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Things to never ask your nanny.

January 9, 2012

When I was a nanny in southern California several years ago, I got asked the most inappropriate, absurd, uncomfortable questions you could ever imagine. Things that no employer on the face of this earth would dream of asking an employee – but since I was going to work in their home with their kids I guess it was a free for all.

I remember leaving homes after an interview and thinking, “Did that really just come out of their mouths? And did I really just sit there and answer it like it was all ok?”

And I did. I didn’t know any better.

Here are some of my (really and truly asked) favorites:

  1. “Do you plan on getting pregnant in the next year or two?” I can’t even begin to explain how illegal that question is. Of course, they wanted to know they had me for the long haul, but also so they could cancel me out right then and there if I said yes. Or that I was.
  2. “Would you be willing to take classes on how to shoot a gun?” Yeah. Probably not.
  3. “Can we meet your parents?” I was 23 years old. Married for 4 years. I’m going to say that’s a no.
  4. “Are you willing to pay your own taxes?” This one literally made my head explode. As a nanny, you are not an independent contractor. They knew it, I knew it. I carried a file with me of all the tax breaks and legal ways to hire me as an employee. There are even free online tax tools that take most of the guesswork out of the scenario. 99% of the time the parents fought it with all kinds of “perks”.
  5. “Can we pay you in cash?” As much as I love having no work history or payments into Social Security – I’ll have to pass.
  6. “Would you be ok if we videotaped you here?” I don’t know – would you be ok if your boss video taped you at work in your cubicle? Honestly. I know it’s your kid but if you have to tape a nanny, you shouldn’t have hired her. End of story.
  7. Phone interview to a place we were moving: “How much do you weigh?” Apparently they’d had a big (their words) nanny before and found she ate all the food. No mention if she was excellent with the children or a wonderful employee. I was so shocked I pretended the phone had gone dead and hung up.
  8. “Are you willing to work split shift, 70+ hours a week, some weekends and all holidays? For about $650 a week?” OH CAN I? Please?! Because that sounds amazing. Really. You have a live in, full time aupair and housekeeper, yet I’d be in charge of your 4 kids all day long 7 days a week because you’re a SAHM that needs to…. Right.
  9. “What you do on the weekends?” Well, lucky for you I’m married so not much. Movies, cooking, etc. But you’ll probably get the same answer from the next nanny applicant waiting with a cutoff tank top, daisy dukes, a nose ring, and her boyfriend waiting in the car playing rap music because – we all want this job. Good luck with that.
  10. “Tell me about the day you asked the Lord Jesus to be your Savior.” ::DEAD:: This question nearly blew me out of the seat. I’m a Christian. I’m proud of that. I’m also an American. And I’m pretty sure that’s something you can never, ever ask someone you’re hiring for a job. I’m happy to tell you all about it off the job, or not as part of being hired.

The worst part is, all of the nannies I got to know were asked at least a few of these at some point. And we all answered, because we needed a job. It became so frequent that I became numb to being treated like a piece of meat.

I think the snapping point was when a woman who looked like she stepped out of a Vogue catalog in a Pottery Barn home stopped me during an interview and said, “I’m so impressed at how articulate you are. And that you speak English.”

You know what I told her after I threw up in my mouth? “My goodness. I was just thinking the same thing about you.”

No. I did not get that job.


  • Eduarda

    March 23, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    i loved reading this article.http://www.bobesponjajogos.org

  • KK

    February 24, 2012 at 9:20 am

    I’m curious where you get that asking about pregnancy is illegal for a PRIVATE family to ask an nanny. EEOC laws ONLY cover certain employers. I always ask about pregnancy and plans because I am planning for the long term and I don’t want to rehire someone every 9 months. Anyway, just not to give off misinformation, here is the EEOC website address: http://www.eeoc.gov/employers/coverage.cfm

    It is VERY different to hire someone who is coming into your home- while some of your questions are crazy(and I agree with your assessment), I do think there are some things that are OK for families to ask of full time caregivers!

    I also ask whether they have medical concerns that I should know about (what if they were to have a siezure with my infant that they normally suffered from), and I ask about their criminal history- i think these are all relevant. And one girl, who I liked, did not tell me the details of her ‘conviction’ and how the fact she couldn’t start because she had to go to jail for 10 days. To be honest, if she had just told me the whys and when (because she couldn’t afford to pay for a drunk in public, she chose to go to jail), I would have been more understanding than hiring her, understanding we were all young and stupid and that she couldn’t start right away because she had to serve time!!

  • Candi

    January 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    When conducting an interview, make sure you don’t venture into the realm of asking illegal questions to a nanny. It’s always best to keep the questions focused on items that relate to the candidate’s role as a nanny and how she will perform her job duties. The following is a list of illegal questions you don’t want to ask a nanny during an interview.

    •Don’t ask your nanny what her maiden name is.
    •Don’t ask your nanny if she has ever been arrested. However, you can ask if she has been convicted of a crime or has felony charges pending against her.
    •Don’t ask your nanny what year she was born.
    •Don’t ask your nanny what country she has citizenship with. However, you can ask if she is a U.S. citizen.

  • angela

    January 15, 2012 at 7:00 am

    I can’t even imagine. Actually, I can imagine, because people are all kinds of crazy, but how ridiculous when you think about it!

    Sitting there, knowing you need/want the job, and being an honest person, that must have been tough.

  • Leah

    January 11, 2012 at 5:55 am

    That last one was hilarious, and I love your reply. 🙂

    It is interesting how people want in home daycare providers to be what they would be if they stayed home, but..they aren’t willing to do it themselves. Sad.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Questions You Should Ask A Potential Babysitter

    January 9, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    […] over at Hormonal Imbalances just wrote up a hilarious (and sad because it’s so true) list of inappropriate questions parents asked her when she was interviewing to be a nanny. I saw that a parent commented, […]

  • Janelle

    January 9, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    We just hired a nanny. I cannot dream of asking most of the above questions. (Although we did ask her how she preferred to be paid, which I suppose is a variation on #4&5)…but seriously? “How much do you weigh?” Wow. Shoot a gun? Wow. Just…wow.

  • Jenell

    January 9, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Ha! We are looking for caretakers for my 13 month old, yeah, these are questions I didn’t even think about. Granted it will be in their home, but still!

  • Kristen

    January 9, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    We have a nurse for Alexander and you are so right about the video thing. We imagined we would put a video camera in the house – because … well – we were leaving our “medically fragile” child with a stranger. I mean – what if she didn’t do anything with him but let him lay there? And we never bought the camera. We met her. Knew instantly. Loved her. LOVE her. Every once in awhile I joke with her about a new stuffed animal with eyes that glow – but that is when I think she might be “babying” him too much. And it is ALWAYS a joke. As a mom of twins – you might not believe the questions I got when I was pregnant. Different questions – same level of “ugh.” Kristen

  • Cams

    January 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Oh. my. GOSH. I have interviewed for several nanny jobs and I can remember being asked almost all of these questions. Especially the “are you planning on getting pregnant” one. AAAAHHHH. They make you feel soo soo uncomfortable and accountable to them (when you shouldn’t at all be in that way).

    Good post.


    1. Diana

      January 9, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      YES. And you have to answer them because not answering just crosses you right off the list. So very awkward.

  • Anne-Marie

    January 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Did this come out of our Twitter conversation by any chance? 😉

    This is my first round of interviews for full-time nanny-dom, but it’s less stress interviewing for full-time positions here in New Haven, CT than for weekend babysitting in NYC. The families I’ve met have been so down-to-earth and so careful not to cross boundaries. Yesterday, I met a European family who asked, first off, “Do you have health care? Because we would really feel awful if we were asking someone to work full-time without health care! But we can’t afford it! We don’t know what to do!” And I was like “It’s cool. I have health care. It’s not a problem.” MIddle class families with a budget may pay a little less, but it’s everything they can afford and they’re happy to do it! Such a relief.

    In New York, in college, there was an infamous family who would speak about babysitters in FRENCH, standing right there. They just assumed that the sitter wouldn’t understand. My most bad-ass friend just interrupted them in French to say she wouldn’t be coming back.

    1. Diana

      January 9, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      Lol at the french speaking!

      And yes, this totally came from our conversation. After we talked I remembered all the odd things I had been asked over the years.

  • molly

    January 9, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Wowsers. Those are some doozies! I’ve done a lot of interviewing for companies and still get asked illegal questions!

  • Jennifer @ Also Known As the Wife

    January 9, 2012 at 10:03 am

    :::crumples up paper:::

    Well I guess it’s back to the drawing board for interview questions.

    Seriously this whole babysitter/nanny business is overwhelming.

    1. Diana

      January 9, 2012 at 6:17 pm

      I have been a nanny, hired a nanny, and hired nannies for several families. If you need any help I’m here!

      1. Anne-Marie

        January 9, 2012 at 8:58 pm

        I wanted to help, too! I wrote this: http://www.donotfaint.com/questions-you-should-ask-a-potential-babysitter/

        Five questions you do want to ask!

  • Bethany

    January 9, 2012 at 9:55 am

    How about this one:
    Me: what is your discipline routine? Time out? Ready chair?
    Potential employer: Actually, I’m glad you brought that up. We practice spanking but really wish to stay consistent. One of your requirements would be to use spanking in certain instances (here’s a list). Would you be ok with that?
    Me: ….

    1. Diana

      January 9, 2012 at 6:16 pm

      Oh my.

      When I taught kindergarten I had a little boy who refused to obey. Ever. No matter what. After the third conference his parents asked if I would spank him (private school). I declined but it did cross my mind when he was out of control… 🙂

  • t.bird

    January 9, 2012 at 8:59 am

    when we were interviewing for our nanny 99% of them offered most of the baove info w/o us asking.

    i was like, “wow- you’re so open!” ha.

    1. Diana

      January 9, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      LOL – I got to the point where I’d say things during interviews and the parents would tell me, “Oh, hey, that’s ok, we weren’t going to ask…”

      I was so used to being drilled on my whole life.

  • Elyssa McDowell

    January 9, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Too funny!

  • Jen

    January 9, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Baaahahaha! I love this so much! SO FLIPPIN MUCH!

  • Misty

    January 9, 2012 at 7:54 am

    lol, this is too hilarious. It’s amazing what some people expect from their childcare providers!!

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