Finding The Right Nanny


We hear it all the time. A great nanny is a precious gift to any family. And it’s not always easy to find one. Here are some tips for finding the perfect fit for your family.

Start Out Right

You can begin your nanny search by asking friends and family for recommendations, by going online to caregiver listings websites, local message boards, and college job boards, or by registering with a nanny placement agency. Katie Bugbee, executive editor at caregiver listings website, recommends that parents give themselves three months to find a nanny. It can take a while to find someone you love. Plus, it’s not uncommon for there to be heated competition with other families, so the right one could get away, lengthening your search.

Caregiver Listings Sites

Websites that provide listings of prescreened nannies let you in on a lot of information about a caregiver — such as their experience, availability, salary requirements, background check, and references — to help you decide whether you want to meet them. These are a few popular ones:

You can also visit The Branch ~ Sitters ~ Naperville Area Moms, a place for local moms, babysitters, and nannies to connect.

University Job Boards

Most universities have job boards that allow individuals to post for a position that they’re seeking to fill. If you’re looking for a part-time babysitter or a graduate student who’s available for a full-time nanny position, this may be a good option for you.

Local Message Boards

If there are local message boards for new moms in your area, chances are they’ll feature “nanny available” listings. These are usually posted by moms who are trying to find a new position for a nanny they no longer need. These boards are also an ideal place to put up a “nanny wanted” post. If you live in a small community, the recommendations for nannies that you receive might even come from an acquaintance or a friend of a friend.

Nanny Placement Agencies

Agencies offer the highest level of service, and with that comes a hefty price tag. So what’s the advantage of using an agency? According to Kathleen Webb, co-founder of the company that runs, “Agencies are a great route for families that are pressed for time and especially for first-time nanny employers. The agency can cut 40-plus hours of effort out of the hiring process.” An agency prescreens nannies and interviews couples to get a detailed snapshot of what they’re looking for and will send only those candidates’ portfolios that meet their requirements. Once a nanny is selected, agencies will help their clients prepare the employment offer and work agreement. If you find a nanny through an agency, the fee will typically be 10 to 15 percent of the nanny’s annual salary.

Think Long Term

Parents tend to focus on the immediate needs of their newborn — basically, the need for a warm and nurturing caregiver — but, according to Bugbee, parents should think beyond their three-month-old. “Consider your child going from sitting to crawling, walking, running, jumping, and leaping. Think of whom you want to handle discipline and control tantrums. A great nanny is someone who can grow with your child and challenge him or her along the way.” Bugbee also cautions that parents often base a decision on what they think will be best for the child rather than thinking about the needs of the whole family. “It’s important to find that person who’s going to be there for your whole family, not just for your kids.”

Ask friends who have older children what they think are the most important attributes of a nanny. You and your partner can use this input to help make a list of which childcare talents and abilities are a priority for you. Use this list as a reference for the interview questions that you’ll ask potential candidates and for a job description that you may write to post.

Strategically Interview

Once you’ve settled on three to five nannies as the best candidates, the interview process can begin.

You’ll want to ask questions to find out what a nanny’s discipline strategy is. You’ll also want to get a sense of her energy level and creativity, says Bugbee. Ask, “What kinds of activities do you like to do with kids?” and see if she has ideas for things to do that don’t necessarily cost a lot of money. And you want someone who will actively play with your child, not just sit and watch.

As part of the interview process, have the candidate play with your child. See how she interacts with him. Does she seem to enjoy it? Does she seem engaged? Confident? See what your child’s response is. Ideally, he will enjoy the interaction, but if he’s tired or shy, you can always have a favored candidate return for a second visit (paid!) with your child to see how they get along.

Check Background and References

When you’ve found a nanny you love, it’s important to do some official fact-checking. As you check a nanny’s references, you’ll want to ask challenging and specific questions. For instance, ask a reference to reveal one bad thing about their experience with the nanny. Find out how often the nanny was unable to come to work. Ask the reference if they’ve ever checked up on the nanny. To get a sense of a nanny’s engagement level with the child she cared for, ask her to reference what outings she arranged for the child and if she arranged playdates.

Once you think you’ve settled on a nanny, you’ll want to run a background check to be sure she doesn’t have a criminal record. Sittercity and both offer background checks for caregivers, or you can use a site like, which will provide you with a full background check for a fee, usually about $60 to $175, depending on how comprehensive the search is.

After you’ve made an official decision, it’s time to make an offer. But how much should you pay? First, see’s Babysitter Calculator to find out the average per-hour cost of a nanny in your ZIP code. You’ll also want to ask around to see what other parents you know pay their nannies.

And just like other employers, you’ll need to set policies for vacation time, sick days, and overtime. Talk this over with your partner and consider putting it all into a contract for your nanny so you can be sure everyone’s on the same page. “This protects you and the nanny. It makes everything straightforward,” says Bugbee. “Put your discipline policy in there and anything you don’t want your nanny to do, like talking on her cell phone in the car or in the house when the baby is up.” Find a sample nanny contract on that you can use as a template for your own.

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