Once you’ve narrowed your job applicants down to a manageable group, it’s time to pick up the phone to talk with promising applicants. Use these interview tips when hiring a caregiver to help make sure they’re the right fit for your family.
Tip: Give yourself enough time between calls so you can write notes about each applicant. It’s easy to mix up details after a few calls in a row.
What to chat about
- Start with a few general questions like “What do you enjoy about being a caregiver?” to help you get to know the applicant. When you’re ready to dive in, cover these key topics:
- Name and email address
- Salary requirements (ways to address this matter might be: “What salary range are you looking for?” or “We will be paying $X. Are you comfortable with that?”). Consider asking the caregiver to discuss salary in gross rather than net terms, as this will help you both to get a better idea of your total outgoings as an employer, and it will emphasise to the caregiver that you take your responsibilities as an employer seriously
- Confirm that the caregiver is eligible to work in the Canada, has a valid driver’s license if you need them to drive, a clean driving record, and no criminal record
- Check if the caregiver has the relevant insurance policies in place. Consider your obligations in this respect as well
- Language requirements or barriers, such as needing a particular native or dominant language
- Contact information for references: this should be more than an email and/or mobile number
Don’t forget job requirements
You’ll also want to review the general requirements of the job and determine if they’ll be able to take on what you need.
Make sure that you check your top candidates can fulfill the working hours you need and that they have the skills needed for looking after your family.
Once you have a short list of top candidates, it’s time to set up in-person interviews.
Planning the interviews
It’s often a good idea to conduct your first in-person meeting at a public location, such as a coffee shop. Also request to see a photo ID of the potential caregiver to confirm he or she is who they claim to be and any other information that is important to you.
There are three main things to keep in mind when planning in-person interviews:
- If possible, schedule only one interview a day so you have time to reflect on each applicant.
- Would you rather meet in your home, or at a neutral location such as a coffee shop?
- Most importantly, prepare a list of questions and topics.
Asking your questions
This is your main opportunity to get a feel for an applicant. What’s their personality like? Would your family get along with them? Don’t be bashful about asking questions. After all, you’re hiring for a very important job.
Answering their questions
Your future caregiver will need to know about their role, so be prepared to answer questions, including:
- What tasks are you expecting the prospective caregiver to do?
- Was there anything you forgot to include in your job listing?
Be honest and upfront. You’ll help avoid on-the-job surprises and find a caregiver who truly fits your family’s needs.
Introducing your family
Because your caregiver will spend so much time with your family, it’s a good idea to have your family meet top applicants. Have your top choices individually meet your family after the initial meeting. Bonus: this practice run might actually give you the best insight into which applicant will be the best fit.
Ready to dive in? Get started with our comprehensive list of caregiver interview questions.
- How long have you been caring for children and how old were they?
- What is your favourite age to care for and why?
- Do you have other work or life experience that will help you do this job well?
- Are you trained in CPR? Have you taken classes in childcare? Would you be willing to take classes if necessary?
- What is your education level?
- What is your most recent position? What’s your typical daily routine with that family?
- Why are you looking to leave (or why are you no longer working there)?
- What were some of the best things about your previous job?
- What were the worst things?
- Are you looking to stay long-term with a family or are you planning on finding another career or job in the next year?
- How flexible is your schedule if we occasionally need you to arrive early or stay late?
- Are you willing to cook/do light housework/take care of our family pet? (ask about any assistance you need)
- Are there any activities or responsibilities that you won’t do?
- Do you swim/play sports or musical instruments/like arts & crafts? (ask about any activities that are important to you)
- How many children are you comfortable looking after? (especially important for play dates, visits from relatives, etc.)
- What do you like best about being a nanny?
- What do you find most challenging?
- Do you prefer more or less structure in your day? What do you think works best for children?
- What have you found worked the best when working with the parents to help raise their child?
- Have you had negative work situations? If so, what have you learned from them?
- What is your view of disciplining a child and what should be the nanny’s role?
- How have you handled difficult situations like a baby crying uncontrollably or a child talking back?
- What are you most proud of when it comes to your job?
- Do you view your personality as flexible and easy to adapt to change, or do you need more structure and the ability to plan ahead? (especially important if your family has an inconsistent schedule)
Good fit questions:
You also want to make sure the nanny you hire is comfortable with who you are as a family. There are some topics you can be upfront about with your candidates that are specific to your household to avoid potential problems later. For instance, if a family member:
- Maintains a strict diet (vegetarian, kosher, etc.)
- Follows certain religious or cultural practices
- Has special needs concerns like autism or ADHD
- Has particular medication needs
- Is going through a tough time (at school, personally, or professionally)
You can probably tell by their reaction if they are a good fit for your family. They may not know the details of certain practices, but look to see if they are open to learning about them and respecting your wishes.
Special needs questions:
- Sensitivity training. Has the candidate received training about individual differences and structuring activities to meet children’s different developmental stages and special needs?
- Previous experience. Do the candidates have experience or special training in caring for children with special needs? If yes, what disabilities, limitations, or special needs? Can the provider offer references from other parents of children with special needs who have been under their care?
- Individual needs. Would they be willing to undergo training or learn new skills to help them best care for a child with special needs or implement specific learning plans?
- Mutual learning. Do they feel passionate about discovering the individual gifts that your child will bring? Do they feel that they can learn from this relationship?
- Handling emergencies. Has the child care provider ever dealt with an emergency special needs situation? If so, what was the situation and how was it handled?
Senior care questions:
- Do you have a driver’s license and clean driving record? Do you have reliable transportation and insurance? How far from here do you live?
- What are your responsibilities outside of work? Do you have to account for the schedules or needs of others in your workday, or are you flexible?
- Will you be working on other jobs that might be affected if I am running late? Would you be available for respite care or to stay over for a long weekend?
- Do you smoke? (Many people say they don’t smoke but they do – offer an outside smoking area and insist it be used.)
- What care training do you have, if any? Do you have any CPR or first aid training? If I pay for it, would you be willing to add to your skills?
- Here is a list of expected care-related duties – is there anything on the list that poses a problem or concern? Are you comfortable with pets? Are you comfortable with my (parent/spouse) having guests or other family members stopping by?
- Are you able to work the hours needed? When are you available to start working? After a trial period, would you be willing to commit (fill in a time frame/6 months, a year is common) long-term?
- Have you ever cared for someone with (conditions relatable to your loved one’s care: memory problems, elderly, wheelchair bound, etc.) before? If so, please elaborate.
- Are you willing to sign a contract stating you will not accept money or gifts from my (parent/grandparent/spouse, etc) without clearing it with me?
- Are you willing to agree that you will not have guests come into our family home or our older relative’s home unless I have given prior approval?
- Will you be comfortable driving my (mother’s/father’s) car if need be, or using your own car to run errands if we request it?
- What are your expectations for holiday time and are you willing to help find coverage for the days that you need to take off? (A good compromise is for the caregiver to choose when to take 50% of their holiday allocation and for the employer to choose the other 50%. Always make sure that you are fulfilling your contractual obligations as an employer in terms of holiday.)
Pet care questions:
- Training: All sorts of pet lovers are good at taking care of pets. Make sure your sitter is trained appropriately for your needs. If you need a dog walker, then someone experienced at doing so would be great. If you have sick pet that needs special care, then someone with the appropriate training would be best. Make sure you ask the caregiver about their specific job experience. A person who loves animals but has no experience caring for one may not be the right match for you.
- Emergency plans: Do you have a back-up pet sitter and a veterinarian on call? Create a list of emergency contacts for your sitter. Ask your sitter if she has ever handled a pet care emergency. Discuss what to do in case she has an emergency with your pet.
- Rates and services: Make a clear list of what you want your pet sitter to do and discuss each point. Do you want your pet to be groomed while you are gone? Do you need a dog walker? Do you think it’s important that he spend at least an hour a day catching Frisbees with your dog? A pet-sitter can do all these things. But you need to find out if your pet sitter will do them and what they typically charge for each service.
- References: Get three references and call them. Checking references is vital to getting quality care, so make sure you go through with it. Ask what services the sitter provided them, when and why she ended her employment with them, and what their level of satisfaction was with the sitter’s service.
- Have your pet meet the sitter: Does your pet even like your pet sitter? All the training in the world would not forestall a bad match here. You don’t want to set your pet up on a blind date. Be sure to schedule a get-to-know-you meeting at your home or in a local park. Pets and their caregivers need to have good chemistry!
- Is your sitter insured? This covers many dire contingencies (accidents, negligence, theft of your property, and more). If not, you need to have a frank discussion about your sitter’s roles and responsibilities. Check your homeowner’s insurance to see what situations would be covered in case your sitter or your pet damages something in your home.
- How many other pets is your pet sitter currently sitting for? A full dance card, so to speak, means less special attention for your pet. Make sure your pet sitter has time for your pet.
- Is your pet sitter asking you as many questions as you are asking her? If the pet sitter doesn’t seem especially curious about your pet, that is a red flag. Pet caregivers should not only show interest in your pet and the job you’re offering, but should also ask questions to clarify roles and responsibilities. Give them the opportunity to give you background information about what motivates them to provide great pet care.
- Start by asking for general background information. Find out how long they have been in the cleaning business, how many houses they clean, what services they provide when cleaning. Also, let them do some of the talking so you can get an idea of their personality and their communication skills.
- Ask for references and then call them. Be diligent about your hire, since this is a stranger you are inviting into your home. You may even ask for character references along with work references to get a better idea of this person’s background.
- You will want to ask certain questions about a person’s background, criminal history, or education. To help you through this part of interviewing, you can create a short application form and allow your candidate time to fill it out. Some points you’ll want to include are:
Full name and ID
reference names and phone numbers
address, phone, and email contact information
ask whether or not the candidate is bonded and insured
emergency contact name and address
- Present theoretical questions that this person can answer about their cleaning and work ethic. How do they approach cleaning? What sets them apart from other housekeepers in the area? Avoid candidates who view cleaning as a job between jobs and who don’t appear to care about quality.
- When you think you’ve found the right person for the job, be very upfront about what you’ll pay and what you expect of them. It is important to know ahead of time what cleaning tasks they dislike doing or will do at an extra cost. For example, some may change your sheets as part of their duties or opt to do windows if you pay an additional amount.
- Request a trial period of two to three cleanings, so you have time to evaluate their cleaning over time and to make sure you have a compatible relationship.
Your Next Steps: