Useful questions to prepare for

As someone who has interviewed (probably!) 100+ nannies over the last eight years, I’ve been astonished by how under-prepared some of the interviewees have been. Some nannies haven’t known the ages of my children, while others haven’t even bothered to ask their names or anything about them. Remember that finding a nanny for their child is one of the most important, but stressful, tasks a working parents is faced with – they want to know that it’s THEIR child you want to care for, that it’s them you are interested in, so really think about tailoring your responses according to what their needs are.

Here are ten ways I’d recommend that you prepare:

1. Why are you interested in this job?

Use the information that you’ve been given by Granny as Nanny to think about what it is about a job with this particular family that really resonates with you. Perhaps you’ve raised three boys and so feel you have the necessary skills/experience/interest to take on their twin sons? If you feel you need more information, ASK QUESTIONS! Parents LOVE talking about their children, so don’t be afraid to ask about the children’s interests, whether they play sport/instruments etc. There’s nothing worse – as an interviewing parent – than a nanny who doesn’t express interest in your child. This is your opportunity to align your previous experiences and interests with the family you’re interviewing with. The little girl loves baking? Fabulous, you can show her the basics of a Victoria sponge and making gingerbread. The little boy is learning the piano? Superb, you taught your own children to play, you’d love to get stuck in to helping him, too.

2. Prepare examples

The best way you can show your skills as a nanny is by illustrating with examples in order to show your abilities and previous experience. If you’re asked what you like doing with children, steer away from the generics (going to the park, arts and crafts) and instead cite specific examples of what you like to do. For example, ‘I love to cook – when I was raising my own children it was really important to me that they got involved in preparing their meals. By the time they left home to go to college, they could make a fantastic spag bol and sticky lemon chicken’ or ‘I spend a lot of my spare time doing arts and crafts, and would love the opportunity to share this passion with young people.’ This really helps the parents to build up a picture of both you as a person, as well as a prospective nanny – and conveys that passion you feel about your role.

3. What skills do you bring to the table?

Parents want to know that you’re more than a child-minder and that their children’s lives will be enriched by having you in them. They also want to know that your skills, experiences and attitude towards child-raising and discipline mirror their own. Use examples to show how you would nurture the children in your care (or use past examples if you have them). Good manners and respectful behaviour are universally highly-regarded by most parents – show how you have encouraged these attributes in the children in your care or in the children you have raised. Consider also how you can show other qualities that you feel you have, whether it’s patience, a calm personality, can-do attitude, loads of energy etc – and always give examples.

4. Think about your approach to discipline and parenting-style

For most parents, it’s not a problem if there’s a little discrepancy in terms of your approach to discipline – in fact, it can be a positive thing, because you may be able to introduce parents to ideas that they hadn’t yet considered or tried – and most parents are crying out for new approaches to discipline, good behaviour etc. However, you need to know, straight up, if there are certain practices that they would want you to adopt that you are not okay with because you’ll feel constantly conflicted if you’re not on the same page. Be honest with yourself – and open with them – about your approach.

5. What are your interests? What do you like to do in your spare time?

I remember an interview with a particular nanny that was going swimmingly well until I asked this question. Her answer? ‘I am really interested in make-up. I like shopping, clothes, usual things.’ My heart sank. We’re a really active family and love being out of the house, going to the theatre, playing games, trying new things… A nanny who didn’t share our enthusiasm for a busy and active lifestyle simply wasn’t going to work for us. Think about what your interests are, what makes you ‘you’ – if you’re going to be spending heaps of time with their children, most parents will want to get to know you, so that they can figure out if you’re a personality match that will work for them.

6. Think about the ‘how’, just as much as the ‘what’.

Interviewing nannies is stressful for both parties – and many parents will be feeling their way as much as you are! I’ve interviewed countless people, both in the work-place and at home and I can tell you that interviewing a nanny is far more stressful because this person isn’t ‘just’ an employee – they’re looking after my children! If parents aren’t asking the sorts of questions that you feel are giving you the opportunity to shine, elaborate. If they ask ‘what’ you like doing with children, don’t give them a long list, pick out one or two things and illustrate with examples. Always be thinking about the ‘how’, so that you can demonstrate that you are an agile-thinker, who’s got lots of tips and tricks to help sort the kind of challenging moments that constantly arise when caring from children. Give examples of how you’ve managed challenging behaviour; explain how a certain quality that you have helped you negotiate a difficult day.

7. What qualities do you think are important in a nanny?

Think about the qualities that you think are important in a nanny – and then think about the ones you have, and focus on these! A parent wants to see that a prospective nanny has a really strong understanding of what it takes to be a positive influence on their children – and you should be bursting with ideas. Again, show how the qualities that you possess have benefited others.

8. Think of examples of unexpected problems or issues that have come up in previous jobs and how you have worked things out.

Again, you’re thinking of tangible examples of your experience and skills when caring for children. Issues could surround an unexpected visit to hospital, or perhaps you’ve been hit/kicked by a child? It’s not so much the example that’s relevant here (although it could be enlightening), but the way that you have dealt with it – a parent needs to be reassured that their nanny will prove to be an on-the-ground problem-solver and that they have the maturity and confidence required to manage tricky situations as and when they arise.

9. What do you think previous employers or your friends would say about you?

Really think about this and how this could come up in conversation at interview – and steer well clear of cliché and stereotype. Shortlist five attributes that you have that you think your previous (and prospective) families would think important, or that your friends value highly? And, again, forget one word answers, such as, ‘They’d say that I am patient, kind, thoughtful etc…’ and share anecdotes, instead. For example, ‘I think they’d say that I was highly self-motivated. Both parents were out of the house from 7am-7pm, and they knew that they could count on me to get on with the job without constantly seeking reassurances or answers to questions. I never waited to be asked to take on a particular task, I’d just do it, whether it was washing the dog or filling the car with petrol.’ Your confidence in your abilities will not seem arrogant, but will fill your prospective employer with confidence that you can do the job. If you haven’t worked as a nanny before, think of the qualities you have that either previous employers or your friends value instead.

10. What additional household responsibilities are you comfortable taking on as a nanny? For example: meal prep, laundry, cleaning, setting up appointments, pet care, etc.

We’ve interviewed some nannies who’ve said, ‘I don’t mind doing x and y, but I’m not prepared to do z’, while I remember one in particular saying that while she didn’t ‘mind’ that we had a dog, she wouldn’t want to have anything to do with it. For us, our dog is part of the family and most of the nannies we’ve had have loved her company – we don’t really want someone sharing our home who merely ‘tolerates’ our beloved pet. Another nanny announced that she didn’t ‘do’ ironing. Again, a deal-breaker for us (those kids’ bed-sheets aren’t going to iron themselves!), but we’ve also had nannies who’ve appeared to enjoy the house-keeping and/or pet-caring aspects of the job more than they’ve enjoyed caring for the children, which didn’t work either! Think hard about what you’re prepared to do, and what you’re not. And if you’re flexible, say so. Lots of parents won’t expect their nanny to take on more general household duties, while others might simply be grateful if extra chores are taken on, on an ad hoc basis. Be clear on this one from the outset, otherwise it’s easy for resentment to build (on both sides!)

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