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The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

Five great questions for the nanny interview

Most first-time moms have no idea what to ask prospective sitters. There are the obvious questions: How long were you at your previous job? Do you know infant CPR? May I check your references? . . .  But how can you really determine if someone is a good fit for your family? Melody Rubie, founder of Manhattan-based Smart Start Sitters placement agency, suggests the following five questions to help reveal a caregiver’s true colors.

Question #1: “Tell me about your own childhood and the childcare philosophies under which you were raised.”
What it reveals: Understanding the circumstances and values of someone’s upbringing can provide a great deal of insight into his or her instincts as a caregiver.

Question #2: “How do you redirect a child when there is a conflict? For example, If Susie wants her blue sippy cup everyday at the table and has a meltdown without it, what do you do?”
What it reveals: This kind of question enables you to really hear the language a care giver is likely to use with your child. (Be careful not to make the question leading; it has to be open-ended in order to avoid tipping the respondent as to what you’re looking for.)

Question #3: “Describe a child you’ve cared for.”
What it reveals: If the sitter only talks about what he or she did with the child (i.e., we read books, we went to the library), that should raise a red flag. An ideal candidate will talk about the child’s personality and how they interacted together from an emotional stand-point—this is an important indication that the sitter sees the children in his or care as individuals with personalities and feelings, rather than subjects with physical needs that must be attended to.

Question #4: “What is your current family situation?”
What it reveals: Go into some detail when asking about the sitter’s family. The last thing you need is a sitter who is constantly arriving late, leaving early, or absent trying to resolve a family situation you could have known about at the beginning of the interview process.

Question #5: “Why do you choose to spend your time caring for children rather than working in another environment?”
What it reveals: This can really cut to the chase in determining whether the candidate has options other than child care.  If not, it’s a definite no-hire.