By Marsha Halperin Epstein
Founder and President of American Nanny Company
Having had the good fortune to work with and place thousands of nannies since 1984, I have some helpful advice on how to find and work with a nanny agency. As a nanny applicant you are entering into a dynamic, professional relationship and need to find out the role the agency plays in the placement process.
· Before contacting an agency, do your homework. Have a detailed and updated resume, statement of childcare philosophy, well written autobiographical letter, and comprehensive list with contact information of all relevant childcare and other references, written letters of recommendations and copies of any honors, diplomas, certifications, etc. As your professional portfolio this will impress any agency and reflect upon your professionalism and readiness to be a viable and competitive candidate.
· A well prepared applicant will also have a clear sense of what they want in a job description, employers, hours, family dynamics, number of and ages of children, salary and benefits.
Select an Agency
Ask colleagues, friends and other contacts for referrals to agencies. Do your research and select an agency that has a proven track record with nannies and families. Make sure that you are working with an agency that has enough clients to make the process worth your while.
Choose an agency that you connect with. It is important that you have a sense of who you will be working with at the agency and that you are comfortable with how they work and how they are going to manage your file, expectations and meetings with clients. If the agency seems unresponsive or is not listening to your requirements or taking the time to interview and get to know you, vote with your feet.
Initial Presentation of Self to Agency
· Present yourself with confidence and assure the agency that you will fill out all paperwork required and submit a professional portfolio as well.
· Speak clearly and use good grammar. Have some positive energy. A flat affect won’t get you very far.
· Ask intelligent questions as that is a reflection of your commitment to really pursuing this,
· Make every attempt to meet personally with agency interviewer.
The Actual Agency Interview
· Show up on time, with paper work, portfolio and forms completed and neatly done.
· Dress appropriately and avoid too much make up or perfume.
· Be well rested for interview and make it your business to connect with the interviewer. Do not give “cookie cutter” or uninspired responses to interview questions. Take your time to think and give detailed answers. Do not be afraid to ask questions or to ask for clarification of a question and make sure that the interviewer understands what you are looking for. If you actually make a relationship with this important agency contact you will fare better in the process. Be real.
· Don’t use platitudes when describing experiences in working with various children or families. Give colorful and honest examples of things that were rewarding or challenging.
· Be honest about your assets and growth edges. Remember that the placement counselor has the responsibility of matching you with a family. If you are not very neat or not very creative you might end up disappointing an employer who hires you on the basis of what is presented by the agency.
· Be sure that the interviewer walks away with a clear sense of your childcare experience, responsibilities, and philosophy of childcare. Also your approaches to discipline and limit setting, activities that you love doing and the type of relationship you seek with parents. Also they should know what would not work well for you. Ex. If you have trouble speaking up you should not be placed with an overbearing employer.
· Make salary, benefits and scheduling expectations clear. Discuss if agency or family will be the employer. Ask about taxes, workmen’s compensation, health insurance and other benefits.
· Find out how the agency works with nannies and ask them to explain the process and how they present candidates to clients, who sets up meetings, the protocol, etc. Do they want to be informed every time you hear from a client or meet with one?
· At the conclusion of the interview it is reasonable to ask the agency to present family options and job descriptions do you. You should have the right to have your agency package sent to families that you sign off on.
· How does the agency market you? How do they assemble your materials and how much will be presented to the client?
· How do they screen families and go about matching. Tell them you do not want to be pressured into one of the biggest decisions you and a family will make.
· Make sure you understand whether or not families will contact references as well as the agency. Many agencies recommend that only parents about to hire a candidate call references.
· Be upfront if you are working with other agencies or using on line services. It is most exasperating when an agency sends out your incredible file to someone who has already contacted you through Craig’s list or a local competitor. Be smart about this. A good agency will not expect you to sign on only with them and should not curtail you. On the other hand, if you are very comfortable with the agency and are getting results working exclusively with them you can streamline the process and have a great match.
· Send a note or email thanking interviewer for his/her time and ask if they need anything else to facilitate the process.
· Let the agency know about all family calls and the outcome. Report all scheduled interviews.
· After every interview give the agency feed back either by email or call.
· Be sure to call in with questions or concerns as they arise during the interview process.
· Give interviewer/agency a sense of how things are going and if you are nearing accepting a position.
· Be honest if you are interviewing with families through other sources.
· Please let the agency know if any of their clients try to strike a deal with you in which they bypass the agency and agency fee. That is the beginning of a very slippery slide.
Negotiation of Offers
· Do let the agency know as soon as you have been presented an offer.
· Be honest with the agency about your reaction to the offer and oftentimes a good agency can help you with coming back with a counter offer.
· Sometimes candidates do not realize that offers can be counted and that a motivated parent might be willing to compromise or offer all of what the candidate wants.
· Once you have accepted an offer let the agency know.
· Most agencies provide templates of employment agreements that specify aspects of the job that employers and nannies sign off on.
· The agency will probably check in for the first few months of the placement. Be sure to communicate any concerns or questions that you feel are important.
· While the agency role is in most cases a facilitative one, nannies should feel free to initiate contact with agency with questions or issues regarding placement.
· Most agencies provide networking and play group formation opportunities. It is smart to get involved in this.
· Many agencies will provide families and nannies with templates for and guidance around performance reviews.
· It is most important that the nanny has open communication with the family and is comfortable with both giving and receiving feed back critical to the success of the placement
· Stay in touch with your agency when renewing for a second year. They can be a big help in tweaking your current agreement.
Marsha Epstein founded and is the President of American Nanny Company. The company was founded in 1984 in response to the pressing need for quality in home childcare. The American Nanny Company has had the privilege of working with thousands of families and nannies and strives to maintain high standards in vetting, matching, placement and management of the process. The company is housed in Boston but places nationally.
Prior to founding the agency Marsha was a tenured professor of Sociology and specialized in the fields of Sociology of Family, Group Dynamics and Sociology of Women. She holds a Master’s in Sociology from Boston College and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Boston University.
The agency has corporate agreements with Harvard University and Blue Shield and Marsha gives many Work/Life Seminars on “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Finding and Hiring a Nanny at Harvard, Harvard Medical School, Mass General Hospital, BI Deaconess Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Mass Eye and Ear and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Marsha has been married for 32 years and has a two adult sons and a daughter-in-law.
For more information please visit our website at http://www.americannannycompany.com/, our blog at http://www.americannannymatters.com/ or at www.twitter.com/americannanny. You are also welcome to contact Marsha- firstname.lastname@example.org