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Asking Parents for References

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parentrefsThe world of nannying and caregiving, while certainly a professional one, is a very personal industry that is based on enormous trust. Parents are handing over the most precious things in their world to the care of another person, while caregivers are injecting themselves into another family’s world. As a matter of common sense, security would dictate the nanny should be just as diligent in ensuring her own safety and wellbeing in this new environment by checking references, but it can often feel awkward to make that request.

Here are some tips on why you should get the goods on your prospective employers and how to do so:

You Show Me Yours

To feel you are not equally entitled to checking references of homes you will be entering for potential employment is simply wrong-thinking.  If you attempt to make your request before correcting that perspective in your own mind, it will likely come out as unsure and with an energy that may leave a less than favorable overall impression of your competence. You are a professional entering a private residence of strangers. You are about to invest your own time and energy into committing to this position, perhaps turning down other opportunities or at some cost to yourself (whether personal or financial). You need to respect your own value as a professional.

Practice making the request until it sounds as natural, matter-of-fact and confident as the rest of your interview. Do so in a mirror and note your tone of voice and body language. Wipe any notes of apology from your voice, as that alone can give a sense that what you are asking for is unusual or an imposition. An easy segue is to proceed through the interview as normal and at the end, when the prospective employer sums up with “This all sounds great, I just need your references and we can move forward to the next level”, respond with, “Of course, and if you have the contact info or references from your previous nannies that would be great.” If they express any surprise or discomfort, simply explain that getting a handle on how things run makes you a more prepared and knowledgeable nanny.

Put It in Writing

If you just can’t get comfortable with the direct in-person request, create a helpful form for prospective parents to list their children’s needs and what they are looking for from you, then end the form with a “Previous Nanny Contacts and References” section. If they balk at your request, consider it a red flag or use it to bolster yourself to start a conversation about why the previous caregiver moved on and who made that decision. The nanny may have left the industry due to personal reasons (starting a family, getting married, returning to college to complete her education, etc.) or because she needed to relocate. They might have employed an au pair whose term and visa had expired. Perhaps there was just a personality conflict or the nanny decided to take on another engagement for a higher salary or with benefits. There is also a chance that there might have been payment issues or something more serious that led to her departure. If they are uncomfortable sharing, just explain that you find it’s helpful to understand the children’s perspective and what you can do to make the relationship as successful as possible.

Work with an Agency

Perhaps you are a capable and talented caregiver and nanny, but find yourself extremely uncomfortable with the idea of working out the details of your employment – whether it be negotiating pay or duties, or asking and checking references of the family’s past household employees. In order to protect yourself and ensure you are not being taken advantage of or putting yourself in an unpleasant situation that will be sticky to get out of, it may be worth it to consider an agency that will complete these tasks for you and vet out prospective families in advance.


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