Not everyone who applies for your child care position will be qualified or appropriate. Most placement agencies will prescreen potential candidates for your position, but if you are looking for a caregiver on your own, you'll save a great deal of time by prescreening candidates before you interview them. Try to set aside a few blocks of uninterrupted time to talk on the telephone with potential caregivers. If you are busy when an applicant first calls, take her phone number and ask for a good time to reach her. If you have an answering machine, you might want to put a special message on it for a while just after you have placed an ad. Ask people who respond to your ad to leave their names and telephone numbers, a good time to contact them, and some information about their child care experience. You may also want to consider getting a voice mailbox from your telephone system or using an answering service.
Even if you are hiring a caregiver for the first time, you will quickly get a feel for the applicants who seem appropriate. Some may impress you with their credentials, background, confidence, and maturity. Others may appear to have a total lack of qualifications. Trust your instincts. It's your home, your family, your children, and your money. Always remember, you're in charge and you make the final decisions about whom to interview and whom to hire. You are the person who is best qualified to make these decisions.
You can obtain a great deal of information when an applicant phones you about the position. Here are some areas to cover:
Ask if the individual is available to work the hours you need. Find out when she is free to start work.
State the basic responsibilities of your position and ask if she is comfortable with all the duties that go with it. (If the candidate seems interesting, you can discuss job responsibilities in more detail later.)
Continue with the prescreening by asking her to tell you a little about herself: her background, her experience with children, her reasons for wanting to be an inhome caregiver, her long-term plans, and so on.
Unless salary is negotiable, make sure the applicant is willing to work for the amount you are prepared to pay.
Ask her if, on the basis of this first conversation, she is still interested in your position.
The "Prescreening Questionnaires" on pages 42-43 will help guide you through this stage of the search. If you're prescreening yourself, use the first questionnaire. Make some photocopies to keep by the phone. Have one available for each applicant who calls, so that you can jot down notes and impressions. If someone else, such as an answering service, is prescreening for you, give them copies of the second questionnaire along with a short paragraph that summarizes your job description.
Use an answering machine or answering service to take calls, if possible.
Ask likely candidates to complete an application. Interview.
Check references and background information.
If you are working through an agency, it will send you information about candidates' experience, work history, and references. If you are searching for a caregiver independently, ask likely candidates to send you a resume, or to complete the application you send them. You can use the application form in this section. (If you are short on time, you can gather the information over the telephone.)
Look at the work history of each candidate who interests you. You may want to check references at this point, or you may want to wait until after the interview, when you have a better idea if you are seriously considering the candidate. If you do call references at this point, mention to them that you might want to call back after your personal interview. You'll find a form to guide you through reference checks on page 53.
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