My job is to help my nanny agency and consulting clients find the perfect nanny. Over the years of dealing with nannies and helping these clients find their match, I've come to rely on four basic tools that, in every situation, help my families get exactly what they want - the ideal caregiver.
Tool #1 To Find a Nanny - the Family Needs Assessment
You can use my Family Needs Assessment form (FNA) to help you identify what you want and need, in both a practical and an emotional sense. This form grew out of my work as a therapist and is based on the traditional bio-psycho-social assessment that therapists give to patients. It helps you dig deep and take a close look at your family, pinpoint the "Musts" as well as the deal-breakers for your job, and come up with a picture of what your ideal nanny looks like. It also helps you to draw lessons from your past nanny experiences--good and bad--to figure out how you may want to do things differently going forward.
Your completed FNA is the single most important tool that you will have throughout your search. It is the blueprint that you will refer back to again and again, and use to complete every other step in the process, so you really want to spend some time, discuss the questions with your spouse, and put serious thought into your answers. By the time you finish your FNA, you should have a much clearer sense of what your job is and who you are as a family, and have a vision for who you want to hire.
Tool #2 - The Best Nanny Placement Agencies Do These Kinds of Reference Checks
Reference Checks are one of the most crucial steps in the Gold Standard Nanny Selection Process because they are, in my opinion, the single best way to get an honest, unfiltered picture of how a nanny will fare in your particular job. Most parents make the mistake of doing what I call a generic reference check, where they try to find out everything they can about how the nanny performed in her last position. But in my process (and this is where I truly believe the best nanny agencies differentiate themselves), we do what I call the Gold Standard Targeted Check to find out how she would fare in your job. You're looking for confirmation that not only is the candidate a good nanny, but that she is likely to do well in your specific job.
In this step, you use your FNA to come up with a list of pointed, highly-specific questions that ask each reference to think about and project what their former nanny would be like in your household. Instead of asking, "Did you and Josie have a good relationship?" you ask scenario-based questions such as, "I work from home and our apartment is fairly small. How do you think Josie would handle being in the same space with her boss all day long?" Then, even if Josie and her last employer got along very well, the employer may say, "Wow, I don't really know. I was out of the house twelve hours a day and she had a lot of autonomy. I'm not sure how she would do with someone looking over her shoulder."
Tool #3 to Find a Nanny - Paid, In-Home Trials
In the Gold Standard process, trials are absolutely mandatory. In fact, I insist that my clients do trials and I won't work with families who don't want to do trials or say that they don't have the time. Many parents think they can learn everything they need to know about a nanny is just a few hours--but for you to get a truly clear picture of your candidates, you need to see how they are "in action," how they act under pressure, how they respond to direction, and how the two of you work together as a team.
This step brings your top candidates into your home, preferably for two full-day trials. I feel strongly that full-day trials have more value, because while everyone can give their best for a couple of hours, not everyone can be "on" for a full day. You want to make sure that the trials reflect the reality of your job and a day in the life of your family as much as possible, so that you have ample time to assess the match, and both you and the nanny can come away with a clear sense of whether or not the arrangement is going to work.
After the trials, you assess the pros and cons for each candidate using my Trial Wrap-Up worksheet, and decide which ones will make the biggest difference for your family. By the end of this step, you should be able to settle on your final choice. And because you've already done your reference and background checks, you can move forward immediately to make an offer.
Tool # 4 - Use a Nanny Contract
Sometimes the best nannies can be overwhelmed with the amount of housework and have to leave the children in a bouncer or rocker so they can handle all of the household tasks. A nanny's main job is to care for a child and therefore if the nanny is home alone as the sole adult it is best that you outline your expectations about other chores and when they can/should be completed. By having a work agreement and training manual you can talk through what is expected of your nanny and ask her openly and honestly "is this something you feel you can handle? Does the vacuuming seem to much?" If so we can have you say "complete what you can from this chores list during nap time."