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Background Checks and Reference Checking

When hiring an employee to work in your home, conducting background checks and calling references are key parts of the hiring process. Understanding the information that you will get from each can be the difference between a good hire and a bad one.

Background Checks

When hiring a nanny, it is important to screen them thoroughly. Use reputable companies with boots on the ground – not search engines or places that offer "instant" background checks. These instant sources rely on compiled private databases that can be incomplete or outdated. A good background check costs money and will look thoroughly to identify jurisdictions in which an applicant potentially has a criminal record. Memberships to professional organizations, such as The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®), Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC), and Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP) are a good indicator that a background checking company is worth its salt.

Reference Checks

It is critical to call every reference listed on a potential employee’s resumé. Doing this gives you a good indicator of what you can expect from the employee if you hire them. For example, you may get information about key details such as punctuality, work attendance, quality of care for the children, and what communication was like with the previous employer. To get the most out of your reference calls, come up with some specific questions that will get to the heart of what you need to know, and ask these on each call. A few good examples are:

  • Tell me about a time when (Employee) went above and beyond for your family.

  • If there is one skill you feel (Employee) needs to work on, what is it?

  • Can you offer any tips for communicating with (Employee) to ensure we are on the same page about expectations?

Make sure your questions are tailored to the job duties and requirements you will have, so you are sure to get the information you need in one call.

Once you find the right fit for your family, take time to write an employment contract, or work agreement. This should include wage and payment information, schedules, description of job duties and any benefits offered, a termination clause, and any other information you want to have in writing. Do make sure the clauses in your work agreement meet federal, state, and local requirements for the position, too. If you are unsure what requirements are in your area, you can find what you need to know on our state specific tip sheets. Nanny contracts ensure everyone is on the same page.

Reposted with permission from Home Work Solutions (

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