Interviewing Child Care Interviewing Day Care Providers And Babysitters

As a parent, you understand that not just anyone can take care of your kids. Interviewing potential child care providers thoroughly–from occasional babysitters to live-in nannies–is crucial to ensuring your children are safe and well-cared-for when you’re not around.

The interview allows you to gauge exactly how competent, patient and honest a day care provider is. The key to that understanding is to perform a detailed interview. As with professional interviews in a business environment, you’ll get as much information from what isn’t said as from the words coming out of a candidate’s mouth.

Interviewing Child Care: The Warm Up

You can start the interview by asking conversational questions about the potential sitter’s hobbies, school and friends. This will give you a feel for the babysitter, while helping her to relax and be more honest with the more serious questions.

  • Tip: Choose questions that test for things you need. For example, if you want a sitter who will play actively with your children, you can cross off applicants who cite sedentary activities, like video games and TV, as their only interests.

Determining Compatibility

Your first questions should be about a babysitter’s compatibility with your needs. Is she comfortable with children of the right age? Will she be available during the hours you need? If you’re religious, is she a member of the same faith, or at least respectful of your beliefs? Does she charge a price you can afford?

  • Tip: When listening to the answers here, watch for hesitation and other tells. Look for a child care provider whose body language demonstrates enthusiasm for the joys and challenges of working with your kids.

Certification and Training

Over the past 20 years, babysitting and child care have become big business. Professional day care centers must maintain state certifications. Nanny schools certify professional nannies based on a background check and skills requirements. Even a teenage babysitter can take babysitting and child first aid classes at the local community center.

  • Tip: Ask a couple of details about certification, such as where they got the training and what the class entailed. People have been known to lie about their education, but such people can rarely give you a detailed account of how they got their diploma.

Experience and Background

Find out how much experience your potential babysitters have had with children the same age as yours, or how long a commercial day care has been operating. Ask for references–at least three people who can vouch for the quality of care that individual or facility offers.

  • Tip: When talking to references, ask the reference if he can provide the name of somebody else who has worked with the child care provider. These “secondary references” won’t have been hand-picked to give a glowing report.

Discipline and Philosophy

Describe a common discipline problem you have with your child (don’t be shy–we all have them!) Ask applicants what they would do in that situation. Follow up by asking about their philosophy on child care, education and discipline.

  • Tip: Watch for signs of deception or evasiveness during this question. No prospective babysitter will admit that they would hit a child, but you can tell if their answer isn’t accurate–listen especially to whether their stated philosophy is in line with how they described their hypothetical response. Professional day care providers can often point to a written discipline policy.

Emergency Management

Ask about the most difficult babysitting situation the candidate has ever faced, and what she did about it. Ask further for a detailed description of how she would handle a life-threatening medical emergency, such as a bad cut or a bee sting allergy.

  • Tip: Listen not only to the words of the answer, but to how calmly and methodically your potential day care provider answers the question. If she can’t answer the question calmly in an interview, don’t count on her being able to perform in a real situation under pressure.

Interviewing Child Care Centers

Checking out a child care center will include a tour and sales presentation from a director or professional sales staff. This presentation isn’t an interview. Sit with the center’s director and ask all the questions you would of a sitter–and avoid any center that balks at this idea. Ask specifically about the emergency plan for an injury or dangerous situation. A professional day care will have one.

  • Tip: Before you leave, ask a “front line” teacher or other employee about the emergency plan. The best day care centers train their people well enough that they’ll be able to immediately answer correctly.

The Final Step: Any Questions?

Once you’ve asked all of your questions, give applicants an opportunity to ask their own. The best candidates will be able to ask at least one intelligent question about your preferences, your children and your philosophies.

  • Tip: The kind of questions a potential sitter asks will tell you a lot about her. If one sitter asks just about pay, hours and kitchen privileges, she may be less suitable than one who asks about your children’s favorite games and activities.