Prescreening of nanny job applicants over the telephone is common for both families and agencies. The telephone interview is a two way conversation, and should enable the candidate and family/agency to make an initial assessment of job fit.
The following tips can help the nanny candidate plan for and rock the telephone interview.
1. Be Prepared
Do you have an elevator speech prepared? This is a short summary of YOU - capable of being delivered in 30 - 60 seconds, or the duration of an elevator ride. If you don't, please consider preparing this before any telephone calls are made. It is the perfect answer to the "Tell me about yourself" question. You might say "Hello, my name is Mary, and I am a professional nanny. I have worked in the field for 6 years with 3 different families, I have an associates degree in Early Childhood Education, and I love working with children in the intimate setting of the family home."
Another aspect of preparation is having your own short list of questions ready - written down and in front of you is a best practice. These are general qualifiers - not deeply detailed questions. You might want to know the ages of the children, location of the job, hours, and compensation range. Detailed compensation and benefits discussions are not appropriate at this point - you just want to make sure you are all in the ball park. Have a pad and pencil ready for note taking.
2. Practice - Do a Dry Run
Ask a friend or mentor to interview you, and critique your performance. Do this on the telephone if at all possible to mimic the environment. Remember to smile as you speak - this really does come through in your voice. Show enthusiam appropriately - interject a few "Awesome!" or "That's great!" phrases as you speak. When the family says the position is from 7 am - 4 pm you might respond - "Awesome. I am such a morning person I love getting an early start to my day." Do try to avoid the neutral vowel sounds we pepper our conversations with - um, uh, er and the like. Don't rush, speak at a comfortable conversational speed. And remember, the interviewer cannot see your head nod or hand gestures - you must rely on conversation to convey any messages.
3. Sell Yourself
You might be thinking "how do I sell myself, I am a nanny, not a saleperson!" Many candidates sell themselves short by giving too many yes or no answers, rather than elaborating. Some examples are "Yes, I helped the parents with potty training in my last job. The parents and I worked together when the little one began staying dry overnight and we were very successful as a team." What you just told the family is yes, you have done this before, you have an idea of when potty training is appropriate, and you can work cooperatively with parents. Or you might say "No, I have not worked in a home where the parents practiced baby wearing before. I am happy to learn. I think this is a wonderful way to help the baby feel secure with their caregiver. Do you use a particular sling or wrap?" While you may not have this particular experience, you communicated to the family that you are open to working with them and following their parenting philosophy with enthusiasm. And remember - honesty is the best policy. Don't embellish or claim a skill or experience you don't really have.
Your full attention should be given to the telphone call and you want to present yourself in the best possible manner. Don't eat, chew gum or drink during the telephone interview. (A short sip of water may be needed for longer interviews.) Make sure you avoid distracting TV or music in the background. Avoid multi-tasking during the interview. You don't want to supervise children, cook, be driving, or even walking to the bus or train while you are on a telephone interview.
5. Close the Deal
Your objective, providing that basic job details make this appear to be a good job fit, is to schedule the in person interview. Generally speaking, after the family or placement counselor has finished asking you questions the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. Review you short list (number 1 above) to make sure you filled in all the blanks. Summarize why YOU could be their ideal candidate, and ask for the in person interview. "Well, the location and ages of the children are just what I am looking for, I love working with toddlers and really like the idea of the early morning hours. I think we should meet in person to explore this further. I am available weekdays after 6:30 - how does tomorrow evening sound to you?"
If this isn't a good job fit for you at this stage, by all means wrap things up cordially, thank the family for their time, and figuratively walk away. Interviewing with a family who is looking for a square peg when you know you are a round peg is a waste of everyone's time.
What other tips do you have for the nanny doing telephone interviews?