Interviewing a Live Out Nanny

Regardless of how you recruit nannies for your position, your next task is interviewing them. If you’ve used any of the do-it-yourself models, the number of inquiries you receive can be downright overwhelming. Even if you’ve used an agency, having to sort through files of prequalified nannies hand selected for your job can be tedious work. Having a solid plan for narrowing the field and interviewing potential candidates will help guide you to the right nanny match.


As you start to get resumes or applications in, you likely begin to develop a keener sense for what you are and what you aren’t looking for in a nanny for your children. Keep a written list of minimum hiring criteria handy as you sort through those who are interested in your position. Those nanny applicants who don’t meet your minimum hiring criteria can be immediately rejected as viable candidates.

Phone Interview

Once you have a list of candidates who meet your minimum hiring criteria, you’ll want to weed that list down even further as you search for your ideal candidate. One of the easiest ways to weed out candidates and determine which candidates are truly viable is to hold a brief phone interview.

During the phone interview, keep the conversation high level. Share a bit about your family, your children, your ideal candidate and expand upon your initial job description.

Use the initial phone conversation to gain a better understanding of the nanny’s previous childcare experience, her qualifications and what she is looking for in a position. Discuss what ages of children she’s cared for, why she chose to work as a nanny, what her interests us and what types of families she’s worked for in the past. Try to get a sense of her personality type and temperament too. Since you’ll be working closely together compatibility is essential.

For a nanny and family relationship to work, there has to be a real connection present. During the phone conversation, consider if the candidate is easy to talk to and if you enjoy your conversation. If you’re an extrovert and enjoy being chatty, but trying to get basic information out of the candidate is like pulling teeth, you may not have the connection required to make a solid employment match.

In-Person Interview

If your phone interview with a candidate leaves you feeling like you want to get to know her more, your next interview will be an in-person interview. For this first face-to-face meeting, choose a public location, like a coffee shop, and schedule it for a time where you can attend without the children. During this meeting it’s important that you can focus on the nanny without being distracted.

During this interview, dig a little deeper about your candidate’s experience. You’ll want to know how long she spent working with each family as a nanny, what her specific job duties and responsibilities were, what she liked best about the job, what she liked least and why the position ended.

If your nanny has a resume available, create a timeline of previous positions and information about them. Look for any gaps in employment and ask how those times were spent.

Since most nannies have a childcare philosophy and method of discipline they use, you may also wish to ask about these things. While your nanny doesn’t need to be your clone, you need to have compatible childrearing philosophies and discipline styles for the relationship to last long-term and to be successful.

You’ll also want to ask open ended situational questions that apply to your caregiving needs, like “How have you handled it when a toddler had a tantrum in public?” or “What did you did when a child was distracting you while driving?” Getting answers to these types of questions can provide you with insight into her caregiving style.

During this second interview it’s acceptable to talk about salary ranges and benefits. Since most nannies have been conditioned to let the potential employer bring up salary first, she’ll likely be waiting on you to bring up the topic. Do your research and know what the market rate is for nanny care in your area. The International Nanny Association publishes an annual salary and benefits survey you can turn to for guidance about wage rates and benefit trends.

Home Interview

If the phone interview is a success, you’ll want to invite your candidate over for an interview in your home with your family. During this interview, you’ll want to observe how the candidate interacts with your children and gauge how comfortable she is in your home.

Start the interview off with an introduction to the children and if they’re old enough, ask them to give the nanny a tour of your home. They’ll love showing off their bedrooms and play areas and the nanny will love getting a sense of how organized, or not, your family is. If you tend to be a neat freak and the nanny isn’t, giving her an opportunity to see how organized your home is provides her with a realistic picture of the standards she’ll need to maintain.

During the home interview, you’ll want to continue to ask probing questions and to really clarify the role you hope the nanny to play in your family and specifically outline the responsibilities and tasks you will require your nanny to take on. You’ll also want to share a bit more about your family, including what a typical day in your home is like. If the children have any special needs, now is the time to discuss those in detail. While it can be tempting not to tell your nanny your child has behavioral defiance disorder, she’s going to figure it out eventually. Not being realistic about the intensity of care a child needs is setting the relationship up for failure.

You’ll also want to spend some time talking about the nanny’s schedule. Outline the days and times you need coverage and inquire as to how flexible the nanny can be with regards to staying late with minimal notice. If you require your nanny to provide overnight care or travel with the family, you’ll want to discuss that too.

While it can be tempting to ask all sorts of personal questions like “Do you have any children?” “Do you plan to have children?” Were you born in the United States?” and “Are you married?” these questions can be viewed as discriminatory. While the anti-discriminatory laws may or may not apply to your hiring situation, it’s always best practice to avoid asking questions that can be interpreted as discriminatory.  Instead of asking “Do you have any children?” ask a question that gets at the heart of the answer you are truly seeking. “Do you have any responsibilities that would prevent you from staying late unexpectedly due to circumstances beyond our control, like a traffic jam or car accident?”

One of the most important considerations of the in-person interview is if the nanny and children click. Does the nanny get down to the children’s level? Perhaps she sits on the floor and offers to read a book? Does she engage them in an age-appropriate way? Does she seem safely conscious? Consider your gut feelings when you observe her interactions with your family.

Working Interview

If the in-person interview goes well, the last and final interview stage is holding a working interview. Typically lasting one to three days, those candidates you are seriously considering hiring can be invited for a working interview.

A working interview gives both you and the nanny and opportunity to test drive working together. During the working interview you get to spend time together going through a typical family day. Since the children and nanny get to spend some quality time together, they’ll have an opportunity to see if they connect and you’ll get a chance to see if you truly share a compatible caregiving style.

During the time you spend together you’ll get to see the caregiver you are considering hiring in action. You’ll get to witness firsthand if she really knows how to calm a crying baby or handle a toddler temper tantrum, like she says she does.

During the working interview, the nanny should be paid her normal requested hourly rate.

What’s most important to keep in mind is that the working interview really gives you both the chance to confirm what you both believe, they you’ll be a good employment match.

If you feel after the working interview you’ve found the nanny you wish to hire, now is the time to make a job offer, contingent on a thorough background screening.