There are parenting duties we’re expected to know how to do innately. As the CEO of UrbanSitter, I know hiring a good babysitter is one of them. It can be unnerving to find a trustworthy, competent sitter who’s available when you need her, let alone to know what to ask in an interview to help you decide if she’s right for the job.
To find the right caregiver for your family, decide which skills, characteristics and extras are most important to you in a sitter and schedule a phone, in-person or working interview with your potential new hire to see if she has what it takes to be a good fit for your family. Ask these key questions to decide if you’re right for each other.
1. What experience have you had caring for children? Have you cared for children this age?
This should include all types of childcare, including watching her own children or younger siblings, working at a daycare center, serving as a camp counselor, assisting in a preschool or grade school classroom, volunteering with young kids and, of course, babysitting or working as a nanny. It’s also important to know if he or she has had experience with children who are your children’s ages. An expert with 5-year-olds may not have the skills you are looking for in an infant sitter.
2. How much do you charge, and how does that relate to your experience?
You want to pay a fair wage, but it’s sometimes tough to know what that is. It should be based on experience, location (bigger cities tend to pay more for childcare), extra skills and education (such as first-aid training or a degree in early-childhood education), the number of kids to care for and the job description. For instance, you may pay her more for duties such as driving the kids, staying overnight or doing light housework. Ask friends and neighbors what they pay sitters to get a good sense of the going rate in your area.
3. Do you envision yourself doing this for a long period of time, or is this a temporary gig?
Everyone’s plans and needs change — including yours — but it’s nice to limit surprises that send you looking for new help. You’ll want to know if this is a sitter you can rely on for the long haul, for summer help or just for occasional nights when she is home visiting from college and looking for extra income.
4. Can you give an example of an activity you might do with my children?
Here’s where you get a sense of how energetic, creative, adventurous, instructional or just how fun your sitter plans to be. Is she into planning art projects, running around outside, playing board games, or does she anticipate simply supervising a low-key movie night for the kids? Find out if she’s comfortable venturing away from your home — driving the kids, taking walks with the stroller, going to a park, navigating public transportation or visiting a library or other local, kid-friendly destinations.
5. What do you think is the best form of discipline for a baby, toddler and grade school child?
As parents, we want a responsible adult who knows how to appropriately respond when a child misbehaves. Share your family rules, and have a frank discussion about how you’d like your sitter to handle misbehaviors. Share positive discipline techniques that work best for your child, and give her a heads-up on any issues she may confront, such as Sally’s proclivity to show off her artistic talents on the living-room wall.
6. How would you handle an emergency?
Gauge whether your sitter can react with calm level-headedness in the face of an emergency. You want to know under what circumstances she would call you and when she would call 911, whether she has formal CPR training and if she knows how to handle any allergic reactions your child may have. Arm her with an emergency plan and clear instructions — just in case.
7. Do you believe tidying the house is part of your job?
It’s certainly secondary to playing with the kids, but if you are expecting to come home to a clean kitchen and a living room free of toys and kid clutter and your sitter doesn’t see picking up as part of the job, you are going to be disappointed at best. Make sure you are on the same page.
8. What do you expect from me as a parent?
Your sitter is your teammate, caring for your child while you are away. It takes cooperation and clear communication from both sides to ensure proper care for your kids. What does she need from you to do a good job?
Babysitters don’t come in a one-type-fits-all variety. These revealing questions can help you get to know a potential sitter and decide if she’s a good fit for your family. They will also help a sitter decide if the job matches her needs. If you’ve found a match, commit to keeping the communication channels open and honest to ensure the best care for your kids. If you discover she’s not right for the job, keep looking. There are plenty of well-qualified sitters who may just become your family’s new favorite.