sell yourself the best you can. Or imagine you're a teacher and you have to actively engage a class full of kids while also answering important interview questions that the principal is asking you. Sound stressful? That's because it is. Yet this is something many nannies deal with every time they interview.
As if the pressure of having to interview well and bond with the kids at the same time wasn't enough, it gets worse. Every family is so different and since nannies aren't mind readers (though oftentimes I'm convinced parents think we are), it makes it very difficult to gauge the situation and determine just how much we should interact with the kids. Some families aren't comfortable with someone they just met holding their newborn baby. Some families want you to ask before holding the baby. Some families feel nannies should be self starters and take charge, so asking to hold the baby is a sign of not taking initiative. Some families are offended and put off if you don't ask to hold the baby. Confusing, huh?
For nannies, it's a guessing game when we show up to an interview and if I'm being honest, I don't really think that's fair. Until we get to know you, the parents, we don't have any idea what you are and are not comfortable with! If we hold your baby without asking because we think you might want someone who takes initiative and that ends up not being the case...we just cost ourselves the job. If we don't ask to hold your baby because we are focused on getting a feel for the job and your family as a whole, but you expected us to ask, then we just cost ourselves the job. If we aren't sitting on the ground playing with your toddler because it's too distracting when we are trying to interview well and you feel thats' a sign that we "don't like kids" or we aren't "energetic enough", we just cost ourselves the job. Can you see how stressful and difficult this is?!
So parents, what does an ideal nanny interview look like? First and foremost, the initial interview should be ADULTS ONLY. You can meet the nanny at a coffee shop or invite them over when the kids are napping/at school/in bed for the night/etc. Allow the first interview to be a real "get to know you". By allowing the focus to just be on the nanny, the job description, and the parents, you are setting yourself up for a relationship built on clear communication and clear expectations. As nannies, we have two things to do: care for children AND communicate with parents. When your kids are running around distracting a potential nanny, communication might not be where it should be. Things can get missed and nannies may even forget to address crucial topics that are deciding factors in whether or not they are interested in the job. Plus, kids running around distracts parents too, so parents might also forget to mention some important aspects about the job! Most importantly, I can't tell you how many nanny interviews I've gone to where I came prepared with an extensive professional nanny portfolio curated specifically for their family and their kids' ages, and the parents barely skim over it because they are too busy tending to their children. It's insulting and disrespectful. Lastly, parents might judge the nanny based on their lack of interaction with the kids and determine they aren't a good nanny/the right fit, when that might not be the case at all. The nanny very well might be an excellent nanny who bonds amazingly with kids, but simply prefers to understand the job and the parents thoroughly, before focusing on building that bond.
After the first adult only interview, you should schedule a working interview (assuming you and the nanny clicked with one another and want to move forward). A working interview usually lasts anywhere from 1-3 hours and it's a time for the nanny to come in and exclusively interact with the kids while you observe. I want to be clear, however, that observing does not mean hovering and watching the entire time. Give the nanny and your kids some space to be themselves -- it's really hard to be yourself when you're constantly being watched and scrutinized.
With this set up, you can use the initial interview to explain to the nanny exactly what you are looking for so that the nanny can use the working interview to show you how they can meet your expectations. This way, if you want a self starter, the nanny can show you how they take initiative at the working interview. Or, if you want someone who follows your lead and asks questions before making decisions, the nanny can show you how they follow directions at the working interview. Nannies are very adaptable and will oftentimes adjust their nanny style (to an extent) to meet the needs of the family they are working for. Set your potential nanny up for success by giving them all the information they need in order to WOW you at the working interview.
It's also important to note that nannies should get paid their normal hourly rate for working interviews. If you don't pay a nanny for the hours they spend working with your children at a working interview, then you can bet they won't accept the job because you've already shown them that you don't value their time. These are the little things that really make a difference when nannies are choosing the next family they want to work for. Remember, nannies are interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them.
So nannies, what can you do when forced to interview with the parents and also bond with the kids at the same time? You can speak up! When scheduling the interview, ask the parents if the kids will be present. If they say yes, explain to them that during the interview, you plan to give them [the parents] your full attention and that they should not be alarmed if you don't interact with the children as much as you normally would. Explain that it's important to you that you all are able to fully discuss the job. Parents should appreciate this as it shows your professionalism and commitment to clear communication. If all else fails, just do your best juggling act at the interview...appeasing both the parents and the kids...oh and sometimes the dogs/cats too...and hope for the best.