Hiring a babysitter used to be such a simple process: plan a night out, call the neighborhood kid to come over, pay her three dollar/hour and enjoy your evening. But with today’s caregivers undergoing special training, putting together detailed résumés, citing personal references and actively seeking jobs online, child care is no longer confined to the cul-de-sac. In fact, it’s like hiring your own employee, except she works in your home instead of your office.
With the increase in options, convenience and technology also comes the increased need for an effective way to screen these potential sitters and nannies. A quick but effective way, that is, since working parents are especially pressed for time. As the founder and CEO of Sittercity.com, and author of “Love at First Sit,” here is the simple four-step screening process we recommend to families across the country.
Step 1: Check Online Reviews
Good child-care Web sites allow parents and sitters to leave reviews for each other. Does the sitter mind if evening business meetings run late? Will she care for a sick child, so you don’t have to take another day off? Online sitter profiles and reviews reveal all of this information right up front, so you don’t have to waste any time analyzing the applicants and wondering about their hidden reputations.
Step 2: Conduct an Interview
The three big things you’ll want to ask about in an interview are the sitter’s experience/background, her approach to discipline and what safety training she has. Remember: The best interview questions are open-ended, such as, “Tell me about a time when …” If you can, keep your kids around for a brief mother’s helper period where the potential sitter is alone with them while you’re still around so you can get a feel for how they interact.
Step 3: Check References
The typical babysitter will have two references that have already agreed to serve as such. First-timers may just use a parent or teacher, but either way, the babysitter should provide you with the phone number and email address of references so you can contact them. Checking references doesn’t have to take long—asking a few brief, but important, questions should get the job done:
- What are Susie’s best qualities?
- How comfortable are you with her in charge?
- How do your children like her?
- What issues have you had with Susie?
- Would you hire her again? Why or why not?
Step 4: Get a Background Check
This final safety precaution will help give you peace of mind and confirm your instincts about a sitter. Some child-care sites offer background checks on their sitters, and it should cost anywhere from ten dollars to absolutely nothing. Once you’ve chosen your favorite sitter, keep two others on file as backups just in case your primary sitter can’t make it when you simply can’t miss work.