Before my son was born, I researched day care facilities thoroughly and plunked down a $250 deposit for Jardin de Ninos Interlingua, a Spanish-immersion preschool/ day care 20 minutes from my house. Rookie mistake. As soon as he was born, I had increased anxiety about putting him a day care, especially one a fair distance from our house, where I work from home. It's funny how many people (who don't have kids) assume that because I work from home, I can take care of our son at the time time. Amusing, yes? Both work and child would suffer from a half-done job.
I told my OB/GYN about my dilemma and she suggested Care.com to find a nanny. After much time, many interviews, and some interesting experiences, we found our first nanny. We were fortunate to have Jannah for more than a year and a half, and then she went off to school at Texas State. Our second nanny has been wonderful as well, and we hate to lose her after just thee months, but she is following her heart and her boyfriend out of state so that he can find a job. So here I am, in the middle of a nanny search once again.
Several lessons have been learned along the way, and there are some basic things that a nanny candidate should know before he or she steps into the ring:
1) Dress neatly and smartly. This is a nanny position, not a desk job, so it's fine to be comfortable. However, you should think twice before showing up with a revealing, form-fitting tank top, torn jeans, and flip flops. You will be working for professionals and acting the part will increase your chance of being taken seriously.
2) Use a friendly, flattering photo on your online profile. Be sure you're smiling, and if you have a color photo of you smiling with children, that's terrific too (if you have permission from the children's parents). No artistic, shot-from-the-top or profile photos, please.
3) Consider how much of yourself you want to show off. If you're proud of your body piercings and tattoos and believe wholeheartedly you should not hide them, by all means, be who you are. Think about the family with whom you are interviewing. Are you willing it tone it down a little in order to get and keep a good job, and then adorn yourself as you choose on your off hours? It may pay off.
4) When the parent calls you for an interview, show enthusiasm. One phone interview I had this week with a candidate was like pulling teeth:
Me: Hi, is this so and so?
Nanny candidate: Yeah.
Me: This is Kristin, and we talked via Care.com about a nanny position.
Me: OK, to refresh your memory, I'm the parent who... (fill in job details)
Me: Is this a bad time to talk?
Me: [Sigh.] (Wraps up quickly)
5) If the child is in on the interview, show that you want the position by interacting. If the child shows warmth toward you and vice versa, your chances are much better. Don't overdo it; just be yourself. When my son was two months old and I was interviewing for our first nanny, I had one candidate to our apartment. The doorbell rang and I ran downstairs to receive a box from UPS. When I came back up the stairs, the nanny candidate was sitting there staring out the window, and my son was wide awake in a bouncer at her feet. Not a good sign.
6) Consider your online persona. I canceled two interviews with a candidates who had a ridiculous amount of profanity and negativity on their Facebook pages and one was a part-time lingerie model. Being a lingerie model doesn't mean you can't be a great nanny; however, she had told me that she had modeled a few years ago and wasn't into it any more, but her portfolio and time line were clearly current. Be honest. Profanity by itself isn't a huge deal either, depending on the family; if your profile is public, put your best face forward.
7) Know what you want. If you are trying to be a nanny because it's an "easy" job, everyone is going to be disappointed. If you love kids and want the job, show it. Ask for it.
8) Write a decent cover letter of at least a paragraph and introduce yourself. "I really need a full-time job" or "I'm interested in the position" are not complete selling points.
9) Follow up. Send a note via email, at the least, and talk about how much you enjoyed the interview (if you did) and why you think you'd be great for the job.
Kristin Shaw is a mom of one little boy and works full time for SITA, an IT and communications company specializing in the air transport industry. You can find her personal blog at www.twocannoli.com.