How to choose the right nanny: interview questions

The process of interviewing and selecting the perfect nanny is potentially very challenging. There are many wonderful women (and men) with a passion for children looking for work as nannies. The key is to find the perfect nanny for your family and home.

When looking for a potential nanny, there are a few considerations to make before you brief placement agencies or prepare to source potential candidates in order to set up interviews.

Setting yourself goals

Ask yourself the following questions, many of which are not entirely politically correct, however one needs to be honest with oneself when looking for someone to care for your baby, be in your home and share your space. It makes it much easier for the agencies to select suitable candidates if they have all the information.

  • Do I have a preferred age group that I would like to have working for me?
  • Would I prefer a person of specific religious or cultural background?
  • Do I mind if the person is loud and energetic or would I prefer a quieter person?
  • Do I want live in or live out?
  • Would I be comfortable with a man caring for my children?
  • Is it essential that the candidate has training, or am I willing to train them myself?

Answering each of these questions honestly will help make your first impression a good one, allowing you to focus on the interview.

Nanny interview questions

When the time comes to interview the candidates, there are many questions that need to be answered, says Kirsten McIntosh from Sugar and Spice Nanny Training. Below are some that may be helpful. There is no need to go through them all, decide what's important to you. 

Remember that an interview is stressful and even more so for someone who does not speak your language as a home language, so be patient, be kind and make the person feel safe to answer the questions to the best of their ability.

There should be no trick questions. The most important thing is to listen carefully to what she says and watch what she does and how she interacts with your child. Be attuned to your own emotional responses, as well: How comfortable do you feel with her? How easy is it to communicate with her?

And whatever you do, don't dominate the conversation – let her do most of the talking. Your objective is to give her a sense of the job, but more than anything, get to know her and whether she'll fit in with your family.

Try to have your child around at some point during the interview – or even throughout – so you can observe how the candidate interacts with your child and how your child interacts with her.

Here are examples of questions:

  • How long have you been a nanny for?
  • What was your last job caring for children like? How old were the kids? What was the family like? What were your responsibilities?
  • What hours did you work? Why did the job end?
  • Why are you looking for a new position?
  • What would a typical day be for you with a child my child's age?
  • What kinds of activities would you plan to do?
  • Why are you a nanny? What do you enjoy most about taking care of children? What do you like least about it?
  • Are you looking for a live-in position? [If so, you may want to ask additional questions about lifestyle.]
  • What do you think children like best about you?
  • What do you consider to be your most important responsibility when you're taking care of children?
  • What sorts of challenges have you encountered with kids you've been taking care of and how have you handled them?
  • How do you discipline children? Can you give me some examples?
  • How do you comfort a child who is upset about something?
  • How do you deal with separation anxiety?
  • Have you ever had to handle an emergency on the job or in your home? Can you tell me what happened and how you dealt with it?
  • What would you do if my child got sick or had an accident?
  • What sorts of routines have you had to follow in your past jobs – morning routines, naptime routines – and how have you handled them?
  • How do you deal with being asked to follow rules or disciplining/comforting strategies that might be different from your own?
  • If I'm working at home, how would you keep my child happy and engaged without involving me? Have you taken care of children in a situation in which a parent has been working and around?
  • Can you cook? Can you tell me what kinds of food you can cook. If you cannot cook, would you like to learn?
  • Can you read and write?
  • Can you drive?
  • Can you swim?
  • How do you feel about performing housekeeping?
  • How flexible is your schedule? Are you willing to work evenings and weekends? If we need to stay at work later than expected from time to time or go out of town, would you be willing and able to accommodate that, provided we pay you for the extra hours?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you have any dependants? If so, how many, how old are they and where do they live? If they are school going age or younger, who cares for them during the day? What is the back-up plan if their carer is unable to look after them?
  • Where do you live and how long does it take you to get here? What transport do you use to get here and what does it cost (taxi, train etc).
  • Who do you live with?
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?
  • Do you have any child care or nanny training?
  • Do you have child-CPR or first-aid training? When last did you do this (it is recommended that one does a refresher every 2 years).
  • Would you be interested in taking child care, first aid or development courses if we paid for them?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • When do you usually take holidays and do you go away for the holidays? If so, where do you go and how long do you go for?
  • When would you be able to start working?
  • Would you mind if I ran a background check on you?
  • Can you give me the names and numbers of former employers I can call as references?

From a press release by Sugar & Spice Nanny Training.

Read more about nannies in our Nanny Series.

Which questions do you think are important to ask in an interview with a prospective nanny? Send your comments to and we may publish them.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Eskom has considered continuous load shedding at Stage 2, instead of introducing it when the power system faces a crunch. What are your thoughts?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
I'm all for it - we're going to have power cuts regardless, so we might as well have some stability to better plan our lives
45% - 4215 votes
No thanks! I prefer having periods of no load shedding and we cannot normalise this crisis
55% - 5087 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.