Interview tip – Making sure you find a domestic worker taking care of your children

Childcare is one of the most sought after duties among Singapore’s employers of domestic workers. Nearly 240,000 Singaporean families employ live-in foreign domestic workers, most of whom look after children, the elderly or pets in addition to usual household chores. Finding the right helper for your childcare needs requires a solid interview process.

Employing a domestic helper to look after the kids is increasingly popular, partly because dedicated childcare services are expensive and limited. For this reason, the Singaporean government offers a concession on the maid levy for families with children.

Selecting the best candidate for you and your kids

Take your time to find the right domestic helper, particularly if you are looking for a helper whose main responsibility will be caring for your children. Pay attention to each maid’s experience and look out for ones who have taken care of children before. Maids’ profiles might also have information about the age of the children they used to care for, how long they stayed with their previous employers for, and so on.

Because the maid will spend most of her time with your kids, make them a part of the process where possible or applicable. You can ask your kids which candidate they liked, though ultimately as parents, the decision is yours.

After narrowing down your search to a shortlist of the best few candidates, you can begin interviewing. You can conduct interviews at your house or in a public place, and can arrange to interview multiple helpers on the same day. During this first meeting you can decide if the maid is suitable and compatible with your family. If she is, you can invite her to meet your kids. Making the children a part of the hiring process will also make the adjustment process easier once your chosen candidate moves in.

Important questions for the job interview

So, what questions should I ask? This depends mostly on the needs of your family. Will the maid need to take the children to school every day? Will she have to supervise them to make sure they do their homework? Do you want your maid to help you with disciplining? Do you want a helper who is equipped to handle emergency situations?

After you have decided on your needs, you can tailor your questions. You can start by asking the domestic helper about her experience with handling newborns or children. What were her arrangements with her previous employer? How much time did she spend caring for the children? Did her duties include preparing bottles and putting the children to bed?

After the basic questions, you can move on to more challenging, situational ones. What would she do if your child was fighting?  If children behave inappropriately in public, what does she do?

Finally, explain the duties you expect her to perform. If this is the case, ask her if she is ok with waking up every day at 6AM to make sure your child is ready for school. ‘We are planning to have another baby within the next two years, will you be able to handle this? Do you mind waking up in the middle of the night if the baby cries?’ Just like you, the helper needs to make a decision on whether or not she is a good fit for your family.

The best candidate for the job may not be someone with the most experience, as there are a number of other important factors to consider, such as her personality. Remember that there are plenty of training courses available in Singapore relating to childcare, first aid, hygiene around the house, and so on. If your preferred candidate is lacking experience in any of these areas, you can still consider her and send her to professionally-run training courses.

How to deal with jealousy

Since your helper will spend a lot of time with your kids, there’s a good chance your children will look up to her as a role-model. This should not be seen as a negative thing, though parents should also spend quality time with their children as often as possible. Remember that domestic helpers often play an important role in kids’ development, and in many cases they form close bonds with both employers and their children.

At the same time, bear in mind that your helper may also feel anxious that she cannot be with her own children. Be sure to have open, two-way communication about sensitive issues like these.

Remember, it is important to take your time when hiring a foreign domestic worker, particularly when looking for the right person to care for your entire family. Ask her detailed interview questions about her experience and how she handles the different duties. Before hiring, you should also consider how your household dynamics are likely to change when a near-stranger moves in, discussing things like rest days. Thinking about how you will cope with a live-in helper is one of many important considerations when starting the hiring process.