Interviewing nannies

I had a strange day yesterday.  A new client called me just before 8:30am.  At around 10:00 another one called…and then again in the early afternoon.  And they all had the exact same question: They all asked when we go to Hong Kong to interview candidates, what do we look for in a candidate?  I actually get this question a lot.  Not necessarily 3 times within 5 hours but it is a common question.

We look for many many things.  Right off the bat we need to look for 2 main requirements in the Live In Caregiver Program.  The first is education – candidates must have at least 2 years of post secondary education in their country.  This is equivalent to a grade 12 diploma in Canada.  The second is work experience.  They must have relevant child,elder or disabled care experience in the past 3 years.  This means that if they are applying to be a nanny for young children they must have worked a similar job and have a contract from that job. The job has to have taken place in the last 3 years.

Besides education and work experience we look for things such as English skills (both speaking and comprehension), communication skills, common sense, the ability to be able to respond to emergency situations,flexibility, initiative, loving and kind personalities etc.  We also ask many questions about the caregiver’s abilities: How many children are they comfortable caring for?  What age children are they happiest caring for?  Do they prefer to work for a stay at home parent or working parents? If they are caring for elderly people what skills and experience do they have?  Can they monitor medication?  Can they properly transfer a patient from the bed to a wheelchair?  Can they do all of the personal hygiene of the person they are caring for?  Can they give insulin injections or change a catheter?  We find out if they can cook, clean, iron, drive, swim, take care of pets.  If they can’t do one or more, are they willing to learn?  Do they have a location preference?  For instance, some candidates prefer the quietness of rural areas whereas some prefer the hustle and bustle of the city.  Or perhaps they have a relative that they would like to live somewhat close to.  We find in order for a placement to be successful and long lasting (which is what everyone involved wants!) both parties must be happy.  We spend so much time speaking to our clients and finding out about their family and their needs. Employers  then interview candidates and make the decision on who they are going to hire to care for their children or elderly loved ones.  We feel it is just as important to find out what the candidate wants as well because  if the candidate isn’t happy with the job description she won’t do a great job and the job won’t last.  Both sides need to be happy in order to insure success.

Although we look for all of the things mentioned above (and more!) I haven’t talked about the most important thing that we look for.  Work ethic.  To us, this is absolutely the most important quality for a caregiver to have.  Someone can have 10 years of experience under their belt, have excellent English skills, a college degree and a dynamic personality but if they don’t have a good attitude about their job it will never work long term.  On the other hand you can have a candidate that has 1 year of experience and a shyer personality but an amazing work ethic and she will be the better employee every time.  If someone is keen on learning, happy to be doing the job they are hired to do and has a positive personality they will stay with the family that hired them for the duration of their contract (and usually longer) and everyone will be happy.  Experience is nice but it certainly isn’t the be all and end all.  Remember, almost everything can be taught…the children’s schedules, the ins and outs of your household, dietary restrictions and allergies, the proper way to make a bed or iron a shirt etc.  Work ethic on the other hand comes from within…it is ingrained into people from a young age and the candidates who have a strong work ethic are the people we try to find and then place with our employers.


What should I get my nanny for Christmas?



Every year around this time I get phone calls and emails asking the same question – what should I give my nanny for Christmas?  Should I give them a gift or a cash bonus?  Here are some of my top suggestions:


  • Cash bonus – the amount will depend on your budget and how long your nanny has been with you.  The most common amount is one week of pay.  If your nanny has recently started (within the past 6 months) you may want to lower it to $50 or $100.
  • Gift card – to the mall or to a specific store that you know she likes.
  • Visa gift card-this works just like cash and she can use it anywhere.
  • A trip home- if you can spare the time that she takes off and you have a lot of air miles you can make your nanny very happy by sending her home to spend time with her family…at a low cost to you!
  • A gift certificate for a massage, manicure, pedicure or facial.  Every woman likes to be pampered every now and then!
  • Warm winter clothes – this is a great gift for the nanny that has recently arrived.  Sweaters, gloves/hat/scarf set, warm coat, winter boots, cozy slippers or a bathrobe will get a lot of use.


If you are going to give her a cash bonus you may want to give it to her early in the month in case she wants to send it home to her family.