When it comes to finding someone to care for your children, asking the right questions could mean the difference between hiring a star nanny or a dud sitter.
We vet care providers day in and day out at Apiari, so we’re pretty good at interviewing potential babysitters. To help you find the right person to take care of your children, we’ve come up with a list of 10 essential questions to ask in a babysitting interview.
1. What did you do before working as a sitter?
You want to look for a pattern of “people work,” such as tutoring, after school program leader, camp counselor, daycare worker, or even in customer service. This demonstrates a natural interest in working with people.
2. What do you like best about childcare?
There are many ways to earn extra cash, so why do they want to earn it from childcare? This question also helps show that they genuinely enjoy being around children — if they can’t think of one reason, that’s a red flag.
3. What are the ages of children you have watched in the past?
This will help you understand the breadth of the babysitter’s childcare experience. If you have a 1-year old and are looking for a long-term provider, you’ll want to make sure the babysitter has worked with children up to at least 5 – 7 years old.
4. What are your favorite ages to work with and why?
While nannies and babysitters may have a wide range of age experience, everyone has a “sweet spot.” Some don’t mind or get frazzled by crying babies, while others find older kids more interesting because they can engage in conversation and games with them. You want a sitter that naturally clicks with your children.
5. What kinds of activities do you enjoy doing with kids?
Some babysitters are naturally more creative and active, while others are not. The answer will help you understand if you will need to plan out activities for them to do with your kids. Because you know your child best, you can also assess whether s/he would like any of the activities they may come up with.
6. How would you handle a child’s temper tantrum or attitude? Or give an example of your child’s behavior and ask how the sitter would have managed the situation.
The candidate’s response will help you understand if this is aligned with or supports your own behavior-management policies or if it would send mixed action-response messages to your child. If you disagree with their methods, ask for an example of when they had to follow another parent’s method and assess whether they had the adaptability and flexibility to do so.
7. How would you commute to our home?
If the sitter has a long commute, whether she drives or uses public transit, ask how she’s dealt with delays in the past. Has there ever been a situation where she was unable to make it on time, and what did she do to resolve the issue? How does she plan ahead to avoid potential delays? You don’t want to be in a situation where the sitter is constantly late because of a complicated commute.
8. Do you have specific childcare experience with [fill in the blank depending on what you’re looking for — special needs, potty training, infant care, etc.]?
You want to have the peace of mind knowing that you’re leaving your children in the best hands, as well as setting up the sitter for success. If your child needs special care, whether she’s going through potty training, has medical issues (even food allergies), or requiring behavioral/psychological support, make sure the sitter has the experience to understand and support your child.
9. Are you willing and able to help with homework, making dinner, and cleaning (and/or any other specific tasks) if needed?
Some nannies and babysitters are willing to do some light cooking and housekeeping, while others are not. Some can help with homework, and others can only make sure your child does homework. Be clear on your needs. And if you love the sitter for childcare but they aren’t willing to help with other tasks, just be prepared to find an additional provider to help with tutoring, cooking, and cleaning. Or, keep looking!
10. Can you provide me with three childcare references?
Always ask for references, and call them!. You want to hear that there’s consistency in personality and behavior. If you encounter contradictory feedback, such as “never late” and “often running late” you’ll want to probe further. Was the sitter within walking distance of her client’s home when she was never late, or did she have to take three different trains to get to there? What were the different situations, and which situation would your needs be most similar to?
At the end of the day, you want to understand what your prospective babysitter does best and what he or she is willing to do to meet your child’s needs — as well as your own. It’s also important to remember that it’s not what they say but what they actually do and how well they do it that counts.
At Apiari, we encourage clients to book a 2-hour trial working session so the childcare provider and family can get a better feel for each other. Seeing providers interact with your children and how your child responds is the best gauge of fit. It’s also important to observe how well you and your childcare provider can communicate with each other. Does she or he understand and follow your directions? Can they flex their style to meet your needs? It’s only through an actual trial session that you can get a real sense of whether they are a good match for your child and family.
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