Sittercity CEO Genevieve Thiers: Hiring a babysitter used to be such a simple process: plan a night out, call the neighborhood girl to come over, pay her a few dollars an hour, and enjoy your evening. But with today's caregivers undergoing special training, putting together detailed resumes, citing professional references, and actively seeking jobs online, child care is no longer confined to the cul-de-sac.
To simplify the increase in options, convenience, and technology, you need a clear plan for how to hire caregivers online. Child care expert Genevieve Thiers shares with us an effective method to landing the perfect caregiver through the convenience of the Web.
- Find a credible online sitter source.
"The Internet is a fantastic place to find sitters and nannies -- as long as you're using a safe, reputable website," Thiers says. She tells parents to look for a service that has a free search tool so you can try it before you buy, has tons of local sitters (to give them plenty of options), offers features such as background checks and online reviews from other parents, is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau, and receives excellent feedback in the media and on impartial blogs. Sittercity.com, for example, is the nation's largest and most trusted online sitter source, meeting that criteria and more.
- Post your job online.
While you always have the option to conduct a search and browse through sitter profiles, it's even better to post a job and let the sitters come to you. "The best time to post a job is 2-4 weeks before the job date," says Thiers. "This helps ensure that you have time to screen the sitters carefully." In that job posting, include the job date, time, number of children, city/town you live in, whether or not you have pets, and the required responsibilities (such as cooking dinner). For recurring and long-term positions, you might also want to let the sitter know if you often get stuck at work or if you travel enough that you might need an overnight sitter. And don't forget your contact information!
- Check a sitter's online reviews.
The top child care websites allow both parents and sitters to leave reviews for each other. Once you've received sitter applications, look at the sitters' profiles to see what those reviews say. Is the sitter especially good with newborns? Will she care for a sick child so you don't have to take another day off work? Online sitter profiles and reviews reveal all of this information right up front, so you don't have to waste any time analyzing the applicants and wondering how they'd behave on the job.
- Conduct in-person interviews.
As sitters respond to your job posting, choose 3-5 sitters to interview in person. The three big things you'll want to ask about are the sitter's experience/background, her approach to discipline, and what safety training she has. Keep in mind that the best interview questions are open-ended, such as "Tell me about a time when ..." And, if you can, keep your children around for a brief mother's-helper period, so you can get a feel for how the sitter and little ones interact.
- Check references.
The typical babysitter will have two child care references, but first-timers may just use a parent or teacher. Either way, the babysitter should have no problem providing you with the phone number and e-mail address of references so you can contact them. (On Sittercity.com, that contact information can be found right on the sitter's online profile.) Checking references doesn't have to take long -- asking a few brief but important questions should get the job done:
- What were Amy's best qualities?
- How comfortable were you with her in charge?
- How did your children like her?
- What issues did you ever have with Amy?
- Would you hire her again? Why or why not?
- Run a background check on your top choice.
This final safety precaution will help give you more peace of mind about a sitter. "Child care sites should always offer background checks on their sitters," says Thiers, "and it should cost anywhere from $10 to absolutely nothing." Once you've picked your favorite sitter, keep two others on file as backups just in case your primary sitter can't make it to a job.