Choosing and Having an In-Home Care Provider: a 6 step process
Once you’ve put the word out into your community, posted an ad, or have collected a handful of recommended providers to contact, you then must first stop and gather your thoughts on how best to conduct the interview. The following are guidelines and suggestions regarding method and place, more specific lists of questions and tips can be found following the links at the end of this article.
The Phone Interview
In most cases you will communicate initially via phone with a potential in-home care provider. It may seem unnecessary but it is well worth your time to first go through your basic job description requirements: are they able to start when you need them to; do they have all the credentials you require such as a background check or CPR certification; do they in fact have a car if one is required; etc. If you have not communicated a specific rate you are expecting to pay ask them what they charge, if you feel it is too much for you suggest what you can afford or had budgeted, or clearly and politely state they are out of your budget, thank them for their time and end your communication. Clearly communicate if you are deciding between a few candidates. It is not the candidate’s business to know who else you are considering and why, it is just respectful to let them know where you are in your deciding process and give them a definitive time of communication such as, “thank you for taking the time to speak over the phone, we have a few potential candidates and will make our final decision on Friday”. Be specific with the day and method of communication (phone or email) and try to take less than a week, if you need more time let them know the day or before they day they are expecting to hear from you and realize they may accept another job or may reject a potential job offer if they are waiting for you.
While conducting a phone interview with a potential candidate key into more than just their words: do they communicate clearly; are they using proper grammar; do their word choice, tone, and inflection communicate a professional, caring and respectful personality? Go with your gut on this factor, if something just doesn’t feel right trust that feeling.
The Face-to-Face Interview
If, after the phone interview, you are further interested in this candidate schedule a face-to-face interview. A face-to-face interview may not necessarily need to take place in your home, many nanny, babysitter, and mother’s helper interviews are conducted at parks where your children may play while you conduct the interview and you are able to observe the care provider interact with your child and other children and maintain the privacy of your home; yes, ultimately you will be inviting a stranger into your home and your family, but you don’t have to do it immediately. If you are a very busy person and home is often hectic set aside a morning or afternoon and schedule a few interviews back to back at a local cafe, just be sure to communicate that there will be other candidates so that potential candidates can be prepared to communicate their qualities and attributes in a more structured time frame. Ask that the candidate bring proof of certifications and at least three references to leave with you.
Depending on your time frame between the phone and the face-to-face interview you may ask that they email their references and you can contact their references ahead of time and be that much more prepared. When interviewing candidates which have been recommended by friends consider what their childcare needs were in relation to what your needs are and any differences in your parenting styles; a perfect match for them may not be a perfect match for you so be prepared to conduct a standard and thorough interview with every potential candidate and consider your friend’s recommendation as one reference amidst others.
Having your child present during an interview gives you the benefit of observing the potential care provider interacting with your child but on the other hand may serve distracting leaving you with a long list of unanswered questions when the interview ends due to time constraints or your child’s needs. Some parents have scheduled interviews around their child’s nap time or bed time when two parents are present allowing one to put the child/children to bed after meeting the candidate for a short time or waking to meet the candidate. Other parents have chosen to conduct the interview at a park or kid friendly cafe where the child can come and go creating pockets of time for professional conversation. Some parents have chosen to conduct the initial face-to-face interview while their child is not present and schedule a secondary interview/play-date with the child. Your child’s temperament and daily rhythm should help in determining the best option for you and your family.
A Bit About Background Checks
If you are conducting the interview in your home you may wish to conduct or confirm their background check prior to opening your door to them. All in-home care providers should be prepared for a background check. If the care provider you are considering has past experience in a preschool or after school program in Oregon they will have had to go through a basic background check and will be registered with the Central Background Registry, sometimes known as the Oregon Criminal History Registry. They will have a letter of compliance which you can ask to view or you can confirm their enrolment by contacting the child care division of the Oregon Employment Department (www.oregon.gov/EMPLOY/CCD/about_us.shtml). It is acceptable to request an emailed or photocopied version of their documentation (background check, driver’s license, etc.) for your records; it is also acceptable for a care provider to feel uncomfortable sharing their personal information.
With the recent rise in identity theft some providers may not feel comfortable sharing their SSN and may feel uncomfortable leaving copies of their legal documentation in a relative stranger’s home; this may be resolved by letting them know that you will keep the information in a locked file cabinet or will shred their SSN after receiving the information you require or perhaps you can compromise, ask them to bring their documentation to view and accept it’s authenticity without needing to keep it in your records. The sharing of private information can be very touchy so approach this pragmatically and with respect rather than suspicion. For more information on background checks ehow has a helpful article with useful links located here:
For more interview guidelines and sample question sheets check out these links:
Next week’s article will be the fourth in this 6 part series on choosing and having an in-home care provider.
Return next week for Step 4: The Trial Period.
Step 1: Who are you searching for?
Step 2: Where to look and the search
About the author
Celina Wigle is a Postpartum Doula and Infant Multiples Relief Nanny. Since 2000 she has provided care for over 60 families as a nanny, babysitter, mother’s helper, teacher, and doula. She received a degree in writing from PSU in 2006. More about her background and services can be viewed at www.celinawigle.com