Published January 23, 2010
Whether you have recently moved, your old babysitter has retired or you have a new baby, the search for occasional child care can be daunting. Once you've found some good candidates you need to feel comfortable leaving them alone with your children, so it's a good idea to arrange an interview and possibly even a "trial run" - where you are still in the home but the babysitter is actually in charge of the child(ren). I have compiled a list of interview questions that are suitable for nearly any age sitter:
- How much experience do you have watching children (as a paid babysitter, older sibling or watching their own kids)? As with any other job, increased pay comes with increased experience so if you have an overall good feeling about your potential sitter, don't let lack of experience be the deciding factor. You may find an eager beginner who genuinely loves children but doesn't have the experience to back it up yet. Also, new sitters are more likely to be overachievers to impress their new customers - which is a win-win for you and your child(ren).
- Are you certified in CPR/Infant CPR? While it's not required, you must decide if this is a dealbreaker.
- Why do you want to babysit? If the potential sitter's only response is "for the money", I would be cautious.
- Are you comfortable with my childcare situation? For example, "taking care of an infant", "watching more than 1 child", "having pets in the home", etc.
- Do you have a standard rate? Surprisingly enough, many sitters do not have a "going rate", but prefer to have each parent suggest an hourly wage. We usually round up to the nearest $5 increment when paying our babysitter, and we'll tip her if she washes the dishes or does a project with the kids.
- How will you get to my house? Depending on the time of day and distance to your house, the sitter may be able to bike to your home, walk, or even drive him or herself.
- How many and what age children are you comfortable with? This question is especially important if you have more than 1 child or if the child is very young. Even if the babysitter has a lot of experience they may not have cared for an infant before.
- Do you have any references? Depending on your comfort level with the sitter, you may want to call one or two references before offering them a job. Ask the references if they were happy with the sitter's overall performance and if they are still using him/her. They don't have to say that the babysitter took them to amusement parts and brought them kids gifts for you to want to hire them. Listen for the essentials such as safety, attention to detail, responsibility, all those key things you'll want in a babysitter.
If you get a good feeling from the interview, you may want to ask the potential sitter if they are available for a "trial run" with your kids. Schedule a time when you have a specific project to do at home (spring cleaning or painting work well) and you want the kids kept busy. Treat this trial run as an actual babysitting experience, make sure the kids know you are not available during this time and they must go to the sitter if they need anything. Silently observe the interaction between your child(ren) and the sitter, and make sure to pay him/her for their time. If you feel comfortable after your trial run then congratulations - you've found someone you can trust to be with your kids while you enjoy some grown up time!