Hiring a nanny can be incredibly challenging for new parents. The welfare of your child, both physically and emotionally, is at stake, and choosing the right nanny is an important undertaking.
If it’s time to consider a nanny, be thoughtful and systematic in your approach. If you’re on parental leave, start the process early and don’t wait until the last minute. Making a rushed — and bad — decision will only cause you more stress down the road.
If you and your partner are both busy professionals, the approach to hiring a nanny is similar to other hiring experiences where you work. Your goal is to hire the best candidate possible, which also means creating an attractive job offer.
Nannies often have many jobs to choose from. It’s not just the salary that sells the job. It’s also you and your family. What makes your situation special? Remember the hiring process is always a two-way street. Think about the role the nanny will play in your life. Feeling like an important and respected member of the “team” goes a long way in creating job satisfaction.
Planning and starting a family are exciting milestones. If a new baby is a part of your life, our Ultimate First Year Baby Budget can help you anticipate and manage costs. Hiring a nanny will be an expense. But it’s best to think of it as an investment. The right nanny is an investment in the well-being of your child and helps lays the foundation for your child’s social and psychological development.
We’ve put together some helpful tips to guide you in the nanny-hiring process. Making a good decision may take a bit of time before you find the best match for your family. Be patient until you are satisfied with your choice.
We’ve created a road-map for the process. Here are our tips for success:
1. Create a Clear Job Description
First and foremost, create a clear job description for your nanny position. Think about your expectations. For example, will the nanny also do housekeeping, walk the dog, run occasional errands or take your child to the park every day? Do you need some of the conveniences of having a nanny who is comfortable with technology, such as smart phones, texting and apps?
Be specific as possible about the details of the job duties, responsibilities and hours. Approach the job-writing task with the level of professionalism that it deserves. As with any employee, your nanny will appreciate clear expectations and communication. Don’t expect someone to “second guess” your needs. That only leads to frustration and disappointment for all parties involved.
It’s good to include any minimal experience requirements as well as preferred professional experience in the job description. If there are any special skills or abilities, make note of those, too.
2. Write an Ad for Your Job
Before launching into the job duties, describe the work environment. Provide a context for your job description and why working for you would be an attractive job offer. Explain your parenting philosophy and why you’ve decided to hire a nanny. Next, talk about your ideal candidate and what the job entails. If you’re a busy professional, such as a physician, and your hospital duties begin at 6 a.m., mention that in the ad. Your prospective hire needs to know, so don’t gloss over important details.
At the end of your ad, list any special perks, benefits and your compensation range. Be sure to include instructions on how to apply. It’s helpful to request a cover letter, along with the resume, to gain a better sense of the applicant.
Consider posting on a reputable website such as Care.com for your nanny. There may also be sites specific to your city for hiring nannies. Be sure to review your options and choose ones that are fully vetted.
3. Create a List of Potential Candidates and Interview Them
Based on the response to your ad, create a list of your top five candidates. If you receive many resumes, this may take a bit of time. Choose those that most closely match your job description. If you have a lot of great applicants, winnowing the pool to five may be daunting. Do your best!
Before you begin your interviewing, develop a list of standardized questions to ask each applicant. Don’t just “wing it” with each candidate. Try to keep your interviews to about an hour. For the initial interviews, don’t have your child present, so you can stay focused on the applicant.
Your questions should be phrased to elicit thoughtful responses as opposed to simple yes or no answers. For example, ask candidates to describe why they are interested in your position or what their approach is to managing a child who is misbehaving.
Take notes during the interviews so you can compare responses later. Be sure to ask if the candidate has any questions for you when wrapping up the interview, and ask for professional references.
4. Invite the Lead Candidates to Meet Your Child
After the initial round of interviews, you’ve hopefully narrowed it down to your favorite one or two applicants. The next big step is to invite them back to meet your child. This is a critical step in the process. You’ll get to see how the potential nanny interacts with your child.
Does your child seem to connect with the candidate and vice versa? Remember, they will be spending a considerable amount of time together and should be comfortable in each other’s company. Even a candidate that “looks great on paper” and interviews well may not have the rapport with your child that you hoped for. Your child’s comfort and ease with a new caretaker can make or break this part of the decision-making process.
5. Do a Background Check and Call References
Once you’ve made your choice, don’t just rely on the fact that you had a “good feeling” about the candidate. A background check and professional references are essential.
Online agencies, such as Care.com, will handle the background check for you. Other online resources or nanny payroll services also offer background checks. Don’t neglect this important step. Your nanny will be with your child and spending time in your home. For your peace of mind and the protection of your family, be sure to do this. However you choose to conduct the background check, make sure it is Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliant.
Likewise, contact your potential nanny’s professional references provided during the interview. It’s customary to ask for three references when conducting job screenings.
6. Make an Offer and Draft a Contract
Make an offer to your preferred candidate and draft a contract describing the employment agreement. A well-executed contract should include the following:
- The nanny’s role and responsibilities. Once again, be as specific as possible. If your expectation is that the kitchen is cleaned or weekly grocery shopping is completed, include that along with the basic job description.
- The employer’s role and responsibilities.
- The nanny’s work schedule and procedure for handling emergency situations.
- Compensation information. You may decide to pay your nanny hourly or establish a salaried position, depending on your circumstances and needs. Be sure to also include any overtime, tax withholdings, mileage reimbursement and the pay schedule.
- Any benefits, vacation time and sick leave.
- Performance reviews and raises.
- A probationary period, typically three months, and the process for release from probation if necessary.
- The process for termination of the employment contract should either you or the nanny decide to end employment.
There may be circumstances when it’s mutually beneficial to make adjustments to the contract. Make sure to include a clause for contract modifications should they be necessary.
7. Make the Nanny an Employee
Don’t skirt the law and be sure to follow IRS guidance. If you’ve hired a household worker, including a nanny, the individual is your employee whether part-time or full-time. You control both what work is done and how it’s performed. Your nanny is an employee and must be treated as such. There can be stiff penalties and fines for not doing so.
The easiest solution is to work with a company that can handle the process, such as employer taxes and unemployment insurance, for you. There are several companies like NannyPay, HomePay or HomeWork Solutions that can manage this.
If your nanny doesn’t want to be an employee and requests to be paid cash, move on to the next candidate. Your professional standing is not worth the risk of circumventing the law.
The best way to have happy employees is to treat them well and give them the respect they deserve. Your nanny will work hard for you, manage the day-to-day care of your child and respond to the many challenges children can create.
As time goes on, your nanny will become an invaluable member of your household. As parents, you’ll feel less stressed and have more energy for enjoying time with your child. Hiring the right nanny can benefit everyone’s well-being.
Written by Chad Chubb, CFP®, CSLP®
Disclosure: This information is for general purposes only.