Questions to ask a potential babysitter

May 16, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. ET

Are you screening several babysitter or nanny candidates to take care of your children? Here are a few key questions you should ask each one; their answers might make all the difference in your decision.

Babysitter with kids

This is one interview in which you want to be very thorough so you can be sure you've hired the best candidate for the job. After all, this person will be caring for your little ones — the most precious people in your life — in your absence. You want to feel confident that the person is honest and more than capable of handling the responsibility. Here are some key questions to include in your interview.

What's their experience in working with children?

Ideally you want someone with experience, and it would be fantastic if their experience is with children ranging in age, including the ages of your children. But this is not to say that if someone has no experience you should write them off. Take, for example, a teenager from your neighbourhood. They will have less experience than someone who's made a career out of caring for children. Look at the teen's strengths in other areas to determine whether you'd feel comfortable leaving your kids with them while you catch a movie. Keep in mind, though, that someone who does have more experience will demand more compensation.

What type of emergency training (such as CPR or first aid) do they have?

This is an important one, as you want to rest assured that if something were to happen, your babysitter is able to administer first aid or take the right action in a stressful situation. If your first choice of candidate is not certified in first aid, you could hire them contingent on their completing a course (for which you could offer to foot the bill).

What activities would they plan for your kids?

Hopefully this question is not answered with a blank stare or an "I don't know." Their reply may help you gauge how well they know kids the age of yours and what they like to do. You're looking for answers that include activities that would keep your child active and mentally stimulated, such as spending time outdoors and getting some exercise, reading, and playing games, rather than sitting and watching TV. (Some TV is fine, of course, but you don't want it to be the main thing your babysitter will have your kids do!)

How would they handle certain specific situations?

Give your babysitter candidate a few hypothetical scenarios, such as the baby's fallen and hit their head or your toddler's throwing a tantrum. Their replies will help you determine how capable they are in real-life scenarios.

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