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Using the Internet to Search for a Nanny

Using the Internet to Search for a Nanny

By Michelle Hainer

When Yin Chang of Glen Ridge, N.J., knew she would need to hire a nanny, she started her childcare search early -- two months before her son was even born. And instead of going to an agency, Chang decided to try her luck first on the Internet.

"So many people told me you could do so much better on your own," says Chang, who decided to focus her search by using online nanny sites. Unfortunately, she didn't find what she was looking for: "I was surprised at the fact that many of these sites don't vet the people who post [their resumes]."

Online nanny listing services can be much faster -- and cheaper -- than going through a brick and mortar agency. But that doesn't mean parents can skip doing their due diligence, says Kathleen Webb, co-founder of 4nannies. "You have to be very careful." Here are a few key things to keep in mind when conducting your nanny search online:

Tip No. 1: Use the web to check an agencies' credentials  Many parents go online not to find a nanny, but to find a creditable agency that will work offline to screen candidates and to place the best person with their family for a fee. Agencies should ideally belong to the International Nanny Association (INA). A list of members can be found on Nanny. "This shows that they're willing to be reviewed by their peers," says Webb. Also, peruse a member's site before signing up for the service so you can determine whether they have what you're looking for and the geographic areas they serve, Webb adds.

Tip No. 2: Use listing sites for DIY nanny searches One distinction that's important for parents to understand is that web-based nanny search services, such as 4nannies or Nannies4hire, are a lot like online dating sites because you have to vet nannies on your own. Specifically, nanny search sites don't pre-interview the nannies who post profiles on their sites. "We recruit, you interview," Webb says.

What nanny listing web sites do offer, however, are hiring resources and a database of profiles parents can sift through if they want to try and save money by vetting candidates themselves. Typically, nanny agencies charge up to $2,000 to find, screen and place a full-time nanny with a family.

On the other hand, Nannies4hire charges $129 for a 30-day subscription and $299 for a 90-day premier membership, which includes one background check. Similarly, eNannySource charges $98 to $149 for a 30- to 90-day membership. These fees allow you to post a "nanny wanted" listing, and give you access to forms you can use to screen candidates yourself. Memberships also include resources such as lists of interview questions, a reference checklist and sample employment contracts. Additionally, nannies can contact you directly to try and make a match.

One way to determine the quality of a nanny listing service is to check out how much detail is listed in each profile. "In addition to the major questions like how old they are and whether they have a driver's license, look for postings that allow the nanny to describe their childcare philosophy or why they want to be a nanny," says Webb, whose own agency requires potential candidates to complete an eight page application. Still, the application details for nannies who post their credentials on these sites aren't verified -- so you still need to check their references and background. And you'll still need to interview candidates and work out their employment contract on your own.

Tip No. 3: Do a background check  Some nanny listing sites will include at least one background check in their fees or charge extra for the service. But either way, you should always run a background check on a potential nanny. (Your nanny will need to sign a release form in order for you to do this, so if they won't agree, move on.)

Make sure the background check also includes both the National Criminal Records Locator and an in-courts record check, advises Webb. "The in-courts record check will show you everything as recently as yesterday and will report felonies and misdemeanors." Beware of services that advertise "instant" background checks, since they are usually outdated. Look for an agency that runs checks through Verifications, Inc., a reputable pre-employment screening service, or, if you choose to do your own, Intelius or Intellicorp can help.

Michelle Hainer is a freelance writer and editor in New York.