Should you speak with previous employers of your maternity nurse or night nanny? YES!
You’ve gone through profiles and CVs of various maternity nurses and night nannies. You’ve interviewed a few of them. You either can’t decide between two of them, or you think you’ve found a perfect match.
Either way, now it's time to check their references and speak with their previous employers.
It may feel like an unnecessary extra work when the nurse has aced the interview, came strongly recommended by a person you know, or by an agency that did all their reference checking themselves. But speaking with previous employers is an important step in your hiring process.
A reference will help you fill any gaps in your understanding of maternity nurse’s personality, their working style, and how they may fit into your family environment.
These five recommendations with six detailed conversation topics will increase your chances of making the right decision.
1. Written references are not enough
Written references may have been the traditional way of checking the credentials of a nanny or any other employee, but there are limitations to what you can get from a written reference.
Firstly, there’s no standard format to a written reference which can make it difficult to compare and draw parallels between them.
Secondly, written references don’t typically address all the relevant aspects that might be important to check when you’re hiring a maternity nurse or a night nanny. For example, you are very keen to breastfeed, and want to understand how the nurse might be able to help you. Often, such questions are not addressed in written references.
Finally, written references aren’t always 100% genuine, and almost never address aspects of maternity nurse’s work that could be done better.
Verbal references will not only give you the opportunity to get a deeper understanding, but you can also standardise your approach to reference checking with a prepared list of questions and this will make it easier for you to compare one with another.
2. Don’t solely rely on agency references. Parents are more honest with other parents.
Reputable childcare agencies will check references thoroughly, however parents are often more honest with other parents, and you can also tailor the questions much more to your unique family circumstances.
Therefore, nothing compares to doing a verbal reference check yourself. An agency will have checked that they're a good maternity nurse or a night nanny, but that doesn’t mean they're the right nurse for you and your family. Only you can tell that for sure.
At myTamarin we check at least two verbal references that must be glowing for each maternity nurse or a night nanny who we onboard, but we always encourage our parents to follow up on references themselves.
3. Don’t get influenced by the quantity of written references
Some maternity nurses and night nannies will provide more references than others, but this shouldn’t be an indication of how good they are. Some are simply more diligent and persistent in collecting references from their previous employers than others. Some nannies have held positions for longer, hence have had fewer jobs (and therefore references) in total. And what’s more, as we parents know, we sometimes just don’t have the time or energy to write references or fill out review forms.
4. What to ask previous maternity nurse employers
Apart from checking the standard contextual information (e.g. length of assignment, work schedule, whether it was a first baby or not, was the baby breastfed or bottle fed) we recommend asking parents to describe the maternity nurse’s strengths and what type of positions they would recommend her for, based on their own experience.
Here are some of the most important topics to discuss when speaking with a previous employer:
- How was she with the baby? What was her approach to routine? Was she knowledgeable and experienced with challenges such as colic, reflux, tongue tie, feeding options?
- How did she work with parents? Was she the one taking charge, or did she follow instructions easily? Did she guide and teach parents in a nice way? Did parents feel empowered when she left? Did she support them with breastfeeding if that’s what they chose?
- How was the nurse in their home? Was she chatty or quiet? Did the family have enough private space and time? What did she do during their time off? Did she eat with the family? Did she cook for herself? Then, picture this person in your home – would it work?
- Did the nurse have any specific requirements? E.g. around working hours, break times, equipment or products, food or accommodation. Does that fit into your family?
- Was there anything that bothered them? Anything they would want to be done differently? Everyone is human, no one is perfect. Drill down, and when you get to the bottom of it, think about whether you could comfortably live with that.
- Would they hire them again? Why yes, why no?
In an ideal scenario, you’d find a referee whose parenting style, personality, preferences, values and beliefs are very similar to yours. While that’s not always possible, the questions above should help you infer whether they are a family similar to yours or not. We’ve seen multiple examples of mum best friends exchanging a nanny or a maternity nurse and one would absolutely love her, and then the other one wouldn’t get along with her at all. That doesn’t mean anything is wrong with the maternity nurse (or any of the mothers), but it does confirm that the personality match is really important.
You’d also preferably speak with someone who’s in a similar position to yours, especially in terms or your experience as a parent. If you’re a first time parent, try to speak with a previous employer who had the maternity nurse for their first baby.
5. Only conduct reference checks towards the end of the hiring process
Some parents want to check references before they interview nannies, but we advise against that. Mainly because it would become unmanageable for referees. A reference is essentially a gift - you’re taking up someone’s time. And just like in the corporate world, it should be reserved for the final one or two candidates on your shortlist.
Check out the other "How to" guides in our series:
- How to interpret nanny CVs and profiles
- How to interview a maternity nurse or night nanny
- How to prepare your home for the arrive of a maternity nurse or night nanny
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