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What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Nanny

A Comprehensive Guide to Nanny Background Checks

Table of Contents

Entrusting your children and house to the hands of a stranger is never an easy thing to do, especially if you can’t rely on recommendations from your friends or family.

However, many busy parents need outside help to care for their children, and if the grandparents or other trustworthy persons are not an option, hiring a nanny is often their best solution.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, there were 1,160,000 childcare workers in the United States.

The good news is that today there are many ways to make sure you’re hiring the right nanny for your children.

In this article, we will guide you through the details of how you can feel confident you hire a nanny that is a good fit for your home.

First, what is a nanny background check?

Whether you’re hiring a nanny through a nanny agency, a job advert, or based on recommendations from other parents or family members, nowadays, you need to run a background check.

An employment background check helps you understand the candidate’s past and professionalism, trustworthiness, and experience with children.

The background report also establishes the authenticity of the applicant’s personal information and gives you access to other essential information regarding the prospective nanny.

Investigating a person

What information is included in a background check?

There are different types of background checks available. But, they are not equal. A comprehensive background investigation gives you access to essential information about the candidate, including:

Identity confirmation

Based on the candidate’s full name, social security number, and driver’s license, you can find out all the necessary details about their identity; if the candidate is not a US citizen, you should also ask for their passport number and work permit.

Criminal court records

A seven-year criminal record check will give you access to information regarding the possible involvement of the nanny candidate in crimes. Criminal records searches provide details about potential:

  • Arrests
  • Convictions
  • Sex offenses
  • Court records
  • Warrants

However, for the identity verification and criminal history check, you must also know the candidate’s address history. This may seem like a complicated endeavor, but this shouldn’t be a problem if you are working with a private investigator.

Driving records

If your nanny is expected to drive your child anywhere, you should also get access to their driving records report.

Since accessing motor vehicle reports is a rather laborious process that involves checking with the DMV offices from every state where the applicant had held a driver’s license, and each state has different regulations, it is best to collaborate with a professional that can deal with all the formalities.

Things get even more complicated if the candidate has held an international driver’s license.

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Sex offender registry

Every state has a sex offender registry that can be accessed by anyone.
A sex offender registry check is vital for your peace of mind and your child’s well-being.
If the candidate has lived in a different country, you should check the country’s public database of sex offenders to make sure your potential nanny has no history of sexual abuse of a child.

Child abuse records

Every state’s child protective services keep records of child abuse and neglect.
However, since not all of them are disclosed to the public, it’s important to collaborate with a professional who knows how to access them according to the state’s laws and conduct a legitimate background check process.

Reference check

Quality background checks are a great way to check all the references mentioned by your candidate and attest to their truthfulness so you can make an informed hiring decision.
Based on the applicant’s employment history, a potential employer can contact former employers and discuss the nanny’s capabilities and work habits.

What Do You Need to Know Before Hiring a Nanny?

Determine the expectations you have from your nanny

The first step in hiring a nanny is to set your expectations clearly and create a job description for your nanny.

Since there is no pre-established job description for nannies, it all depends on what you need your nanny to do.

Many people tend to add housekeeping to the duties of a nanny.

While some nannies may provide such services, they usually limit their tasks to caring for your children.

This is why making a comprehensive list of your nanny’s duties is important.

You also need to decide if you need a live-in or live-out nanny and determine their work schedule.

Make sure you include their days off and, of course, the salary. Once all these “technical” details are set, you can move to the next step.

Take into account the candidate’s experience

The attributes of your nanny will probably depend on the salary you’re willing to give them.

An experienced nanny with an outstanding education is going to cost you a lot more than, let’s say, an au pair.

However, this doesn’t mean an au pair is not a good choice too.

A thorough background screening process can bring you peace of mind even if you’re hiring a nanny with less experience.

As long as the information resulting from the background history search reveals they are a trustworthy person with an acceptable education level and no criminal record, you can consider them for the position.

When it comes to experience, a previous babysitter, daycare provider, or teacher is a great candidate for the position you’re offering.

Assess the applicant’s education level

Since there is no official nanny qualification or college, any education can be considered when hiring a nanny.

A nanny agency usually requires candidates to have a high school diploma/GED.

However, a college degree and/or childcare qualification will usually set the candidates apart and make it easier for you to choose a nanny for your children.

A great nanny is recommended by degrees obtained from programs such as the Child Development Associate (CDA) program or other similar associations and institutions.

Any certificate or qualification that attests to the candidate’s childcare education should be considered a plus for your candidate.

Establish a set of minimum requirements

A nanny is a person that will act both as a caregiver and role model for your children in your absence.

It’s very important to establish a set of minimum requirements the nanny needs to meet to make it easier for you to shortlist the best candidates for the position.

It is almost impossible to find the perfect fit for the job, and it will take time to get to know the person you choose as a nanny, but this set of minimum requirements will help you to get there.

Then you can make a different column with “nice-to-have” skills that will make the final list even shorter and simplify things.

While it may be essential for the nanny to have experience with kids with allergies, the fact that they also know how to play children’s games or have an incredible fun personality can count as a plus.

Once you have established your (realistic) set of minimum requirements, you’ll have a good starting point to compare candidates and narrow down your choices.

Create an attractive job advert

A well-thought job advert will attract suitable applicants and help you find the nanny of your dreams faster.

For this reason, it’s very important to create an attractive job advert that will meet all the requirements of experienced and reliable nannies and highlight your family’s personality.

Only this way can you find a nanny with the right temperament for your children and family.

The best way to write a good job offer is to look at it from the perspective of a potential nanny.

Your tone needs to be polite yet not too formal, and your ad needs to include clear details about the position and essential information, such as if your family has a dog, if you need your nanny to have a driver’s license or if you need them to work full-time, part-time, short-term, or long-term.

You need to ensure your job advert will attract the right candidates for the position to save time with the hiring process.

Need help writing a job description? Check out this article by Zip Recruiter.
Nanny playing with kid

Prepare a thorough interview

The interview plays a vital role in the nanny hiring process, and it’s essential to make sure you conduct a rigorous one that will help you get to know the candidate.

Decide where you would like to conduct the interviews and how long they should last.

For security reasons, it’s best to have an interview in a public place, like a coffee shop or public library.

Also, make sure you schedule the interviews when you have more free time and are not stressed.

If you hurry things up, you might miss important details about the candidate and choose a nanny that is not the right fit for your family.

However, if time or location is a problem for you, you can always conduct Skype interviews.

The interview should include questions about their experience in the field, as well as their education and personality.

This way, you can see if you have compatible childcare philosophies and principles.

Make sure you tell candidates about your family and children and even a bit about yourself to help the candidate picture working for you.

Ask for documents, certificates, and degrees

When hiring a nanny, you will probably receive numerous resumes listing various professional achievements and skills.

However, it’s not unusual for candidates to lie in their application to be considered for the position.

It’s essential to go through the candidate’s resume in depth during the interview and ask for copies of all the documents that make a difference in their application.

You can ask for degree copies, as well as for their passport copy, driving records, and even criminal history.

Make sure you include all these requests in each interview, so you can have a solid base of resumes from which you can choose and differentiate the candidates easier.

Differences in Free, Low Cost, and Adv. Background Checks?

Now that you know the steps to pick the right nanny, you need to ensure everything you have been told is accurate. More importantly, your family will spend time with someone you can trust.

Cost of a background check

We are going to explore three different types of background checks available:

Free background checks

A free background check is limited to public records and doesn’t provide accurate and reliable information. Typically, this background service is conducted by persons with little or little experience in the field or by background screening companies relying on computers that use unreliable algorithms that can very well provide information about a different person with the same name. The free background check is the basic background check package, often incomplete and unreliable.

You get what you pay for.

Low-cost background checks

Even though the low-cost background checks for nannies dig deeper and access more databases than free background checks, they usually do not take the necessary steps to verify the data and confirm its authenticity.

Free background checks

Usually run by private investigators, complete nanny background checks have access to a large pool of public and private data; they provide important information, like:

  • Reference checks
  • Past addresses
  • Criminal records
  • Drug test records
  • Education records
  • Former employers
  • Court Records Search

Moreover, a comprehensive background check verifies the information manually to guarantee its veracity and ensure the criminal background check is FCRA compliant, so you won’t expose yourself to a lawsuit for conducting an illegal background check
Parent leaving kids with babysitter


Caregiver background checks for pre-employment screening allow you to make an informed decision. No matter if you live in Glencoe, Joliet, Northbrook, Winnetka, or outside the state of Illinois, find out what you need to know before hiring a nanny and make sure you don’t skip any steps during the hiring process. Complete background screening is essential for your child’s welfare and your peace of mind.

This post was updated on August 15th, 2022 to reflect changes and adding new information and insights. The original post was written November 13th, 2019.

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