How to Pick the Perfect Nanny

The best part of my day is when Ellie come to visit me at work – and calls the shots.

Have I ever told you that I hated, I mean HATED saying the word nanny when I first back to work?  Friends and colleagues would ask who was watching Ellie, and I would say, “Oh someone that I found on SitterCity,” or  “a sitter,” or I would list all of the qualifications that my nanny has like, “someone that is really smart, graduated with a 3.5 GPA, volunteers, has been a camp counselor, nanny, and preschool teacher.”

I hated the idea of someone “raising” my daughter for me while I was at work.  Someone that was standing in for me, the lead of the show who couldn’t take center stage Monday – Friday.  Adding to this was the stress of not having daycare as an option because my work hours varied from very early mornings, to late evenings – and because daycare in this city is just about just as reasonable driving a car is.  (That rant is for another post)  So I felt backed into a nanny corner.  Felt forced to invite someone into my house, and sit on my couch, to feed and play with my daughter.

But I got over it because I found the perfect nanny for Ellie and I – someone that is an extension of me…not a replacement for me.  And I’ve been asked a number of times in the past couple weeks about how I found the perfect nanny…and I figured I’d share with anyone else that might find this useful.

Before Even Speaking to Your First Perspective Nanny:

1. Finding perfect childcare is not a one-size fits all project, so evaluate your family’s particular needs.  Do you need someone that has experience with newborns?  Or testy pre-teens?  Do you need someone there 5 days a week or 3 days? Early morning hours, or late evenings, or with a flexible schedule?

2. Decide how you plan to pay your nanny – on the books or off.  Hourly or weekly. Obvi on the books is the legal way…and if you ever plan to run for office, you don’t need nanny-gate biting you in the ass.

3. Use a nanny search site that runs background checks for you.

4.  Be really specific in what you are looking for, and the type of person you are looking for.  Not only does it help weed out people that won’t be a good fit, it puts out into the universe exactly what you want to bring back to you and your family.  I know, very “Eat, Pray, Love” of me.  It’s my bible.

Here is the ad I posted to find Ellie’s current nanny:


I am looking for a dedicated, full-time nanny for my 10-month-old daughter Ellie.

Currently, I am producer in network news and my schedule does change on short notice and I do have to work longer hours on occasion. Because of this I would need someone that is quite flexible.

I am looking for someone to work WITH me, as opposed to FOR me as you will be spending as much time as I do with the most important person in my life.

If you are the ideal candidate, you will:
* be energetic
* be reliable
* be even-tempered
* be patient
* have a sense of humor
* believe, as I do, that children need someone to get down on their level to play with them
* be willing and excited to take my daughter to enrichment classes such as music or gym
* initiate and arrange playdates
* not be expecting to be on the phone or blackberry or computer while watching my daughter
* have at least 3 relevant references that I can speak with
* have an understanding of child development
* be legally allowed to work in the United States and be willing to be paid on the books.

Please reach out to me and tell me about yourself.
If we seem like a match, then hopefully we can meet up soon.

Skills & certifications: CPR, First Aid and Insured
Number of children: 1
Ages of children: Newborns/Infants (0-1 years old)
Education level requested: Some College
Job start date:
Screening Applicants:
1. Talk to potential applicants on the phone and get a feel for why they are looking for a job.  Ask about previous experience, and what they enjoy about spending time with kids.
2. Call references BEFORE interviewing them in person.  This can save you time if you hear of any red flags AND gives you the chance to ask more informed questions about their experience.
3. I think it is mandatory to speak to the most recent reference, keep an eye out for any gaps in the resume which would indicate someone that would not want you to call.
4. Ask reference about punctuality and calling out of work.  Remember, no nanny most likely means no work for you.
5. Ask what responsibilities they had set out for the applicant.  Their perfect might not be your perfect, so see if they had them doing the same type of job.
6. Ask them what they didn’t like about the person.  People always try to be polite and usually wont volunteer negative information unless directly asked.
7. Ask if they would mind this person living with them.  Not that you are looking for a live-in nanny, but see how well the person meshed with the family.
Interviewing Applicants:
1. For safety reasons, it is advisable to meet the person outside of your home and away from your kids for the first time.  If that’s possible, I’d suggest doing the interview at a coffee shop or something like that.  Keep an eye out for basic manners, demeanor, and if they show up on time.
2. Ask them what their philosophy on discipline is, and see if it is in line with yours.
3. Ask them what they plan to do while your child(ren) are napping.
4. Ask them if they are aware of playgroups and children’s events in the area, and are comfortable making recommendations for activities during the day.
5. Ask them how they are going to handle a bad behavior situation.
6. Discuss consistency in discipline.  Ellie’s nanny and I have conversations nearly every morning about how we are going to both get on the same page with Ellie doing things like screeching when we tell her she can’t do something, or when she throws her toys.
7. Ask if they can give updates throughout the day, and check in when they leave the house and come back in.  When Ellie was smaller, I would also ask for texts on how much she ate and when she slept.  Remember, this is a job and they are working, so asking for status reports helps you stay in the know, and feel more connected.  If I have free-time, I Skype or Facetime with Ellie during the day…which also helps.
8. Ask how flexible they are.  Even if your schedule is pretty regular, you want to get a read on how they handle a change in the original plan because, well life is unpredictable.
9. Ask if they are comfortable driving/taking the subway with kids, and know how to handle getting them in and out of car seats, etc – seems easy until you do it.
10. If they pass this round interview, schedule a second interview when they can meet the kids, and hang out for a while.
11.  Perhaps ask them to come and hang out while you are home a couple of times, and then DO A TEST DRIVE.
Have them come over for a couple of hours and leave the kids and go for a run, a mani, to sit in a nice dark room in silence – ya know, something for you.
12.  If you hire them, WRITE UP A CONTRACT THAT DEFINES THE EXACT TERMS OF THE JOB….vacation, hours, flexible schedule, expectation of privacy, discussion of a raise, what happens when you take the day off from work, etc.  It helps in case either of you forget what you agreed to – which can easily happen.
Pick someone who’s going to be good with your kids – and equally as good with you.  They are going to be in your space, see you getting dressed for work in the morning and discuss things like poop with you.  You want someone you wouldn’t mind going on vacation with.
The reason I love Ellie’s nanny so much: Ellie claps when she hears the door open every morning, she kisses Jillian when she picks her up, when Ellie naps she sends me links to classes and activities for them during the week and us on the weekend, she keeps me updated throughout the day, and she is never in a rush to get out the door if I want to discuss Ellie with her.
I can’t even pretend to know it all – so what tips do you have when finding the right childcare?  HELP MY FRIENDS OUT AND LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW.