How to Check Nanny References

August 18, 2016

Hiring a nanny is a big decision and an even bigger responsibility. You want someone who will care for your kids like her own, is mature and responsible and fits into your family.

While a detailed application can help you weed out nannies who aren’t serious about the position or who have little to no experience and a background check can help you eliminate those with criminal histories, checking references gives you a practical perspective on what it will be like to have this person work for you.

From an interview, it is impossible to determine if a child will be “safe” under the care of this individual. The best way to determine the abilities of the nanny is to do screening from the beginning, to ensure the person you are hiring is the right person.

In fact, when it comes to safety, reference checks are just as important as background checks. Things like mental instability or behavioural issues don’t come out in a background check. By reviewing references you can help ensure that the nanny is professional, and will be gentle and kind to your children.

A great nanny will have plenty of references and be happy to provide them. Be wary of any nanny that has no references or is reluctant to provide them— they should go in the automatic no pile.

Not sure how to get started with nanny reference checks? founder and child care expert, Martha Scully, breakdowns it all down including how to collect references, make contact, what questions to ask and how to follow up.

How to Collect Nanny References

Get a minimum of 2-3 references

Before you can check references, you need to have them. Ask your top candidates for at least two to three names of people they have worked with as a caregiver, preferably in a childcare environment. Families the person has worked for as a nanny would likely have the best insight.

Be aware of the relationship with the reference

Make sure that you know the relationship between the nanny and the reference, particularly if the nanny doesn’t have much experience. Close personal friends or family members may not be objective, and you want an honest opinion of both the nanny’s strengths and weaknesses.

How to deal with no previous nanny experience

In the case of a candidate who hasn’t worked as a nanny before, ask for references from other jobs she has had or from instructors at any governess school she may have attended. Asking the references if they would be comfortable with the applicant watching their children can still tell you a great deal, even if they have no experience with her in a childcare setting.

How to Make Reference Check Calls

Put references at ease

Once you have your contacts, it’s time to start making calls. If possible, get in touch with each reference and carve out a slot when the person has the time for a relaxed, informal, comfortable conversation. Keep in mind that the references may feel nervous or be uncomfortable talking on the phone, so when it’s time to call, try to put them at ease. Let them know that the nanny is one of your top choices and you’re just trying to get a better sense of how she will fit into your family.

What questions should you ask?

It’s best to start with general questions to confirm the nanny’s work history, such as how long she worked for the family and the ages of the children. After that, switching to open-ended questions can give the person more freedom to answer and give you a better sense of the nanny’s experience, skill, and personality.

Example Nanny Reference Check Questions

  1. How long have you known the applicant?
  2. Is she reliable? Does she keep her commitments?
  3. Where the children excited for the nanny to come?
  4. Did the children like spending time with her?
  5. Did she have any job responsibilities other than caring for the children, such as cooking or cleaning?
  6. Were there any issues with following the household rules?
  7. Was the nanny late or did she have to call off often?
  8. How do you think she would be in a position where she was looking after (ages of your children)?
  9. How do you think she would be in the position you are looking to fill (full-time/part-time, live in/live-out, nanny/babysitter)?
  10. Is there anything you feel I should know about this candidate?
  11. If they had it do over, would they hire her again?

On the call, you’ll also want to briefly explain what the nanny’s job responsibilities will be in your household and ask if the reference feels the candidate would be able to meet those requirements. This gives the reference a chance to tell you anything that may not be directly related to one of the previous questions but that you still need to know.

Printable Sample Reference Check Questions

Previous Employer Reference Check Questions

Common Reference Issues

Sometimes you know as soon as you check references what your hiring decision will be, but other times, it just adds to the indecision.

Reference is hesitant

One common issue that you may run into is a reference who seem hesitant to answer questions or don’t offer much useful information. It’s possible that the person was just nervous, but in these situations, you will want to follow up and call again with more specific questions.

Ask direct questions related to the nanny’s anticipated job duties, and don’t be afraid to ask why the reference seems reluctant if you’re still not getting more info. The person may simply not have had enough interaction with the nanny to know much or may be worried about giving a negative opinion.

Can’t get a hold of references

If you can’t get in contact with the references at all — no answer or reply to messages left — let the prospective nanny know. People move and change phone numbers on a regular basis, and she may be able to get a hold of them via other channels like Facebook and get updated contact information for you. However, if she can’t and you’re never able to talk to as many references as you want to, it may be best to go on to the next candidate.


Checking reference is almost as important as the interview itself. It is worth the time and effort to get the insight into the nannies employment history & previous relationships. When you hire a nanny, you are hiring a person you are trusting with the responsibility for your child’s life. Do not hire a nanny or sitter if you cannot check references!

We Are Here to Help!

Choosing a nanny is an important and difficult decision we have many resources to help guide you through the process of finding, interviewing, hiring, keeping and paying great nannies. We even have advice for when and how to dismiss a nanny if necessary. For more information check out the Nanny Hiring and Nanny FAQ section of our blog as well as our Nanny Hiring Guide.

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