The downside of Fall….
While I do love the fall, it so often signals one of the most dreaded tasks I have as a working Mom: finding sitters. The last few years our awesome babysitters have gone away to college. (Boo!) Which means that I have to find new sitters, verify references, run background checks, interview them, test them out and then trust them. It’s also a reminder that I don’t get to spend every waking moment with my kids (cue the sad violin intro).
I can’t say enough good things about SitterCity.com. I love this site and this service. We have used it since our youngest was born, so almost 5 years now. While the site simplifies the process, provides endless resources and lots of great tools, it’s still not a great task but obviously, it’s one of THE most important ones.
As I start my interview process and reference checks, I thought I would share a recommended script/ question list from the website with those other Moms who are also faced with this task. Sometimes you want to ask their references questions but you have no idea what to ask. So, here is a helpful list of questions (and additional information) for the sitter’s references before taking the time to interview the sitters themselves:
References can play a big part in your decision to find the right caregiver. The typical babysitter will have two references that have already agreed to serve as such in the hiring process. First-timers may use a parent or teacher, since they haven’t yet had a chance to establish a relationship with an employer.
Either way, the babysitter should provide you with both the phone number and email address of references so you can contact them easily. We understand that you might feel a little awkward calling a reference, so we’re here to help you get more comfortable and familiar with the idea by offering tips and list of questions to guide you through the process.
The Phone Call: Introduction
The first thing you’ll want to do is introduce yourself and tell the reference why you are calling – don’t forget to say that the babysitter referred you.
“Hi, this is Jane Smith. I’m calling because SusieSuperSitter listed you as a babysitting reference, and I was wondering if now was a good time to ask you a few questions about her personality and performance.”
In rare cases, the reference might not be comfortable speaking to you or did not agree to be a reference. Note to self: this is probably not a good sign. If you’d like to give the sitter the benefit of the doubt, you can contact the babysitter for another reference. Otherwise, remove her from the potential babysitters pile.
Questions for References
If the reference seems happy to speak to you, here’s a typical list of questions that you can ask to help gauge your potential babysitter’s talents. As a courtesy, try to keep your questions brief.
- How well do you know Susie?
- In what capacity did she work for you?
- How long did she work for you?
- How would you describe her?
- What are her best qualities?
- What are her worst qualities?
- How did your kids like her?
- Was she always excited to see your kids?
- Did she have a routine when working with your kids?
- Is she flexible? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
- Is she mature? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
- Is she patient? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
- Is she timely? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
- Is she energetic? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
- Can you give me an example of quick thinking from Susie in an emergency?
- Did she drive your kids, do an overnight job for you or sit for a newborn?
- How did she do with these tasks?
- How much supervision did she need?
- How well did she follow direction?
- Was she willing to clean up after herself on the job?
- What areas could she improve in?
- Would you hire her again?
- Why did you stop working together?
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
- Can I contact you again if I have any more questions?
Beyond the Basic Answers
When doing a phone reference check, you don’t have a lot to go by other than the person’s voice and assurance on the phone. So ask yourself a few questions afterwards:
- Did the reference sound nervous?
- Did they answer right away to their name?
- Is anything not quite right?
For every 99 great babysitters, there is always one who will use her college roommate for a reference, so use your gut to determine if anything seems odd.
We’ve learned that you can tell a lot simply from how a person’s voice makes you feel, which is why we recommend the phone interview over exchanging emails. Take advantage of your own gut instinct, and take comfort knowing that each phone call take you one step closer to priceless peace of mind.