Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to Nail Your Nanny Interview

I'm not looking for a nanny.

I'm not looking to become a nanny.

But thanks to some shameless eavesdropping in Starbucks, I now know exactly what one should say if they very clearly are not the one for the job.

So maybe this post should actually be titled "How NOT to Nail Your Interview".

If you follow me on Facebook, and you are one of the lucky three or four who see what I post, you know that I spend at least one weekend afternoon at Starbucks. I write, I catch up on email, I plan out my week, and I do it all without the sounds of chaos downstairs, or with a baby monitor on. I don't need the silence of a library, but I write best with a nice, dull din of cappucino machines and surrounding conversation.

I've heard girlfriends dishing on their latest dates. I've heard girls planning their weddings. I've heard socially awkward teenagers working on group projects. I've heard college kids on dates try to "outcool" each other. I've heard a retired math teacher explain phi to a table of fifth grade Girl Scouts.

Last week I heard a couple interviewing nannies.

The Starbucks I was at has a relatively small seating area. I was actually at a table with four chairs, because I needed to charge my laptop and the only available small table when I sat down wasn't near an outlet. They had all the trappings of new parents - bucket seat and a sling, giant diaper bag, the thirst in their eyes for caffeine. I offered them my spot immediately when it was clear they wouldn't fit anywhere else, and I had enough juice to finish what I was doing. When I gave up my table (they were surveying the prospects with dismay and thanked me profusely for offering to swap), the mom and I exchanged pleasantries.

Turned out they not only needed a bigger table because of the baby. Within five minutes they began a series of nanny interviews and my productivity dropped drastically when I heard what was going down. It's tough to head back to work with a ten week old no matter what, but after hearing some of their situation and definitely after hearing some of the prospects, I just wanted to give that mom a big hug.

Here's how NOT to nail your nanny interview.

State that you have no interest in babies.

I kid you not. The first question they asked was "why are you interested in taking care of babies" and one girl spent a good five minutes chatting about how boring and needy babies are. She does like kids though, and babies grow up to be kids. So there's that.

These first few years as your nanny will suck and I'll hate everything about it. But hey, four years in you might have a kid who's fun, so I suppose I can suck it up.

When asked about salary, mention a very non-traditional history of employment.

Look, I understand if that's an awkward question, but let's be honest. This is a job interview. Have at least an idea of how you plan to dance around the money question. And I suppose one girl did. She babysat a friend's child while her mom worked - as a tattoo artist. They had a great bartering system - the mom tattooed her for free.

Before anyone gets insulted, I have no prejudices against tattoos, tattoo artists, nannies with tattoos, parents with tattoos, or bartering. I am sure everyone involved is capable, reputable, and wonderful at what they do. HOWEVER, when first time parents with no visible tattoos themselves go to hire a nanny, "payment in tattoos" just might scare them away.

Tell the parents that you are available for employment because you have a habit of quitting jobs.

Yup. One girl loved the training process for jobs but found she hated actual work. You know, the stuff that happens after you get trained. She went through the EMT certification process but really didn't like the work. She liked animals, but found that she hated working for a vet and dealing with the people. She thought she might like to be a beautician, but hated working on clients. She did like kids, so she was excited to get some work as a nanny!

So this girl had found, three times worth mentioning, that after she actually had to start dealing with people, that she really didn't like it after all. I know she was sure that wouldn't happen this time!

This is a helpful hint for any job. "I quit everything I start because work is hard and people are annoying" is probably not your winning answer.

Make it abundantly clear that you have no idea about babies and development.

All of these girls were college aged, with varying degrees of experience, but no kids of their own. Still, it was pretty clear this particular job was caring for an infant. Tattoo girl talked about how she helped get her friend's son on a schedule. Great. Another girl talked about how she loved rocking babies to sleep, and didn't mind if the baby didn't like to go right in her crib. Fine.

One girl, when asked if she had any questions, wanted to get to know the child better. What was her favorite food? Favorite TV show? Favorite color? Favorite game? Favorite book? How much was she talking? Was she walking? Did she obey?

Let me be clear. This baby was 10 weeks old and looked it. Mom nursed her twice at Starbucks. The mom did a much better job than I would have responding to those questions. I would have looked at her and said, "oh, I'm sure she's similar to you at 2 months. I'm sure you remember".

Helpful hint. Better to say nothing than show that you have no idea what an infant is like.

Let them know that your schedule is both rigid and inconvenient to them.

Mom is going back to work as a nurse, which I understand can have some variables. Dad works a fairly regular reschedule at his day job. But they were looking for someone who could do weekdays with the occasional Friday off.

So announcing that you have another job from 7-1 and take classes in the evenings leaves you, what, four hours a day to work with? Perfect.

So you'll just pop by when it's convenient for you? Super! When can you start?

Never acknowledge the baby.

Seriously. Baby was right there and two of the girls completely ignored her. Didn't smile at her, ask her name, even glance in her direction. You are looking for a childcare job. Theoretically, you are comfortable around kids. And you don't look to the baby at all? Weird, right?

These people want you to watch their baby. Acknowledgment is probably OK.

Be incredibly insensitive.

Turns out that Mom's mom was supposed to be babysitting. But she's been sick and can't shake it, and is currently undergoing a diagnosis which they are really hoping is not cancer. She's too ill right now to even think of it, and the stress of the future isn't something they can see now.

Correct human response: I'm so sorry. I really hope she's ok.

Incorrect response: So if she gets better, this job just ends?

Probably already ended for you, sweetie. But thanks for playing.

Be a diva.

As each prospective candidate sat down for the interview, Dad offered to go get a beverage. Mom had a cup of tea, Dad had a coffee.

Non-diva response: Nothing thanks. Yes, I'm sure. Oh, well, if you really don't mind, maybe just a cup of coffee or tea.

Diva response: Venti, extra hot, skinny caramel macchiato with no whip and an extra shot.

Obviously I'm not anti-Starbucks. I'm here too. But come on, you're on an interview.

So a $6 cup of pretentiousness? Gee, can't wait for you to be in our home every day cursing our food options.

Since I had to leave at get back to my own children, I didn't get to hear them wrap it up and make the final decision. For all I know Mary Poppins walked in the door and Mom was able to instantly feel at ease with the stress of going back to work with a potentially sick mom.

But if she didn't, I really hope they were able to dig through the clueless, the divas, the lazy and the insensitive to find someone great. Because every mom deserves a great babysitter.

You know what else everyone deserves? Alone time. I am very, very, very lucky that Adam gets that and supports my weekly Starbucks afternoons for people watching writing. Have you picked up a copy of the book yet? 
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