Nanny Search 101

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Are You Thinking About Hiring A Nanny?  Here’s What You Should Know.

Guest Blog Post by Trish Woodward of The Nanny Network

Many parents, at one time or another, have thought about hiring a nanny.  The reasons for starting a nanny search can run the gamut from the exhausting price of childcare, to being, well, exhausted and needing an extra set of hands around.  Whatever the reason, once a family is ready to start a search, many begin the process like freshman year of college—hopeful and unaware to what lies ahead. Today, we hope to give you a crash-course in how to approach, facilitate, and conduct a nanny search.  

Welcome to class—Nanny Search 101.

Start with a Conversation.

Many families get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, that they fail to sit down together to discuss the very basics of a nanny search.  Why do we want to hire a nanny? Can we afford it? Can we commit to the process? Is now the right time? Are both parents in agreement with hiring a nanny?  What does the job description look like? What would we want a nanny to do? Setting aside time to have a discussion will help you to decide whether to move forward, postpone, or not to move forward with a search.  If you decide to move forward, this conversation has more than likely brought into focus something that resembles the makings of your nanny job description.

What costs are involved?

Obviously you need to pay your nanny an hourly wage and you’ll need to do a little diligence to learn the competitive wage ranges for your area.  If you decide to work with an agency for your search, you’ll need to factor those costs into your search budget as well. It’s also important to remember that whenever you hire someone to work in your home you become their employer.  Being an employer with an employee comes with an additional price tag. Since most families want to stay on Uncle Sam’s good side, many make the wise choice to work with a household payroll provider. These companies provide affordable payroll, tax, and compliance solutions for household employers.  Generally, it is safe to assume that your employer taxes will cost approximately 10% of your nanny’s gross annual salary.

Agency or Self-Search

If you’re committed, organized, efficient, and have the time, conducting a nanny search on your own is possible.  However, working with an agency provides families peace of mind to know that a team of qualified professionals are guiding and facilitating the entire search from start to finish.  Agencies are expert nanny recruiters skilled at creating a set of realistic expectations for a family’s nanny search and further, know how to navigate the process efficiently and effectively.  Agencies have all the tools in place to recruit and maintain a large pool of qualified candidates with whom they stay in close contact. At the Nanny Network, we interview each candidate, verify details within the application, speak with every childcare-related reference, and complete a driving and criminal background check.  Additionally, we provide ongoing training, resources, guidance and support throughout the nanny’s career. Just remember that if you decide to not use an agency, be sure to check your nanny’s references and run a background check.

Become Self-Aware.

Hiring someone to work in your home is a huge commitment.  By hiring a nanny for your family, you are inviting someone to come into your personal space on a consistent basis and they are going to get to know you very, very well. They will see you at your very best and perhaps at your very worst. How would you describe what it’s like to live with you? If married, how would your spouse describe what it’s like living with you? Asking yourself these questions and preparing honest answers will surely add to the success of the search. Once you make the hire, everyone in the home needs to be ready to build a relationship with this person. And like any relationship, it requires honesty, communication, and connection. With that, you’ve created a solid foundation for a healthy nanny-family working relationship.

Create the Job Description.

I think it’s always best to start with your bucket-list or wish list of what your nanny profile looks like.  Write on paper your dream nanny for your family. Will the nanny be expected to do any household work? Will they need to walk the dog? Run errands?  Do they need a car? Would you like help with the laundry? What do the hours look like? Should they be able to help with homework? Do you want a nanny who runs and plays with the children?  Do you want a nanny who cooks? Bakes? Works weekends? Good with discipline? Should she be a good swimmer? Think of every aspect that you possibly can and get it all down on paper. Once you’ve done that, rank those items in order of importance.  

Create the Abridged Job Description.

Now that you’ve created a person on paper that most definitely doesn’t exist in this world, it’s time to create the job description with realistic expectations.  You’ll want to include the hours, ages of children, salary range (pre-tax), and what a typical day looks like. Then be sure to include some of those things at the top of your Nanny Wish List.  It’s also great to advertise any benefits you’ll be able to offer - vacation days, sick days, mileage reimbursement, paid holidays, healthcare stipend, etc. While you won’t include all the items from your wish list, hang on to it as a tool to facilitate the conversation during your nanny interviews.

Prepare for the Interview.

While you want your nanny candidates to meet their would-be charges, it’s best to save that for the second round of interviews.  Allowing for limited interruptions and creating a child-free atmosphere where you can be completely dialed-in to your thoughts and the task at hand, is the best way to conduct a successful first interview.  Prepare a list of questions that are relevant to your expectations and family needs. When drafting a list of questions to ask, I always suggest to my families to think of those hypothetical situations that are important to you.  Let’s say you need a nanny who can be flexible with her schedule because there may be times you’ll ask her to work late. Instead of asking, “Can you be flexible with your schedule?” Ask a hypothetical question, “If there was a time where I needed to stay late at work and my wife was out of town traveling for work, would you be able to stay later?”  I’m almost positive that you’ll get a good feel for the nanny’s flexibility based on how the question is answered.

Getting to know the Nanny.  

Interviews are always nerve wracking and if not done with purposeful thought, can prove to be unproductive.  While it’s impossible to really get to know someone in just one meeting, there are simple ways to expose the more genuine and natural side of a person.  For example, I’ve encouraged my clients to use the word “meeting” instead of “interview” when confirming that first in-person interview. That simple exchange of words takes the edge off almost immediately.  I also suggest to ask more conversational questions initially to break the ice. Most nanny agencies will provide highly detailed nanny referral documents that highlight the nanny’s interests and talents outside of their childcare profession. Use that information to ask questions that create an opportunity for the nanny to talk about themselves and the things that bring joy to their lives.  When you create an atmosphere where it feels more like a conversation and less like an interview, you are bound to see a more true and natural side of the nanny.

Selecting the Nanny.

After you’ve navigated telephone interviews, in-person interviews, and working interviews, you’ll decide to make an offer to that one nanny who fits your family best.  With that decision, you’ll need to make the job offer and while it’s uncomfortable for most to talk about money and expectations, you have to do it in a way that is direct and crystal clear.  We suggest for our parents to use an offer checklist to facilitate this part of the nanny search process.

The Offer Checklist.

The Offer Checklist outlines all the basics: the typical schedule, hourly rate, benefits, PTO, start date, and any household chores that might be expected beyond childcare.  Once you’ve delivered this checklist, allow the nanny some time to review it before you talk through it together. This creates the opportunity for both parties to address any concerns before committing to a hire or to a position.  The Offer Checklist is an effective tool that helps to avoid any would-be uncomfortable conversations down the road. You’re also, once again, setting the groundwork for a healthy, open, and honest line of communication—-paramount for the nanny-family relationship.  

Get it in Writing.

Once both parties have agreed to the terms outlined in the Offer Checklist, you’ll need to create a contract or agreement.  At the Nanny Network, we call this the Nanny-Family Agreement which is signed by the parents and the nanny. It covers all that was outlined in the offer checklist as well as many other important aspects such as: agreed upon discipline techniques, cell phone and screen time usage, how to handle medical emergencies, etc.  We encourage our parents to use the contract as a tool and to revisit it together every three or six months as the children grow and needs change. Facilitating a process that involves revisiting the agreement further promotes a collaborative relationship built for success.

Set up Payroll.

Remember as a household employer, you’ll need to create a way to pay your nanny based on the payroll schedule agreed upon and to further assure that your process is in compliance with state and federal laws.  There are many affordable household payroll companies that provide these services so that you don’t have to worry or fuss with these necessary tasks.

Plan Your Back-up Care in Advance.

Once you’ve gotten to the finish line and have hired a nanny, most families that don’t work with an agency, are often taken off-guard when their nanny needs a day off.  It’s important to remember that your nanny has a life outside of your family and will need time off for personal reasons. Creating a second line of defense is critical when hiring a nanny because, like most of life, the need will arise at the most inconvenient of times.  The Nanny Network is armed for such situations where we have a team of back-up care nannies at the ready to come in and save the day. And what’s more? Many of our families will use our back-up care services for date nights as well!

Start to Finish Timing.

If you’ve managed to stick with me and read through all of the above, you’re probably thinking, “Wait, that was a lot.  How long does it take to hire a Nanny?” The honest and unpopular answer is, it depends. Nanny agencies are often mistaken for having a rolodex of available caregivers at the ready and for being magic match-makers.  But the truth is, it’s a process. While The Nanny Network does have a large network of nannies, other factors like timing, location, the hourly rate, and the job description can narrow the pool of candidates. It’s also important to note that the parent’s level of participation to the search greatly impacts the speed and success of the process.  Since parents and families will still push for a quantifiable answer to this question, we feel comfortable giving the range of 3-6 weeks for a permanent nanny search.

While there’s certainly much more to consider for a successful and efficient nanny search, the above is more or less your nanny search crash course.  If you’d like to learn more about the services offered at The Nanny Network, please visit our website at www.nanny-network.com and for families with a need for more comprehensive household help, consider a family assistant (for school-age families) or a Sidekick,  www.Household-Sidekick.com.