Today we start a new series on Regarding Nannies featuring Best Practices. We’ll be covering a variety of fields and specialties, but starting with Agencies. We asked a few of our industry’s top agencies, what they feel are Best Practices Nannies should have when working with an Agency, and what they look for from top nannies.
Erin Krex, First Class Care (Chicago, IL) shares her top tips …
1. Make sure your employment history is complete on your application along with correct contact info for reference.
2. Respect the agencies time they take to meet with you, DO not be late, reschedule or cancel.
3. Help the agency understand what you are looking for in a family.
4. Make sure you are professional at all times when going on interviews as you are representing yourself and the agency
5. Understand how the agency works and what you can do to help in the process. Don’t just call daily to ask if they have anything for you.
Judi Merlin, A Friend of the Family (Atlanta, GA) shares her top 5 + one more …
For a successful relationship, be it business or personal, both parties need to feel valued, respected and feel that the relationship is mutually beneficial. What do nannies and agencies need to remember in order to make certain that their relationship is successful?
- Professionalism: Agencies have spent decades trying to professionalize the nanny industry and teaching families to regard nanny care as a professional choice. Nannies need to help. A professional business relationship requires business manners: returning phone calls, emails and responding to text messages in a timely manner, speaking clearly and directly, and keeping communication clear. For example, if a nanny is not interested in continuing to have a working relationship with an agency, it is important to let the agency know.
- Honesty: Is it ok to omit a job when discussing your past experiences? Some nannies omit jobs that did not end well. That is understandable, but when dealing with an agency, nannies need to tell the whole truth. Often, the truth will come out in checking other references or in other unexpected ways. At that point, trust is eroded between agency and nanny. Professional nanny agencies understand all too well that there are two (or more) sides to every story. It is important to tell the agency what happened and what was learned from the experience.
An agency looks at the whole candidate, the sum of many different pieces of information and the result of many hours of investigation. If a nanny has several references and one that is not so great, telling the agency about it upfront goes a long way toward their trust and eagerness to place you.
- Integrity: Agencies rely on the integrity of a nanny to honor their contractual agreement with the agency. Clients may ask a nanny to work and not report it to the agency (so that the parents can avoid paying agency fees). It takes a strong sense of personal ethics to adhere to your contractual agreement, as well as follow your principles.
- Open communication: Communication is a two-way street. If a nanny is having a problem on a job, they need to speak up before situation goes to the point of no return. If this is hard for a nanny to speak to the family, it is time to speak to the agency who are experienced to help you. If a nanny has a communication problem with an agency or one of its employees, let a supervisor or director know in a polite and calm manner.
Open communication also means being open to feedback that may be difficult to hear. It may be that the agency did not feel the nanny was qualified for any of the available jobs; it may be that clients were disturbed by a nanny’s dress, attitude, or any number of things. it may be that the nanny and the agency simple continue to misunderstand one another and must, as some point, part company.
- Be Realistic: A nanny needs to be realistic in her appraisal of herself and her skills as a job applicant. Agencies advocate for their nannies and try to get the wage they want, but sometimes an inexperienced and even experienced nanny is not realistic. Is she really the total package with years of experience, relevant educational background and documentation of professional affiliations? Is a nanny who wants the top of the scale in salary a presentable role model who can communicate effectively with both children and adults? Do her references confirm that she is creative, organized, and a problem solver who can help make the quality of a family’s life better than it was before?
- Open Mindedness. Agencies look for nannies who continue to want to learn and grow. Part of the agency’s job is to help nannies in their professional growth and development by offering guidance, helping problem solve, and fostering communication with parents. Longevity on a job and years of experience is important, but so is a nanny’s willingness to become a better nanny.
Attitude is everything. Cultivate a good one.
Mary O’Connor, Nannies from the Heartland (Minneapolis, MN) shares that they interview 8-10% of the nannies that apply. A nanny may not get an interview for not meeting the minimum requirements, or because of a messy, incomplete application or misspelled words, gaps in employment, etc.
Once a nanny gets the interview with the agency, she should be on time and call if she is running late. If she is a “no show” we note this in our database and will not consider her in the future. Over the years, many nannies have been surprised by this if they contact us at a later date. The same if they “no show” or are late for an interview with a family.
Appearance and dress is very important. She should be dressed in nice casual clothing and well groomed, no strong perfumes, not chewing gum or wearing flip flops or jeans. Often times, if we mention to someone who is casually dressed for our interview that she needs to dress up more for family interviews, she’ll say she planned to do this. Well, we’re evaluating her for the family, so she should come dressed well for the interview with us.
A resume that is well written and specific to the job is preferred and is great but not a requirement. Letters of recommendation, portfolio and certificates etc., are also great but not required. However, if the applicant comes with all this to the interview, we can typically get her referred more quickly. She will move herself to the top of the list if we’re trying to prioritize our time for reference and background checking.
Returning phone calls and email as quickly as possible is very important. We will note in our database if this doesn’t happen. Sometimes, this same person calls back a year or two later and tells us they had found a job through another source but now they are looking again. We don’t have a problem with this but if they didn’t inform us at the time and ignored our contacts, we won’t consider them again.
Honesty and integrity is critical. If we find out about something that she has not fully disclosed with us in the application and interview process, we will not continue to work with her. The nanny signs an application stating that the information she is providing is true and we take this seriously. I have no problem with a nanny using multiple resources to find a job. But, if she isn’t honest with us or a client about something during the interviewing process, we will not represent her. We’ve also had the experience that the nanny will tell the client something during the interview that is different from what she told us or that is ‘news” to us. This is not good and we typically will not represent her going forward.
After the placement, we appreciate if the nanny keeps us updated on any address changes and/or if she leaves the job. We do follow up emails and a quarterly newsletter and send out birthday cards so like to keep our records current.
Just as a nanny should send a thank you note to a family after an interview and we advise them to do this, it’s really appreciated when she does that same with us. I don’t think that most nanny candidates realize how much time and money we invest in helping them. It’s nice to hear a “thank you” for this even if they find a job through another source. We believe in treating applicants respectfully whether we end up representing them or not and expect the same from them.
Agencies, tell us, what are your best practices for nannies working with agencies today? Nannies, educators, NCS … you’ll have your opportunity to share your Best Practices in upcoming installments of Best Practices!
By Kellie Geres
Regarding Nannies Development Team