My family is now on its fourth nanny in just over two years. They all parted with us on good terms. And, one of those we hired knowing that she’d only be able to work for a few months.
I have interviewed, background-checked, e-chatted and met with…um...lots of potential nannies in my day.
In the time I have been scrambling through dozens and dozens and dozens of applications, letters of interest and e-mails, I have come up with some pointers for people who are currently seeking employment in personal in-home childcare.
1. BE HONEST. Now, this seems like a no-brainer. But, here’s the deal: If you can only work 3 days a week, you need to be honest about that. If you do not have experience with potty-training a toddler, you need to be honest about that. In other lines of work, an employer will train you to do most things. So, like, if you apply for a job at a grocery store but have never run a cash register before, it isn’t all that big of a deal. They will show you how whether you have experience or not. This is not the case with childcare. Don’t know how to change a diaper and you’re applying for a job working for twin 1-year olds? You’re screwed.
2. LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT. If you do not feel passionate about being a part of a child’s growth; if you do not truly love teaching and playing; if you do not have a deep interest in helping a young person to form his earliest and most basic understanding of the universe around him, just don’t friggin’ apply. I am talking to you, Girl-Who-Only-Wants-A-Nanny-Job-Because-She-Majored-In-Philosophy-At-The-Local-Community-College-And-No-One-Else-Will-Hire-Her. You better be clear about your intentions. There is no busy working parent out there who wants to start this process of nanny-finding all over again in six weeks when you land a better gig at the Shoe Mall. Get on the bus or get away from the stop. Apply for nanny jobs because you want to be a nanny. Period.
3. BE LITERATE. When you apply for a job you have found online or through any other advertising avenue, make sure to present yourself as a learned person. Even if you are merely responding to a posting on a childcare website, make sure to write a full response to the posting. Use capital letters and full words and sentences. Use proper punctuation. Do not use slang. Address the job poster by name if you know it. Even consider writing a formally-formatted letter and including an updated resume that highlights your childcare experience. Do not include a resume you have left over from four years ago when you were looking for a job at accounting firms. And, when you speak with your potential employer on the phone, you must sound professional and well-spoken, too. I don’t want you helping my kid with his spelling words if you can’t string a coherent sentence together. My five-year old should not have better grammar than you do.
4. BE ON TIME. EXACTLY. In the real world, you should always be 15 minutes early for an interview. This is not the case for a nanny interview, particularly if it is at someone’s private residence. You should be EXACTLY on time. ON THE DOT. If you are even one minute late, your potential employer will notice. If you are early, you are inconveniencing the homeowner. Most parents have a to-the-minute schedule that is followed. And, even if they don’t, if a baby needs a diaper change right before your arrival, mom may look at the clock, see that it is 7:23 and believe that she still has seven minutes to get the baby changed and cleaned up before you arrive. If you come-a-knockin’ at 7:25, she is now elbow-deep in poop, the dog is barking (and this makes the baby cry), and she can neither get to the door nor open it with her crap-hands. Now she’s flustered. And, this is the emotion she is going to start your interview with. Not good.
5. IT IS AS IT IS. If you are using a service that connects job-seekers with job-posters, most nanny positions, you will notice, have details listed clearly about the job expectations. You should be prepared to live with everything the job poster posts before you contact him or her to move forward. If I posted that my job pays $11/hour, do not come to an interview and waste my time when you know you will refuse to accept anything lower than $15/hour. If you cannot be at work until 9AM, do not send me an e-mail telling me that you would be perfect for my job, but only you can’t start at 6:30 AM. If you can’t start at 6:30 AM, then you are NOT perfect for my job. Look, there are plenty of candidates who can and will meet every one of my needs. There are more potential nannies out there than there are nanny jobs. I cannot be coaxed into hiring a less-than-ideal candidate when it is a fact that a truly ideal candidate is absolutely out there.
6. JUMP IN. If you are fortunate enough to be granted an interview at someone’s home, recognize that this is not for the purpose of talking with you about salary requirements and discussing your educational background. This is a parent or guardian’s way of seeing how you interact with the kids. If the kids don’t like you, you’re done. So, jump in. Hug and play. High-fives are always good. Even bring your favorite age-appropriate children’s book and ask the kids if they’d like to read with you. If you see a dropped toy, pick it up. If the kids are on the floor, but mom is on the couch, get on the floor. Your real interview is with the little ones. Smile. Be fun. Be energetic. Ask the kids questions about their favorite games, toys, books and pets. If you see a runny nose, go get a tissue. This gives your potential employer a sample of the nanny you will be when he or she is not there.
7. BE DEPENDABLE. If you live in a state where cars must be inspected, make sure that you are up-to-date. Have your car tuned-up and checked out before driving to a potential employer’s house. Make sure it is clean. If this is the vehicle in which you will be transporting children, you need to make sure it is dependable and clean to set parents’ minds at ease about allowing their babies to get into a potentially lethal weapon with you at the helm. And, along with this idea, you should, again, be on time, dress conservatively (no baby tees, no minis, no shorty-short shorts, no stilettos, no overflowing boobage, etc.). Look like a respectable person. Drive a respectable (or at least well-cared-for) car. Keep your driving record clean. Get a background check through your police department and be ready to hand over the results to potential employers.
8. TAKE CARE OF YOU. Don’t smoke. Don’t post hussy pictures of yourself on Instagram. Don’t talk about keg stands on Facebook. Don’t do anything that can get you arrested. Eat well and let employers know that nutrition and fitness are important to you (as you will be in charge of their children’s well-being quite a bit). Get in shape if you aren’t already. I hate to think about discrimination, but if you don’t seem like you could run after my 2-year old and catch him, you’re no good to me.
9. SEND A THANK-YOU NOTE AFTER YOUR INTERVIEW. In any line of work, if you interview with someone face-to-face, you should send a handwritten thank-you immediately after your meeting. It is classy. E-mail is not the same thing, either.
10. BE WILLING TO GO THE EXTRA MILE. Every parent who is in a position to hire a nanny is doing so to alleviate some of the pressures that exist in trying to juggle things like career, family, volunteering, community engagement, school, etc. The nanny who lands the job will ultimately be willing to do more than just sit and stare at kids all day. Consider offering to do children’s laundry, prepare meals, do grocery shopping, vacuum, dust, walk the dog, etc. Consider offering to help keep family mail, papers, records, schedules, etc. organized. Referring to yourself as a “Nanny and House Manager” is helpful, too. It might even land you some more money.
Of course, these ten rules don’t guarantee you a damn thing. There are no guarantees in this world, of course. But, I have found that candidates who are able to offer the “total package” really are in the minority overall. While I mentioned that there are a gazillion nannies looking for jobs, you will absolutely stand out if you are professional, passionate, educated, driven, energetic, punctual, caring, classy, organized, clean, and healthy.
Happy job hunting!