When you are starting to search through a pool of nannies to find the one who will take care of your children – whether it is for a few hours or full-time during the week – it is important that you complete a thorough screening process. While many potential employers will carefully run background checks of nannies, they may be tempted to skip or rush through another critical step before making the final hiring decision – checking references.
If you are hiring your nanny through a nanny agency, there may be someone in place who can take care of checking references for you. Such a person will be experienced in catching fake references that nannies may sneak into their resumes or in reading between the lines of what references say versus what they really mean. However, nanny agencies can be expensive, and you may instead want to find your nanny through an online service that allows you to do a lot of the legwork on your own. In that case, it is important that you have the proper mindset and tools with which to check the references of the nannies you are considering.
What You Can Learn from Checking References
You can learn a lot from checking references by listening not only to what the references do say but also reading between the lines about what they don’t say. Unlike other types of jobs, where someone serving as a reference is limited legally to what he or she can say about the person, those serving as references for nannies may be more forthcoming with information, both good and bad.
When you make the initial call, trust your instinct and listen closely to everything the nanny reference says. Most likely when you are checking references, you will be speaking to a parent just like you who will be eager to tell you about the nanny on both a personal and professional level. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions to cover not only the nanny’s demeanor and credentials but also details about the family for which she worked. In that way you can delve deeper into the nanny’s behavior in situations that most closely resemble those she may encounter with your own family. Pay attention as well to how the nanny reference behaves. The person may be rushed or distracted, and you should factor that into how you feel about the interview.
Questions to Ask When Checking References
Here is a short list of some of the more important questions that you should ask the references of the nannies you are thinking of hiring:
- Was the nanny reliable and dependable? Can you give me an example of when she was/was not?
- What was she like as a person? Was she warm, strict, upbeat, or energetic? Did she get along well with all of the members of your family?
- What additional duties did she perform for your family? How well did she do these?
- How well did she follow directions?
- How comfortable did you feel about her ability to handle an emergency? Did she ever have to react quickly to a medical problem or other issue? How did that go?
- Do you recommend that I hire this person to be a nanny for my children?
Before you begin checking references, you can also jot down notes about specific issues with which you may be concerned. For example, if your family has a pet, you can ask the reference how the nanny was around animals. If your family needs a nanny who can take your children to and from school, you can ask the nanny reference about the nanny’s driving abilities and find out how well she was able to keep to a schedule.
If you are working with bricks-and-mortar nanny agencies, they should be able to give you other tips about what to ask about nannies. If you are working with online nanny services, you may even be able to access helpful worksheets with additional questions and ideas about what to ask or what to listen for when checking references.
Red Flags when Checking References
Beware of phony references. Nannies with little or no prior experience may list friends or family members as prior employers. While it can be hard to recognize a fake nanny reference at first, there are some red flags. Check to see if the salary listed for the prior employer matches up with the going rates for nannies with comparable experience and education in your area. If it is much too high, you could possibly be looking at a fake reference.
In addition, when you are checking references, listen to how the nanny is described. There is a difference between an enthusiastic mother who loved the nanny and who ended the relationship only when her needs changed and a friend posing as a nanny reference who sounds like she is trying to sell the nanny as a perfect candidate.
When a family is searching for nannies, particularly if there are time constraints on the search – the mother is going back to work in a week, the nanny already in place just gave her notice, and so on – it may be tempting to skip the checking references step based on a “good feeling.” However, do not fall into this trap. Checking the references of nannies is one of the most important steps in the hiring process – it can give you insight into the nanny’s personality and work ethic that you would not otherwise be able to gain from an interview.
Bottom line, make sure you set aside time to call everyone the nanny lists as a reference on her application. While nothing is foolproof, checking references will help to make you feel more comfortable about the person you are bringing into your home to keep your children happy, healthy, and safe.
About the Author
Steve Lampert is the president of eNanny Source, an online nanny agency that brings together families and nannies. Lampert previously ran a successful, award-winning nanny agency in a major city for over 10 years, during which time he worked with thousands of families and nanny candidates. Through this experience, he became familiar with the important steps in a nanny search, which he continues to apply to his business today. To learn more, please visit www.enannysource.com.