After the Job Interview...
Dorothy Popovich and Kathleen Webb
Everyone puts their best foot forward during an interview. You would expect the parents to check your references if everything was sounding positive. You need to do the same thing. Prior nannies are your best first reference to check. Ask for names and numbers of friends, relatives and previous caregivers. Do they have a caregiver who will give them a reference? Do the answers the parents give you match up to the ones the relatives and previous caregivers give you? How do others perceive the parents relationship with their children or what the children are like? Beware if parents have completely opposite perspectives than their friends, relatives and caregivers do of their child-rearing practices, philosophies and ways of resolving conflict. See Prior Nanny Reference Form
After you have checked their references, and presuming you are optimistic that this may be a good match, set up a time where you
can REALLY meet the children. This should be several continuous hours in their company, a whole day if possible, where you OBSERVE (not baby-sit) the children. Let the parents know you are not there to nanny, but to observe to see what their family is like. The day is not for them to see how you interact with their children, but for you to see how they interact as a family. (The trial period is when you interact with their children.) Small children cannot stay on best behavior for more than a short while. This affords you the opportunity to assess manners, discipline styles, the degree of independence of the children, the degree to which the children are catered to, and their over-all personalities.
You need to be as self-aware and objective as you can be. The nanny job is like no other job in childcare! The hours are long, many of us live in our work place and we don't always have a lot of adult interaction in our day. Speaking in generalities, nannies are nurturers and we have much more in common with 'stay at home Moms' than with our employers who spend a large part of their day working with schedules and deadlines and often have product or results to show for their efforts. Now I ask you, just how long will the toys stay in the toy box or Susie's braids stay neat and straight? And how important is a deadline when your charge is in tears because they scraped their knee on the patio or really, really, really want to figure out how to tie their shoe today? These inherent differences between nannies and their employers are often the root of communication problems, misunderstanding and job/performance dissatisfaction. Many nannies report it is easy to fall in love with the children but the parents can be intolerable (or maybe the nanny just doesn't understand them?). Others express amazement that such nice parents have such mean-spirited children (or maybe the children have just never been taught and need firm, consistent and loving guidance?). While you will have some control over how the children are when you are with them, you cannot change the parents and have no control over how the parents and the children interact with each other. You MUST be truly comfortable that your style and the family's style are compatible - it takes great maturity to realize what you cannot change and to move on to the next opportunity.
When you accept a nanny job, make sure you get the terms of your employment agreement in writing! There are sample work agreements at this site which cover the highlights of a nanny contract. This should be done before you start work, and you should review this document with your employer during your orientation period. There is no such thing as too much detail in a work agreement [at least in my opinion].
The work agreement, at a minimum, should address the following:
- Work Schedule: Days and Hours
- Compensation: Salary in hourly gross terms, understanding on payroll taxes, and overtime compensation. How frequently will you be paid?
- Holiday and Vacation Schedules: Nannies typically receive 2 weeks paid vacation, understanding that it often will be timed to coincide with family vacation schedules, and paid holidays. Sick day arrangements vary. Get them in writing!
- Childcare Duties : Be specific!
- Housekeeping Duties : Be specific and realistic!
Live in nannies should also have a written agreement regarding the living arrangements. Items such as curfew [a touchy subject], phone bills, overnight guests, out of town guests, and privacy expectations [of both parties] should be articulated. If the family advanced the nanny airfare, a repayment or debt forgiveness schedule should be included.
Organize all paperwork before you start work. This includes an necessary 'permission slips' to pick up the children at school, obtain emergency medical treatment, a contact list for emergencies, and authorization to and instructions on how to administer any medications.
If the nanny interviews the parents as carefully as the families interview
the nanny, the nanny will be much better informed. When the nanny agrees to work for the family after all the information has been presented to him/her from the interview and reference checks, then the nanny's decision to work for a family will be a much more permanent one. The key to keeping a nanny-family relationship a happy and long term one, is to have a clear initial understanding of what is expected of the nanny, and what is expected of the family, and honest and open communication later as issues arise.
Best Wishes in your Fabulous Nanny Career!
This list is a work in progress. Any suggestions are appreciated, please send them to me via this website.