In the early days of my nanny career, I used to bring only one thing to in-person interviews: my resume. For me, this was a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t you bring a resume to an interview? However, for several of my interview families, this was a first for them. No other nannies they’d interviewed had brought in a resume. A few times, I would get comments like “Wow, a resume! So professional!”, and then a semi-patronizing look that seemed to convey the question “You know this is JUST a nanny job, right?”. Mostly, though, families were genuinely impressed and thankful. With that resume in hand, I got more callbacks than rejections.
I’ve learned quite a bit about the nanny profession over the last 15 years, but one thing in particular has become quite clear to me: Nannies who exude professionalism during an interview will almost always be chosen over nannies who do not. A parent may not even know that she wants a professional nanny. She may not even know there IS such a thing as a professional nanny. However, once she meets one, she will know that THAT is what she wants. Every parent wants to believe that they are leaving their child in the hands of someone competent and highly-skilled.
For these reasons, it is important that you come prepared to every in-person interview you accept. The easiest way to prepare for an interview is to create an interview portfolio. This portfolio will not only include all the information you wish to pass along to the family (your resume, cover letter, and reference list), but will also serve as a reference guide and a window into the types of experiences that you will provide for their child. Since I began bringing my portfolio to interviews in 2009, I have been offered every single position I have interviewed for. Would I have been offered these positions without a portfolio? Possibly. But, I do not believe that I would have the 100% success rate that I do currently.
What should be included in your interview portfolio?
Cover Letter (includes childcare philosophy): Your cover letter is your introduction to the family. In it, you will briefly introduce yourself, discuss your work history and background with children, and discuss your childcare philosophy. There are several websites that will provide sample cover letters and even sample childcare philosophy statements. A great one to check out is http://www.coverletter.us/. Keep in mind that whenever you’re able to tailor your cover letter to a particular family- you should do it! Try to include all of the ways that YOU would make the perfect nanny for their family. Are they looking for a strong swimmer? Discuss your lifeguard training. Do they want someone who loves reading to children? Make sure you mention your time volunteering to read with children at the elementary school.
Resume (tailored for the position if possible): Let’s start with the basics. Your resume should be one page long. It should include your name, address, phone number, and email at the top. Next comes your objective (for example: “I’m looking for a full time position where I can utilize my knowledge of Early Childhood Education and my love for children”). Your work experience comes next, and should be listed in chronological order beginning with your last position. It’s helpful to list 2-3 duties per position and start with an action verb (provided, performed, assisted, guided, scheduled, etc). If you’d like, you can also list your reason for leaving the position and your starting or ending salary. You will leave your resume with the family, so make sure you have extra copies in your portfolio. Sample nanny resumes can be found here: http://coverlettersandresume.com/nanny-2/nanny-resume-example/.
Letters of Reference: These may be the single most important documents to include in your portfolio. Very little trumps a heartfelt recommendation from another parent. In my experience, it is best to ask for a letter of reference about a month before you actually need it. I would recommend having at least one letter of reference, but two to three is ideal. If there is something specific that you would like your previous family to discuss in the letter, make sure to let them know. During your interview, ask the family if they would like a copy of these letters.
Reference page: This page will list the contact information for your last three employers. Make sure to include their name, phone number, and email address, as well as a brief description of your role with each employer (For example: “I worked for the K Family for 3 years as a Nanny/House Manager. When I started, their children were 2, 5, and 7.”). I like to list these references not in chronological order, but in order of which family will give me the best reference. Most families will only call the first one or two references (if that!), so why not start off with the one who is going to gush about how brilliant you are? For privacy reasons, I do not give these out unless I am offered the position during the interview or I am asked to come back for a second interview.
Certificates/Diplomas: This is your chance to show off your credentials! Be sure to include items such as your high school or college diploma, your most recent CPR/First Aid certification certificate, and certificates from any higher learning or nanny-related courses, classes, or seminars. It is not necessary to give these documents to your interview families, so one copy of each is sufficient.
Pictures of Former NKs (nanny kids): These photos will serve as a snapshot into your life as a nanny. Display your photos proudly, and be sure to include a few of yourself with the children you have cared for. Families love to see these photos because they often show not only how much your former charges loved you, but how much you love them! I like to decorate the outside cover of my portfolio binder with photos, so that it is the first thing that families see. Note: Make sure to always receive permission from your former families before sharing photos of their children (both in person and online).
List of Nanny duties vs House Manager duties vs Housekeeper duties: This page will serve as an important reference during your interview. When put on the spot, it can be difficult to remember all the tasks that you, as a nanny, are willing to do for a family. You’ll want a complete list that you can either reference yourself or hand to the family to look over. Even if you are not interviewing to be a House Manager or a Housekeeper, the list of House Manager duties and Housekeeper duties is important to have because you will be able to compare the lists and show the family why you are or aren’t willing to do certain tasks. For instance, did you know that nannies should not be asked to do family laundry? That is a House Manager’s job. Did you know that nannies should not be asked to do deep cleaning? That is a Housekeeper’s job. Unless the family is willing to compensate you for these extra duties, you are 100% allowed to say no.
List of Questions to Ask the Family: After letters of reference, this may be the next most important document to include in your portfolio. After all, you’re not only being interviewed by the family- YOU are interviewing THEM, as well! Finding a family that is a “good fit” is extremely important. Ask a lot of questions! Personally, I bring a list of 20 questions to each interview. This list includes questions ranging from “Tell me about your child’s daily schedule”, to “What is your discipline philosophy?”. A link to a sample list of interview questions can be found here: http://www.best-job-interview.com/nanny-interview.html. I have had many parents (especially first-timers) tell me that they were so relieved that I brought my own questions because they were absolutely clueless about what to ask me.
Other things that are nice to include:
Sample daily log/schedule, list of age-appropriate toys/books for each age group, list of local kid-friendly activities, sample activities or photos of projects you’ve done with kids, sample emergency consent form, sample emergency contact list form, favorite recipes to make for/with NKs (include photos if you have any)
Now it’s time to get to work! My binder took me about two weeks to put together, but it may take a bit longer if you don’t already have items like a resume, cover letter, and letters of reference. Start with the first things listed, and work your way down from there. Add items as you finish them, and make sure to always check your binder before each interview to make sure that you have replenished your pages and updated any information. Once finished, congratulate yourself on a job well done, and then sit back and wait for the offers to come in!
Do you have an interview portfolio? What’s in it? Do you feel it has been an asset on interviews?
(Next article: “How To Make Yourself Irreplaceable as a Nanny”)