How to Recruit a Nanny
The Options
Using the Nanny Agency
Using the Web-Based Service
On Your Own

You have decided that you need a nanny. Now you have to find one. The following are time tested techniques you may use to help you recruit the perfect candidate.

The Options
The first bridge you have to cross is determining the level of assistance you wish and your family budget for recruitment.

Many first time nanny employers feel a bit adrift in the process. They want or need assistance in the recruitment process. The levels of available assistance vary, and so does the price of the help. Typical choices include retaining a nanny agency and/or using internet-based recruiting resources.

The experienced nanny employer has less emotional or practical need for assistance with the candidate selection, but time (or the lack thereof) may drive them to retain help anyway.

Families who choose to recruit without assistance have a variety of recruiting avenues they can explore. These are discussed below in more detail.

When you want help...
Nanny referral agencies exist in all areas of the country. Your first stop in locating a nanny agency is this site - the database of agencies on is the most comprehensive available anywhere. Also available to help you here is advice on Interviewing the Nanny Agency.

Typically, a nanny agency will:

  • Collect a retainer from the family before beginning to recruit. Retainer may vary from $50-$250 dollars and is generally non-refundable and not contingent in a successful placement.

  • Interview the family, in person if geographically feasible, to determine the family needs.

  • Begin the advertisement and recruitment activities to find appropriate candidates.

  • Pre-screen select candidates, verifying employment history and checking personal references.

  • Refer finalists to the family for an interview. Generally the agency will provide the family with interview guidance, as well as the results from their reference checking. has a number of helpful articles in interviewing the nanny in the Parent's Library.

  • Collect feedback from the family after interviewing, refer more candidates if necessary, or help the family make a job offer to the candidate. The agency should be able to assist the family with salary and tax issues, or refer to specialists in that area. Home/Work Solutions, Inc. is a nationally recognized leader in nanny payroll and tax services. The agency should also help the family write up a formal work agreement between the family and the nanny.

  • Agency will order a background search, generally by a private investigator, after the candidate has accepted a contingent offer of employment. The depth of the investigation varies from agency to agency - find out what it includes!

  • Agency will collect their fee when the nanny starts work. Fees vary, ranging from $1200 - $3000. Established agencies average $1800-2200 as their placement fee.

  • Client and nanny satisfaction should be checked within 1-4 weeks of employment. Agency can act as an intermediary to resolve any conflicts.

    Web-based nanny referral services are a relatively new entry into the 'agency' market. The leader among these services is Inc.

    A web-based service will provide some but not all of the services of a traditional agency. It is important to understand the differences.

    Web-based services are dramatically less expensive than agencies, typically $200 -$250 dollars.

    A web-based service will generally:

  • Recruit a pool of non-screened nanny candidates.

  • Provide prospective clients an extensive on-line preview of their current candidate pool. This helps families decide whether there are a sufficient number of likely candidates available before they subscribe to the service.

  • Collect a non-contingent fee from families. Families are then provided the means to contact the nanny candidates directly.

  • Families do all screening of prospective nannies. Help documentation is generally provided to step the family though this "do-it-yourself" process.

  • Families make all job offers. Again, there are generally referrals for tax and insurance issues on the site, as well as tools such as sample work agreements, in template format, provided to the family.

  • Families order the background investigation, and pay for it directly. Better services such as allow families to order this search directly from their website.

  • Families craft the final work agreement. They are responsible for making any transportation arrangements, if applicable.

  • The primary benefits of the web-based arrangement are 1) immediacy - family can start talking to candidates right away, 2) economics - generally 20f a full service agency, and 3) privacy - the family can initiate contacts via e-mail and only talk to the candidates that appeal to them. Compare that to the telephone ringing constantly from a newspaper ad, usually in the middle of dinner, bath time, and when you want to relax.

    Recruiting on Your Own
    When you decide to recruit a nanny on your own, you will do all:

    Advertising: Newspaper advertisement is the most common. Most daily and weekly papers have a category for Nanny, Childcare, or Domestic Help wanted advertisements. The newspaper staff will help you with the wording.

    Remember to include important requirements such as experience, non-smoking, whether driving is required, days and hours, references required, and when to call.

    Other advertising options include: word of mouth through friends and co-workers, college career offices, bulletin boards at schools, grocery stores, churches/synagogues, and senior centers.

    Telephone Screening: Have a list of preliminary questions available. Some families find that setting up voice mail service that directs the respondents to provide contact information helps them prescreen; if the candidate cannot follow a few simple directions, you didn't want to talk to them anyway. Ask for references from likely candidates, and get the candidates full name and telephone number.

    Interviewing: Check references, if possible, before arranging the face to face interview. It is recommended that the initial interview take place at a neutral location - a McDonalds with a playland, a coffee shop, and libraries are helpful.

    Do not bring the candidate into you home at once if at all possible. Carefully watch how the candidate interacts with your child/ren. Go through a thorough list of interview questions, and trust your instincts. If it doesn't feel right, it won't get better.

    Checking References: Phone all references, and experts suggest that you attempt to get an additional reference for your candidate from their references. A question like "Do you know anyone else who might be able to give me a character reference on Susie?" will often elicit a name and number of someone who has not been briefed by the candidate ahead of time.

    Seriously consider paying for a background investigation ($100-$150). A list of firms providing these services is available on

    Work Agreement: You must craft a work agreement to define the hours, scope of work, compensation, holidays, vacations, and overtime compensation.

    Deal with Taxes and Insurance: You have payroll tax obligations when you hire a nanny. refers families to Home/Work Solutions for help with taxes. Workers compensation insurance is often required. Many families offer the nanny medical insurance. All of these must be dealt with in the first week or so of employment.

    Regardless of the method you use to find your family's nanny, the experts agree that you must do the following:

  • Listen to your instincts. If you are uneasy for any reason, move on to another candidate.

  • Communicate: Make sure you have been clear about hours, duties, child rearing philosophies, and compensation before the nanny starts work. Be realistic, there are very few "Alice's" out there. Prioritize. If the house is most important, hire a housekeeper. If your child/ren are the priority, hire a nanny.

  • Compensate: The 'bargain' nanny will find a higher paying job very quickly, leaving you to start over and your child/ren to adjust to another caregiver. Nannies command a minimum of $250 a week on a live in basis, with the mean between $300-$400. They are in high demand. Live out or "come-and-go" nannies start at a minimum of $10/hr, but these numbers can vary dramatically depending on what part of the country you live in.

  • Document: Write the work agreement. Review the work agreement. You and the nanny should both sign the agreement, and the nanny should have her own copy. Review the agreement after the first month, and again periodically. Never add duties without compensation.

  • Reward: Nannies need positive feedback for a job well done. Movie tickets, a gift certificate, or a bonus are all good ways of saying thank you. However, don't forget to use the words too, they need to be said and heard.

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