The nanny interview—a coffee with Natalie

I met Natalie for coffee in a Pret in Kentish Town. She’s a bit like a female Clark Kent; she doesn’t enter the room like a superhero. She approaches me quietly, cautiously, very polite. But over the course of our conversation, it emerges that she is a total badass. Natalie is not only the local owner of Nutkin Nannies, but also works as a nanny herself for 36 hours a week, looking after baby twins. She’s used to demanding jobs, since she is also a fully-trained paediatric nurse.  I suspect she doesn’t sleep, she just waits.

 I took advantage of Natalie’s dual perspective—nanny and nanny agency— to ask her top tips on interviewing nannies.

 How should parents prepare to interview a nanny for the first time?

‘Even before interviewing, the parents should double-check when the nanny is actually available to start work. This saves interviewing numerous nannies only to discover their availability doesn’t match your need--which happens more often than you’d think.

‘The parents should also make sure they’re crystal clear on what exactly the role will entail, including all the responsibilities and expectations, the hours, and the salary they’re offering. If the parents aren’t clear on all these topics, they can’t be discussed at interview properly. That means the nanny will in turn be unclear on what the role involves—which can cause disagreement once the nanny starts. You can avoid all of this by being really clear in your mind about what you want before the nanny turns up for the interview.’

What are your favourite interview questions?

‘It’s important to ask questions that reveal how the nanny will really work. I always ask the nannies I interview how they would react in an emergency, and whether they have ever had to deal with an emergency whilst at work. I also like to ask how they would deal with a child who was having a tantrum in public.  Answers to this question can give you a huge insight into not only the nanny’s discipline methods, but also their experience of having to cope with different situations. 

‘Finally, I always include a few first aid questions—for example, what are the signs of meningitis? This tests their understanding of serious childhood conditions, and whether they really understood their first aid training.

 'Other good questions to include:

  • Why did you leave your last post?
  • How do you deal with discipline?
  • What experience have you had with children the same ages as ours?

'From the nanny perspective, to be honest I don't think I have ever been asked a question at an interview for a nanny role which didn't have any relevance or wasn't worth being asked. Unlike most other jobs, with nannying you’re working closely with the parents and the children in their own home. It's so important that everyone gets on and that the family are comfortable having the nanny in their personal space. So it's best that any issues are discovered at the interview stage. The family needs a nanny who fits into their family, and the nanny needs a family they can work alongside without awkwardness or conflict.’

 Should parents involve their children in the interviews?

‘As a nanny, I’ve had interviews where the children have been present and also where they haven’t. There are pros and cons to both.  I would always want to meet the children first before deciding to accept a role. At the end of the day, they are who I’ll be looking after. It’s also important for the parents to see how the nanny interacts with the children, and even more important to see how the children interact and respond to the nanny.

‘However, with children present it can be quite distracting, as they may interrupt or want to get the nanny’s attention.

‘So my suggestion is for the nanny to meet the children when the interview is ending. Alternatively, have a second interview where the nanny meets the children.’

 Thank you Natalie!