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What should I know about online nanny services?

Online nanny referral services are a relatively new entry into the 'agency' market. The leader among these services is Inc, which pioneered the concept in 1998.

The online service will provide some but not all of the services of a traditional agency. It is important to understand the differences.

Online services are dramatically less expensive than agencies, typically $100 -$300 dollars. Price is truly an indicator of value. These services are recruiting venues. Their substantial applicant pools are not pre-screened and their staff will not make specific hiring recommendations.

Online services will generally:

  1. Recruit a pool of non-screened nanny candidates.
  2. Nanny candidates complete an online application form that collects pertinent data about the applicant's qualifications, experience, and job search preferences. The quality of the application form directly relates to the family's ability to successfully match their family's needs. Skimpy application forms are something for families to watch out for.
  3. Provide prospective clients an extensive on-line preview of their current candidate pool. The better services will make this preview available to prospective clients at no charge, and have the search filter criteria sufficiently robust to enable the family to get a good idea of the number of candidates that substantially match their needs. Be wary of the service that doesn't provide detailed information about current candidates prior to asking for a fee commitment.
  4. Collect a non-contingent fee from families. These fees are site use fees and do not guarantee successfully staffing the job. Families are then provided the means to contact the nanny candidates directly.
  5. Families do all screening of prospective nannies. Thorough screening is the family's responsibility alone - unlike using a traditional nanny agency. Help documentation may be provided to step the family though this "do-it-yourself" process. Better services make this documentation available to all prospective clients.
  6. Families make all job offers. There should be family referrals for tax and insurance issues on the site, as well as tools such as sample work agreements, in template format, provided to the family.
  7. Families are responsible to order the background investigation of the candidate they select, and pay for it directly. Families are responsible to adhere to all requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as they apply to pre-employment background screening. Better services such as include the background search in their fee and allow families to order this search directly from the website.
  8. Families craft the final work agreement. They are responsible for making any transportation arrangements, if applicable.

The primary benefits of the web-based arrangement are 1) immediacy - family can start talking to candidates right away, 2) economics - fees are generally 20% of a full service agency, and 3) privacy - the family can initiate contacts via e-mail and only talk to the candidates that appeal to them. Compare that to the telephone ringing constantly from a newspaper ad, usually in the middle of dinner, bath time, and when you want to relax. Unlike a nanny referral agency, families using online sites are 100% responsible for all candidate screening.

What to watch for... Know who you are doing business with. Families want to be sure there is contact information for the service they are considering using. Contact information should include a telephone number and the name and address of the operator. Families will also want to review the support materials provided. And lastly, has the online service developed a secure site, particularly for the processing and retention of your personal information and credit card data.

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