I’m in the process of interviewing a new helper and, while this isn’t my first rodeo, I’d love to hear your expert tips! What should I ask and what should I be looking for?
The most important thing in the interview is not even the conversation itself. Two things are paramount: attitude and chemistry. Regarding attitude, does this person have the “right attitude”? Does she seem to have initiative and a willingness to learn? Is she positive? Does she smile or does she not meet your eyes? Regarding chemistry, do you get along? Can you talk easily or is her presence already an irritation? A great candidate for another family may simply not work in yours, and vice versa.
Regarding what questions to ask, I always tell people to try to delve a bit deeper than the obvious. Make her think and reveal her personality and work ethic. Asking a helper if she likes children is just asking for a completely uninformative “yes, ma’am”. You should instead use “scenario” questions like, “if little Timmy is pulling his big sister Katie’s hair, what would you do?” or “the children often don’t want to eat their dinner. What could you do to encourage them? What if they refuse point blank?” If you are interviewing at home you can point the candidate at the children and see what happens. Is she at ease? Are they at ease? Moving on from children, ask her what she would do to ensure chores got done. Ask her what she would do if you called at three and said four people from work were coming to dinner. You need someone who takes cares of things for you, including fixing issues that crop up without the need to constantly get your input.
The objective, quite simply, is to find out about the person. Is she a problem solver whom you can have confidence in to fix any issue that pops up, or will she require tedious micromanagement for the smallest routine tasks?
Read more from Andreas by picking up a copy of his indispensible guide, Hiring and Managing Domestic Help.