Picking a babysitter can be as important a decision as any you'll make as a parent, especially if you are looking for someone to care for your child or children full-time while you're at work. Once you've narrowed down your choices, it's time to begin the interview process, and like any other job, sometimes you learn more from a person's behavior during the interview than through the answers themselves.
Some questions you might want to ask:
- Tell me about your previous work experience with children (to find out if they're a total newbie or a seasoned veteran)
- What is your current work/school situation?
- Tell me about your last job working with kids and why you left.
- What is your favorite age children to work with and why?
- How would you deal with a child having a temper tantrum? (If their answer is to spank them, that's a red flag!)
- Have you ever had to handle an emergency while you were caring for a child? What happened and how did you handle it?
- Do you know CPR, first aid and the Heimlich maneuver?
- Can you swim?
- Do you have a car, and would you be willing to transport my children? Do you have a clean driving record?
Of course, there are certain things you can glean about the potential babysitter indirectly as well. For instance, is the babysitter looking you in the eye when she's talking? Does she look neat and clean (her fingernails are often a good cue)? How communicative is the babysitter? Does she answer with one-word answers or seem reticent to answer your questions? This could be a signal for how communicative she may be when you have a real issue to discuss with her down the road.
Nothing can compare to a gut feeling either. My first experience hiring a babysitter was with a friend and neighbor with whom I was sharing the nanny. She wanted to go with one candidate when I had a gut feeling otherwise. Needless to say, I should have trusted my gut since I eventually had to let the babysitter go.
And finally, there's references. As Boca Raton, Florida, mom Samantha Witztum puts it, "That is the most important thing for me – talking to her references, and talking to people she has worked for before." Be sure about her relationship with the kids, with her employers and most importantly, why she left (or got fired).
Once you've decided to hire someone, don't fret if it seems off from the start. It takes a couple weeks to get comfortable with a new babysitter, but if it's been a couple weeks and you still aren't comfortable, you might have to ask yourself if it's the right fit. Sometimes a trial period may be in order. Some parents go so far as to put a nanny cam in place to be able to monitor the nanny while she's in the home. Again, you have to ask yourself why you're doing it. If you're putting a nanny cam in because you're already suspicious, chances are you don’t even need the nanny cam and should terminate the relationship. If you're doing it for your own peace of mind and it doesn't have anything to do with the babysitter, that might be a different story.
Remember: You are entrusting this person with your most precious possessions for a few hours at a time. The bottom line? You have to be able to trust her.