7 Steps to Choosing a Nanny

by Susan Evans

We researched, spoke with nannies, nanny placement agencies and parents who use nannies to find the best advice to start you off on your search for your own Mary Poppins.

WHN TIP – Know What Matters to You: Our Tips for Conducting Child-Care Research provides a wealth of areas to consider.

Finding Nanny Recommendations/Resources

Expect the process to take a few weeks or even months. While you are finding resources, also tackle the “What Your Want” section.

  • Ask friends, family, coworkers and neighbors how they found their nanny.
  • R&R (Resource and Referral) agencies provide nanny-placement info and in-home child caregiving providers. They can also help choose the best care for your child.
  • Use a nanny placement service agency:
    1. A nanny placement service can help in the selection process by screening potential applicants, running background and reference checks and by providing you with a list of compatible candidates.
    2. There are fees for these services. An agency might charge an initial fee to begin a search and a one-time placement fee when you select a nanny. Costs and policies will vary by agency.
    3. Contact your local Better Business Bureau (or consumer affairs office in your area) to learn about the reputation of the placement agency.

WHN TIP – Background Checks: If you don’t plan on using an agency, you still should run a background check on each candidate. According to Child Care Aware, “many states require in-home caregivers receiving child care subsidy payments to be screened through a criminal history check and/or child abuse and neglect clearance. A few states require minimal training in health and safety.” Check with your state’s attorney general’s office about the laws in your state.

  • You can place ads online (like craigslist), in your local newspaper or in family/children publications.
  • Search for online networking and placement agencies.

Deciding What You Want

Make a list of your needs:

  1. Type of care:
  2. Days and hours:
    • Full-time or part-time?
    • Weekdays only or weekends, too?
  3. Driving and transportation:
    • Will the nanny need to pick up/drop off the children?
    • Will the nanny need to drive to and from your home?
  4. Food and Cleaning:
    • Do you want the nanny to prepare meals and/or do light housework?
  5. Budget:
    • What can you afford to spend on child care?
  6. Timing:
    • Do you need care immediately or can you wait on a waiting list?
  7. Living Arrangements:
    • Would you prefer to have the nanny live with you or live elsewhere?
  8. Nanny or Au Pair?
    • Would you prefer to have a nanny or an au pair (usually a child-care worker here on a visa from another country)?

Make a list of qualifications, prioritize and note where you might be flexible:

  1. Age range
  2. Education and training
  3. Experience
  4. Personality traits
  5. Transportation (can drive, has own car, good driving record, etc.)
  6. Number of languages spoken
  7. Live in your home or outside your home?
  8. Scheduling time if living outside your home
  9. Salary range

Interviewing the Nanny

After you’ve found a candidate, schedule an interview. Have your questions printed out, and take notes during the meeting. Why? It’s easier to compare with a written record when making a final decision.

WHN TIP – Think Like an Employer: Remember, this is basically a job interview since you will officially be the nanny’s employer.

Here is a list of questions to consider asking the nanny. Feel free to omit or add on more of your own.

Qualifications, Skills and Training

  1. Are you legally permitted to work in the U.S.?
  2. Do you have any special training or certification such as first aid or infant/child CPR? Do you have ongoing training? May I see the certificates?
  3. Is your comprehensive criminal history check current? Can you provide a copy?
  4. Do you have a car? Do you have a current and valid drivers’ license and registration that you can show me? Do you have a clean driving record?

WHN TIP – No Proof? Don’t accept excuses. You should see copies of any qualifications, background checks or licenses.


  1. Why are you a nanny?
  2. What do you like most about nannying and being with children? What do you like least?
  3. What are the ages of children you have cared for?
  4. Why did you leave your last job? (Contact the last employer: ask why the relationship ended and whether they would recommend that caregiver.)
  5. Can you provide a copy of your work references so I may contact them? (Always check references.)
  6. How do you discipline children?
  7. What is the most difficult situation you have encountered? How did you handle it?
  8. What would you do in the event of an emergency?
  9. What are your favorite activities to do with children?
  10. Do you have any other interests or jobs?
  11. What are your personal and career goals? How long do you intend to nanny?
  12. What hours/days are you available?
  13. What are you asking for in terms of salary?
  14. What questions do you have for me?

Actual Nanny/Child Interaction

After the initial interview, observe while the nanny spends some time with your children. Does the nanny:

  1. Talk and listen to children?
  2. Try to build on language?
  3. Use open-ended questions to stretch thinking and reasoning?
  4. Show interest in what children are saying and doing?
  5. Let children explore on their own, but give them help and encouragement when they need it?
  6. Play with children on their level (for young children, usually down on the floor)?
  7. Respond quickly to children’s cries, words, and behaviors?
  8. Dupervise young children very closely?
  9. Seem warm, friendly, and supportive?
  10. Know how to respond to each child as an individual?
  11. Dhare your feelings about what is important for children?
  12. Smile a lot and seem to enjoy the children?
  13. Encourage children to share, comfort each other, and help each other out?
  14. Appear to strike a balance between allowing children to do things for themselves, such as when dressing outdoors, and helping them when needed?
  15. Allow choice, problem-solving and personal expression (within reason)?
  16. Treat them with respect at all times?
  17. Encourage your child’s independence?

Doing a Post-Interview Review

After the interview, jot down quick notes about your first impressions of the nanny. Review your notes after interviews with all candidates and refer back to the initial criteria you laid out beforehand.

Ask yourself:

  1. Which nanny best fits the criteria I initially decided upon?
  2. Which nanny do I think will make my child happy and grow?
  3. Which nanny can meet the special needs of my child?
  4. Are the nanny’s values compatible with my family’s values?
  5. Is the nanny care available and affordable according to my family’s needs and resources?
  6. Do I feel good about my decision?
  7. How can I arrange my schedule so that I can:
    • Talk to my nanny every day?
    • Talk to my child every day about how the day went?
  8. How can I work with my nanny to resolve issues and concerns that may arise?
  9. How do I keep informed about my nanny’s growth and development while in care?

Checking References

Check all references. Here are a few starter questions to ask references. Feel free to omit or add more of your own:

  1. Was the nanny reliable on a daily basis?
  2. How did the nanny discipline your child?
  3. Did your child enjoy the nanny experience?
  4. How did the nanny respond to you as a parent?
  5. How did the nanny respond to you as an employer?
  6. Was the nanny respectful of your values and culture?
  7. Would you recommend the nanny without reservation?
  8. Why did the nanny leave the job or why did you let the nanny go?

After you have made your choice, arrange to have your child spend part of the day with the nanny. Be sure that the nanny can easily contact you during this “trial period.” Then talk to your child about how the experience was.

Hiring the Nanny

You are now the nanny’s official employer. This means you need to

  • apply for an employer identification number
  • pay state and federal taxes, Social Security and Medicare
  • put together a work agreement or contract for the nanny which includes duties, hours, salary, days off and so on.

Having a Trial Period

It is important to monitor your child(ren) and their relationship with the nanny. Make sure the nanny can contact you with any questions and be sure to ask questions when you have them.

As a parent, it is up to you to keep checking and be sure your child is happy with the nanny you have selected. Be involved in his or her learning, and ask the nanny about your child’s involvement and adaptation to the new situation.

For More Information

Child Care Aware
The site connects families to child care information and referrals through local Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agencies. Child Care Aware is a program of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.

International Nanny Association
The site offers information for families about hiring a nanny, acting as a household employer and other educational resources. Established in 1985, the INA is a nonprofit, educational association for nannies and those who educate, place, employ, and support professional in-home child-care providers.

IRS: Household Employer’s Tax Guide
The guide will help you decide if you have a household employee and if you do, whether you need to pay federal employment taxes. It will also mention any other additional forms you may need. The Internal Revenue Service is the nation’s tax collection agency and administers the Internal Revenue Code enacted by Congress.

Photo Credit: Pexels

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