You’re finally ready for a night off, but how do you find a sitter you can trust?
Hiring the right babysitter is a serious task. You don’t want anyone to be cavalier caring for your children, so don’t you be cavalier when hiring them.
Use all of your resources to put out the word. Check with family and friends first; if they are using a reliable sitter, ask if she might know someone. Even though word of mouth is always a good way to go, always check references. Try local churches and community centers. If you are looking for an older sitter, post an ad at local senior citizen center. Also check your local mom message boards; there are always postings by families who are moving or whose needs are changing; they are helping their beloved sitter find a new job.
Remember, babysitters come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. It’s up to you to decide what the requirements of the job are and what type of person would best fit those needs. Do you want someone just for an hour or two on a Saturday night? Do you want someone with lots of baby experience? Do you want young and energetic? Do you want a sitter who can drive?
If you’re expecting telephone responses, set up your voicemail like this: “If you are calling about the job, please leave a detailed message, including your name, number, and details of your child-care experience. Please leave a message only if you have references to verify your work experience.”
When you do meet in person, make notes about promptness, if the candidate made an effort with her appearance, whether or not she (they are most often female) made eye contact with you, if she washed her hands before handling baby, and, in general, if she was comfortable with your baby.
Write down all of your questions and criteria before the meeting so you don’t forget a thing. When interviewing the sitter, ask questions relevant to your situation: “Are you CPR and first-aid certified? If not, would you mind becoming certified before I hire you?” “What is your child-care experience?” “Have you ever had an emergency while babysitting and how did you handle it?” “What do you charge per hour?”
No matter what, always check references. When doing so, ask very specific questions including, “How did she interact with the children?” “Was she patient and kind?” “Was she able to handle an emergency situation that arose?” “Was she punctual?” Make sure that the details of the candidate’s experience and the reference match: how long the sitter worked there, the ages of the children, and so on.
After you have checked her references, ask the candidate to spend a few hours with you and the baby at your home. Then, step out to run an errand or grab a coffee, and be sure to return home unannounced.
And finally, treat hiring a sitter as seriously as you would if you were hiring for a corporation. Trust your gut, but do your homework. After all, this person will be taking care of your precious child—enough said!