Interviewing Household Employees
The objective of job interviews is to uncover what needs to be known about job applicants and potential employers. Nothing is gained when household employee candidates and families answer interview questions based on what they think the other wants to hear. If the relationship is to last and flourish, it is best to answer questions by being truthful.
Interviewing household employees such as nannies, chefs, personal assistants, housekeepers, health care aides, and butlers is important. Each family and home has unique needs. Many potential problems can be avoided if the interview is properly conducted. During an interview the family and the job candidates often rely on their intuition. It is not wise to jump to conclusions, but it is natural to get a sense of what an individual is like in the first minutes of the meeting. As prospective employees and family members learn more about each other they can make informed decisions if the relationship may work.
Good in-home job placement agencies can help families in the search for a household employees and with the hiring process. Placement agencies can also be the household employee's advocate. The agency will inquire about the duties and responsibilities of the job, the daily and weekly hours the employee will be expected to work, the salary range, and the benefits the family is offering. Benefits might include vacation time, sick time, health insurance benefits, and educational stipends. The agency should inform employers about employee rights and laws including paying taxes, discrimination laws, minimum wage rates, and overtime pay.
A placement agency must know if the expectations of potential employers and employees are realistic. The agency should explain that an unrealistic job description limits the number of potential household employees that will want to interview for the position. If prospective in-home employees ask for unrealistically high salaries and benefits it will limit the number of families that will ask for an interview. Once the placement agency has collected all of this information they can select the nannies, chefs, personal assistants, housekeepers, health care aides, butlers, and caretakers that meet the criteria of the job and begin referring appropriate candidates to the family. A responsible placement agency clearly provides an objective description of the family's needs and desires to the job candidate.
It is best for placement agency staff to meet the job candidate personally. If agency staff is not able to interview the potential household employee in their office the agency should advise the family how they have screened the job candidate. Some agencies may conduct a telephone interview, while others may have agents that meet with potential employees on behalf of the placement agency.
The family may have questions for the prospective employee which are of a personal nature. Their questions should reflect their own priorities in selecting the right employee. Families must always obey fair labor hiring laws and not discriminate against job candidates due to race, religion, age, gender, or disability.
Families should conduct a telephone interview to start the process. If the initial conversation is promising then they should invite the potential employee to their home for a more in-depth interview. The family should ask open-ended questions that do not solicit just a "yes" or "no" answer.
For example, in a nanny interview the parents can judge how the nanny and children interact. Parents can describe activities their children enjoy to see if the nanny has an interest in those areas. The parents will have an opportunity to see what the nanny's personality is and if the nanny is compatible with the children and the parents.
Families can adapt the following questions that parents might ask a nanny candidate to use with all household employees. For example, parents may ask the nanny candidate:
1. Why do you want to be a nanny?
2. What activities do you like to do with children?
3. Do you prefer indoor activities or outdoor activities? Do you like structured play or free play?
4. What age children are you experienced working with? What ages do you prefer?
5. Are you interested in helping with general household chores or with child related chores only? (Be specific about chores.)
6. What was the best part of working as a nanny in the past?
7. What was the worst thing when working as a nanny in the past?
8. How do you discipline children? Give an example of what you have done when...."
9. Have you ever had an emergency situation while caring for a child? How was it handled? What would you do if my child were stung by a bee, fell off her bike, was having an asthma attack, etc.
10. May we obtain written letters of recommendation from your references?
11. May we perform a background check on you by obtaining a copy of your driving record, do a background check, and drug screening?
12. Do you have recent CPR and First Aid certifications? If your certification has expired, are you willing to get certified if we will help pay for the courses?
When interviewing a personal chef the family should ask the same questions about work experience, references, and background checks that they would ask a potential nanny but might also consider asking: 1. Will I get new menu options to choose from or will the selection be the same all the time? 2. Do you have experience with formal dinners or parties? 3. Do you have a "Food Handler's" certificate? 4. How do you feel about following our specific preferences such as vegetarian or Kosher meals?
When interviewing a personal assistant candidate the family should ask the same questions regarding work history, references, and background checks and questions such as: 1. Are you an organized person? 2. Are you familiar with Internet and computers? 3. What database software are you comfortable and experienced in using? 4. Are you comfortable keeping our intimate and family issues private? 5. What are your areas of expertise? 6. What did you do before becoming a personal organizer? 7. What is your educational background? 8. Are you a member of any professional guilds?
When interviewing housekeepers families should ask about their work experience, references, and perform background checks and should also ask: 1. Are you allergic to cleaning products? 2. Do you consider yourself a tidy person? 3. Are there any household chores you would refuse to do?
When interviewing health care aides it is extremely important for the family to ask about the interviewees experience, references, and perform background checks. Family members should also ask: 1. Are you experienced in administering medications? 2. Are you comfortable speaking frankly with physicians about the care of an elder or disabled person? 3. Are you comfortable advising the family of any change in the plan of care before the change is made? 4. Are you willing to comply with advance directives in accordance with state law requirements? 5. Are you willing to make an effort to talk with the individual you are caring for? 6. Are you willing to listen attentively and respond respectively to our family member? 7. Can you safely transfer and assist an elder with walking? 9. Are you gentle when bathing an older person and know how to prevent skin ulcers?
After asking potential butlers about their references, work experience, and perform background checks families may ask specific questions necessary for the position they are trying to fill such as: 1. Are you willing to arrange dinner parties? 2. Can you arrange maintenance of a yacht? 3. Do you have experience making travel arrangements? 4. Are you willing to manage the household budget? 5. Do you helping house guests? 6. Are you willing to do household chores such as laundry or do we need to hire a separate housekeeper? 7. How do you direct other workers in the household? 8. Are you organized and able to coordinate our family calendar?
Families should also ask potential live-in employees about their favorite hobbies. For example, if the job candidate plays drums in their down time, the family may find the hobby intolerable. But if the live-in job candidate is a good swimmer or an accomplished musician the employee might be willing to give the children lessons for extra pay.
Household employees should be prepared to answer all the questions they are asked. It is important that potential employees keep a positive and upbeat attitude when interviewing. Families and agencies typically ask job applicants about their previous jobs. Families are looking for friendly, cheerful, and caring people to hire. Job candidates should not place blame or discuss negative details about a past job or employer. An in-home job applicant should convey enthusiasm and a sense of pride and dedication to their chosen career. Job candidates should agree to respect the family's privacy.
All prospective household employees can adapt the following questions listed here that nannies should ask parents to their specific job interview. Questions nanny candidates should ask parents include:
1. Have you employed a nanny before?
2. Why did the previous nanny leave the job?
3. What were the previous nanny's duties?
4. What would you have changed about your relationship with your former employee?
5. How would you describe yourselves as parents?
6. How would each parent describe himself or herself as an individual?
7. How would you describe your children?
8. How do the children exhibit emotions such as anger, sadness, or excitement?
9. How do you discipline your children?
10. How will we discuss discipline and issues that may come up with your children each week?
11. Will you travel often and will I be expected to accompany you?
12. Will I be expected to drive? What limitations and/or reimbursements will I receive when using your car?
13. What type of relationship would the parents like the nanny to develop with the children?
14. Would you allow me to speak with the previous nanny, a neighbor, or a relative of your family about your family?
15. What is the most important characteristic a nanny should possess to work well with your children?
For the interview the job candidate should dress conservatively in a clean, well-pressed, appropriate outfit. The job candidate should not wear large jewelry or clothing that exposes tattoos. The potential employee should present a portfolio that includes a fresh copy of their resume and letters of recommendation. The portfolio may also include anything that they would like their prospective employers to take into consideration such as degrees, classes they have taken, workshops they have attended, awards they have won, and so on. Nannies and home health aides should include current CPR and first aid certificates.
The agency referring a job candidate will confirm the family's proper home address, directions to the house, and names of the family members. In preparation for the interview the potential household employee should take a practice run to ensure that they will arrive on time for the scheduled interview. They should arrive at the family's home a few minutes early, but wait until the appointed time to approach the door. The household employee should bring a comb, tissues, and some breath mints, but should never chew gum during an interview. Job candidates should not smell like cigarette smoke, coffee, or wear perfume or cologne to interviews. The job candidate should be confident that s/he knows the family member's names and how to pronounce their last name. Demonstrate respect by addressing the adults appropriately using Mrs., Miss., Mr., or Dr. and their last name unless the adults tell you to call them by their first names. If children are present the prospective employee should be sure to greet them with warmth and a friendly smile.
As the interview ends, the job candidate should thank the family for the opportunity to meet with them and express his/her interest in the position. If the potential employee is not interested in the position s/he should still be polite and thank the family for the interview. They should call the agency they are working with to inform them if s/he is interested in the position. The interviewee should write a hand written thank you note to the family the next day. If the interviewee is not interested in the job the agency can help them choose the appropriate words to write to decline the position in a thank you note or the placement agency staff may prefer to talk to the family directly to explain why the job candidate is not interested in the job. The agency will usually call the family to discuss their impressions of the interview. If the candidate hears from the family directly they should return all telephone or email messages immediately and keep the placement agency informed.
Neither the job candidate nor the family need be discouraged if an interview uncovers that they are not compatible. Each interview is a learning experience. It is most important for families and household employees to be honest during the interview process to encourage a great working relationship.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie Felzenberg has been the Executive Editor of the nanny trade publication, Be the Best Nanny Monthly Guide, since 2001. She has been a nanny since 1993. She volunteered as the International Nanny Association newsletter editor for more than four years and has edited a nanny text book to be published later this year. She also presents weekend workshops for nannies and parents. Contact Be the Best Nanny Monthly Guide, PO Box 43477, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043 USA Phone: 973-259-1101. Web site: bestnannynewsletter.com Email: email@example.com.