You have decided that you have what it takes and you really want to be a nanny. Now you have to find the perfect nanny job. The following are time tested techniques you may use to help you land the best job - even if it is your first one. Please remember, you are looking for your job - you alone are responsible for deciding which job works for you and you alone are responsible to insure that all the terms and conditions are agreeable and documented. And lastly, if this is a live-in position, you MUST be completely comfortable moving into this family's home and ALWAYS have an escape plan (money or a friend for back-up) in the event the family or the job is not 'as advertised' or you do not feel safe. Rely on yourself, not the advertisement, online posting or nanny agency.
You must first decide how you want to look for your nanny job. Your options generally include working with a nanny referral agency, working through an online nanny recruiting service, or answering 'help wanted' advertisements in the newspaper.
Many first time nannies feel a bit adrift in the process. They want or need assistance in the job hunting process. The levels of available assistance vary; typical choices include registering with a nanny agency and/or using internet-based recruiting resources. They aren't the same, and understanding the differences is important.
The experienced nanny has less emotional or practical need for assistance with the job search process, but may choose to use the nanny agency or online service for other reasons. Often the experienced nanny will use all available channels when looking for work to be exposed to the maximum number of possible opportunities.
Working with the nanny agency...
Nanny referral agencies exist in all areas of the country. These firms act as 'matchmakers' - working with families to refer pre-screened candidates for employment. Your first stop in locating a nanny agency is this site - the database of agencies on NannyNetwork.com is the most comprehensive available anywhere.
How a Nanny Agency typically works:
- FEES are generally paid entirely by the family. This means the nanny applicants should not expect to pay to register with a nanny agency.
- STANDARDS for candidates are established by the nanny agency. Many will only represent candidates who are 20 years old or older, some will represent you if you are at least 18. Rarely will an agency represent individuals younger than 18. Other standards, such as education, experience, proof of good health, and clean driving and criminal records are established on an agency by agency basis. Most will go over their standards the first time you contact them to insure you meet them.
- REGISTRATION with the nanny agency generally involves completing a thorough written application form which will include the name, address and telephone numbers of both personal and professional/work references, being interviewed by an agency staff member, and having your references checked. Do not expect that the agency will send you out on any interviews before this is all completed.
- THE REFERRAL to specific job opportunities is made at the agency's discretion. An important role the agencies play is selecting and referring candidates who will, in their professional opinion, satisfy the client family's needs to the greatest extent possible. They don't just look for a 'warm body' - they want to refer candidates who have a reasonable chance of matching the family's requirements and their personal style.
When the agency is ready to refer you, they will typically first present the family's profile to you - they want to assess if you would be interested in this specific job. If you agree, they will work with you and the family to schedule an interview.
How quickly you get referred is hard to estimate. Some candidates find the agency has an appropriate job search open and they get sent out to interview right away; others may wait days or weeks for the right match to come along.
- THE FAMILY INTERVIEW is your opportunity to really sell yourself and to learn as much as possible about the job, the family's style, and their expectations. Generally the agency will provide the family with interview guidance, as well as the results from their reference checking.
Make sure you are on time, that you are appropriately dressed, that you are prepared, and that you interact with the family in a warm, friendly but appropriate manner. Any questions about the interview process should be directed to your agency representative before the actual interview.
- COLLECTING FEEDBACK: The agency will collect feedback from the family after your interview. If the family feels that you are a good match, the agency will help the family make a job offer to you. The agency should be able to assist the family with salary and tax issues, or refer to specialists in that area. The agency should also help the family write up a formal work agreement between the family and you. Please, you must insist that you get the terms of employment in writing before you accept. This insures that important communication errors did not occur and everyone is working with the same understanding.
- A FORMAL CRIMINAL BACKGROUND SEARCH will be ordered by the agency, generally from a private investigator, after you have accepted a contingent offer of employment. The agency is obligated to provide the family with the complete results of this investigation. The family and the agency are responsible to follow the rules established by the Fair Credit Reporting Act in the ordering/processing of this pre-employment background search.
- CLIENT AND NANNY SATISFACTION is usually checked by the agency within 1-4 weeks of employment. The agency can act as an intermediary to resolve any conflicts. First time nannies should feel free to contact the agency immediately if they feel there is a problem or question.
Online Nanny Services
These are a relatively new entry into the nanny employment market. The leader among these services is 4nannies.com Inc.
A web-based service will provide some but not all of the services of the traditional full-service agency described above. It is important to understand the differences.
For a nanny, the most important distinction is that no-one has pre-screened the families using the online services. You need to exercise reasonable caution to protect your personal information and safety.
Some nannies evaluate the relative safety of an online service by the fees charged to the families. If someone can post a job for a nominal amount - say $20 - or worse yet not pay to post, there is no guarantee that this is really a job. Internet predators do exist and you have to be careful. Some nannies only feel comfortable using the more expensive and well established services, concluding that these higher fees and the experience of the site operators will weed out much - but never all - of the risk. Please take a few minutes before signing up with any service to learn how they work. If the website doesn't explain, call the company. If you cannot get an answer either way (some don't publish toll-free phone numbers!) keep looking for a different service. NEVER provide your Social Security Number or Drivers License Number as part of an online nanny service registration. EVER. When you are hired the family will need this to conduct a background search, but not before then.
How an online service typically works:
- FEES are charged by the online services to the families to use the service. Some online services charge the nanny a fee also to list. The more established services, such as 4nannies.com Inc. offer their site's services free to nannies.
WARNING: Be very cautious of services such as Craigslist that allow free family postings and charge you to apply to these 'jobs'. See scam warnings below.
- ONLINE APPLICATIONS have been developed to collect your basic information for families. This will include name, address (generally not published), telephone numbers and information about your background and experience. Most questions are multiple choice - this allows the families at the site to search the applicants efficiently. The family will be able to screen applicants to only see those looking for full time, live in employment in Florida for example. There will usually be a few 'essay style' questions - consider these and answer carefully as families look to these answers for clues about your personality.
- FINDING THE JOB on most online services is a two way street. You may be contacted directly by a family, or you may find a job and apply directly to the family.
- FAMILIES DO ALL THE SCREENING of prospective nannies when they use an online service. Expect the family to request that you provide some or all of the following: a resume, proof of your educational credentials, two or more personal and two or more professional/work references complete with name, address and telephone numbers, copy of your driving record, and a copy of a medical statement that you are in good health. You are advised to withhold your Social Security Number until after the job interview, when you know whether you would like to work for this family or not.
- INTERVIEWING is scheduled between yourself and the family. You may want to consider having more than one interview, if geographically feasible. It is safest to have your first meeting in a public place - however if you are going to the family home you should either bring a friend with you (he/she can wait in the car or at the corner coffee shop) or make sure you leave the name, address and phone number with someone as a precaution. And remember, it is okay to ask the family for references too. Talk to their former nanny or childcare provider if at all possible before you accept the position.
- FAMILIES MAKE ALL THE JOB OFFERS. You need to be sure you get your job offer in writing, specifying duties, hours, compensation and benefits.
TIP! Better online sites such as 4nannies.com, provide the nanny candidates with information on their websites to help you negotiate a fair work agreement and compensation structure.
- FAMILIES ORDER CRIMINAL BACKGROUND AND DMV RECORDS SEARCHES generally after you have discussed and agreed on the job. You must provide the family with a signed document authorizing the investigating agency to search your records and provide this information to the family. This is the proper time and place for you to provide your Social Security Number and Drivers License Number.
- FAMILIES CRAFT THE FINAL WORK AGREEMENT. They are generally responsible for making any transportation arrangements, if applicable.
The primary benefits of the web-based arrangement are 1) immediacy - you can start talking to families right away, 2) choice - the online services often have more jobs for you to review than the agency, and 3) privacy - you can initiate contacts via e-mail and only talk to the families that appeal to you. The drawbacks include 1) no one has met or can vouch for the family and 2) you do not have an experienced third party to help you evaluate the job and help with work and salary negotiations - you are on your own with the family. The better online services will provide you with extensive FAQs, and online advice, articles and forms to help you be well prepared to be your own advocate.
SCAM WARNING! There are many online predators who are working to scam money from nanny job seekers. More about nanny scams here.
Searching on Your Own
When you decide to find a nanny job on your own, you might look through newspapers, watch community bulletin boards such as at the supermarket, and network with friends who nanny.
This is the least structured job search and you have to be sure you are both well prepared and suitably cautious of your personal safety at all times. Much of the advice offered above for working with families through online services will apply to this situation also. The biggest difference is that you know little or nothing about the job before you respond to the advertisement. At least with the online services some job details have been collected before the process gets rolling.
Some general job hunting advice..
- BE PREPARED before you respond to the advertisement. Have a list of questions ready that is designed to find out as quickly as possible whether this will be a possible job for you. These might include: Where is the job, ages and number of children, hours needed, and compensation offered.
- DOCUMENTATION you should have ready for the families you are interested in should include a current resume, written list of your references, your DMV record (available from the DMV for very little cost), and a medical statement of good health.
- INTERVIEWING: Check the family's references (former nanny or child care providers), if possible, before arranging the face to face interview. It is recommended that the initial interview take place at a neutral location - a McDonalds with a play land, a coffee shop, and libraries are helpful. Be careful about going to the family's private home alone - either bring a friend who can wait for you in the car or leave the name, address and telephone number of where you are going with family/friends and instruct them when to expect to hear from you. Go through a thorough list of interview questions, and trust your instincts. If it doesn't feel right, it won't get better.
- WRITING A WORK AGREEMENT: You and the family must craft a work agreement to define the hours, scope of work, compensation, holidays, vacations, and overtime compensation. It has been our experience that families not using a service are reluctant or uncomfortable doing this - you need to take the lead and make sure it is done before you start work. You are accepting an important, professional job and you must require that you be treated professionally.
- DEALING WITH TAXES AND INSURANCE: Nannies are employees of the family. The family has payroll tax obligations when they hire you. You need to make sure your salary is being properly reported and that you will be provided a W-2 form at the end of the year. NannyNetwork.com refers families to HomeWork Solutions for help with taxes. Many families offer the nanny medical insurance - you may have to work with the family to coordinate an insurance physical or in selecting a plan. All of these must be dealt with in the first week or so of employment.
Regardless of the method you use to find your nanny job, the experts agree that you must do the following:
- Listen to your instincts. If you are uneasy for any reason, move on to another opportunity. Successful nanny employment requires a certain level of compatibility between the nanny and the family - it is either there or it isn't.
- Communicate: Make sure you have been clear about hours, duties, child rearing philosophies, and compensation before you start work. Be realistic, and prioritize. Childcare should come before housework. Don't agree to do more than you can reasonably expect to accomplish.
- Document: Write the work agreement. Review the work agreement. You and the family should both sign the agreement, and the nanny should have her own copy. Review the agreement after the first month, and again periodically. Families are advised to never add duties without compensation.
- Be a Professional: Working with children is a very difficult but rewarding career. You need to take the necessary steps to insure you are providing your employer and the children they have entrusted into your care the best possible childcare. Keep a nanny log or journal daily to help communicate with the family. Be on time and ready for work when scheduled. And remember, opportunities exist all the time to expand your knowledge of child development and education - read books, attend seminars, and join nanny associations to constantly strive to become the best you can be.