Searching the pages on Care.com, most nannies soon realize that parents are looking for secret sauce nannies. Nannies that have special skills that make them unique especially language skills. I thought that many bilingual nannies would be fending off dozens of parents that want to hire them because of the opportunity for their children to learn a new language. At a recent nanny dinner I discovered that the situation was much more complicated.
“Of course parents want to hire you!” I said, “how great would it be to have a nanny that cares for their child and teaches them another language”. One of the nannies that I spoke with noted that while parents loved their language skills, they still had issues (many of the same issues) all nannies had in the interview process. For one particular nanny who taught herself English and was a native Spanish speaker, a potential opportunity ended just at the phone interview.
Here’s the situation: The parent quickly asked her a question in English very rapidly with a Boston accent, and the veteran nanny who was fluent in English could not quite understand what she was asked during the interview. It was a loss for the nanny who had a lot of great experience and the parent.
Cynthia Rosemberg Pagan says that from her experience, “Parents need to know the experience of the nanny, their work status in their references and prove that English is their second language that they can read and write it well. Parents lately ask for a bilingual nannies because they love the fact that their kids are being exposed to a new culture and have a second language.”
We agree that a second language is a great skill to share with a family, so here we talk about the challenges and tips for nannies that are marketing their bilingual skills in an interview. Don’t worry we have a follow-up blog post just for parents and for hiring a bilingal nanny.
1. Is English required?
Nannies have excellent skills, and a command of English enough to interact and engage with the parents may be a must in the interview. Anticipate that parents are looking to warm up to you, and trust that any nanny will be able to communicate in an emergency situation. For some families, having too strong an accent may be a no to the position.
However, a perfect command of English isn’t necessary and there are always exceptions. Cynthia notes, “I have met parents who were interviewing nannies who had basic English because they just wanted 100% Spanish and I can assure the kids are speaking it by now. Although some parents who have bigger kids their main concern is that the nanny also can speak English as well so they can handle doctor appointments,grocery shopping,emergencies, helping with homework.” This will be based on the parents, and asking what parents want and asking before the interview and reading body language when you speak will let let you know if it will work.
Knowing what the parent is comfortable with is a huge must.
2. Practice, practice, practice
Just like an interview for anything, practice makes perfect. Having command of any language and the stress of any interview can make any nanny nervous. Use a list of likely questions and some additional questions for bilingual nannies at the end of the post and spend some time practicing interview questions in English. If you have the phone interview, make sure to also ask the parent questions as well. When asked how you would teach your home language, be able to offer examples.
3. Can you teach your language and care?
It’s not just about being a bilingual person who happens to be a nanny, parents want to see that their child will learn and more importantly you can care for their child. You will teach the language by speaking it and helping children respond. Lean on your “special sauce” your language and culture but talk about about children, your experiences, and training can make all the difference.
Go above and beyond
In a bilingual setting there are definitely ways to help young children get the skills that they need, but make sure you have the basics covered. Connect with the children while you are interviewing, make sure you have CPR and first aid, and have an activity a game such as a card matching game for older kids that demonstrate your nanny and bilingual skills:
Many bilingual nannies beside their language skills also have very rich educational and culture backgrounds. Bring all of yourself to the table! Creating a nanny portfolio demonstrates your background, as well as any nanny related trainings that you may have. “Yes of course its like a big package!”, says Cynthia.
“The parents that I have interviewed with got really impressed that I was unique because I had the ability to speak both languages and have certifications that perhaps other nannies didn’t have.”
Learn more about Nanny Portfolios in our Professional Nanny Class
4. Negotiating Your Pay
Negotiating pay is one of the biggest issue that nannies face in the interview. However, a bilingual nanny or a specialized nanny comes with the added benefit of having skills that are at a premium. Preparation is key in negotiating pay with a potential employer and in all parts of communication with the employer. In the case of nannies that have bilingual skills or are from other cultures, some employers may take language as a cue to pay less. So cover your bases:
- Demonstrate professionalism- arrive on time, and send references, have a portfolio prepared
- Show how you go above and beyond- read articles and be able to say how being a bilingual nanny and teaching a language “immersively and all around” will help their family.
- Relate your relevant experience with other children and have references that support that you can have an impact.
- Ask other nannies about their experiences with being hired as a bilingual nanny, and know the going rate given your child care experience.
- If you have any issues, regarding the interview or employment issues you can contact the list of organizations below.
Sometimes you just have to say no:
“In my experience parents think that if [nannies] come from another culture we charge less and will do more work. But I have been very fortunate to have wonderful families who negotiate what my work is worth.”, says Cynthia.
My hope is that nannies find the same happy balance when working with families, but I know that that isn’t always the case. As a nanny with a special skill I understand that it may be tough, but you must sometimes be willing to say no because you will find a family that is a good fit. In the words of Laly Quintanilla, a bilingual Spanish speaking nanny in Boston , “language is a gift that nannies’ can give children and that lasts a lifetime”. Provide the gift of language and nurture it in your next nanny position.
Resources for Bilingual Nannies:
(add these in your portfolio!):
Are you a nanny with bilingual nanny? What challenges have you faced? Let us know below!
Helen Adeosun is passionate about children. As a former high school 9th grade English teacher, she was excited about ways to drive learning in her classroom and how to better serve her students. SitterCycle was born out of her own experience as a nanny and she hopes that sittercycle.com is a place to continuously learn and share with current and future nannies. The year before starting SitterCycle she was hired by a wonderful family that had two children with special needs who taught her so much. Helen holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and an EdM. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Helen Adeosun | helen at sittercycle dot com