A Resource for Nannies and Families

Checking Nanny References

Written nanny references are a helpful introduction to a candidate’s experience. A seasoned candidate may come to her interview with a dozen or more references – some typed on letterhead, some brief and handwritten on nice stationery, the latter generally for part-time or temporary nanny work.

Ideally, written nanny references should be:

1) articulate
2) comprehensive
3) friendly
4) for typed reference, 200 words or longer

A nanny reference that does not meet these criteria is worth questioning because you want the reference to have come from someone whose standards are equal to your own. An inarticulate reference may be a true and generous reference, but it may tell you also that the criteria are different from yours and perhaps not even be helpful to you.

Compared to written nanny references, telephone references can tell you more because you get to ask the questions and to follow up. Nevertheless, where you’ve received a forthcoming and helpful reference letter, keep your telephone check to a minimum. When your turn comes to give a reference, you may be dismayed at the number of calls you get. You don’t want to exhaust anyone’s references, so choose your questions be attentive to the responses.

Note: Some people assume that any nanny reference an applicant provides will be a good one: not so. Some applicants don’t really know what a good reference is, or what an intelligent parent will ask. And even a good nanny reference will give you information that you didn’t have, or that will, at the very least, confirm your impressions. That is reassuring.
If you are working with a good agency, the agency should supply its own reference checks (fill-in-the-blank or anecdotal, on its own letterhead or verbally). Only if you are recruiting independently should you call references before meeting your candidates; but once you have a good candidate, double-check all references.

What to Ask
Once you’ve found a candidate you like, ask her (or the agency) for references that you can confirm directly. Keep your calls — and your questions — friendly. Most people enjoy helping another parent. Break the ice by introducing yourself and verifying basics. If you have a written reference, say so, and working from it, get clarification/details. For some details (e.g., address, duties, children’s ages), let them tell you: sometimes a reference will contradict what your applicant has said.

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