1. Your Profile Photo: Like it or not, pictures speak a thousand words and on the internet they give a first impression. If you put up what looks like a headshot for a modeling job, that suggests vanity. When looking for a photo to put on a caregiver profile, don't necessarily go for the one you think you look "best" in, especially if it's clearly posed. It's just artificial, and I'm not going to be looking for the nanny with the prettiest eyes or highest cheekbones. I'm looking for someone who is kind and genuine - photos like that don't suggest either of those traits to me as a first impression.
Also, as much as I love to see a photo of the nanny with children, make sure the child looks genuinely happy in the photo. Many of you out there have posted pictures that clearly involve you forcing the child to sit with you while you use your camera-phone to take a photo. They're not really smiling, their body language shows they would much rather be doing something else, and it does nothing for you if I see that in your picture.
The best profile pictures are those that show a real smile - a photo that wasn't intended to be a profile photo. Or a photo that shows you playing or cuddling with a child that clearly adores you - we can see it in their face, in their arms draped around your neck, in their almost-laughing smile.
In my search so far, the nanny who is at the top of my list is one who I knew would be there from the moment I saw her photo. She has a genuine smile and the little girl she is hugging also has a genuine smile on her face and is leaning into her. The nanny looks sweet and kind. And when I received her responses to my screening questions, she was one of very few applicants who took the time to think about each question and provide a thoughtful, intelligent response to each one. Her answers also show me that she really does love caring for children and knows a lot about them.
2. SPELL CHECK!!! There are no excuses for spelling and grammar errors in your caregiver profile. None. It is the equivalent of having spelling errors in your resume - it is essentially a summary of who you are, what you've done, and why you should be given the job you are applying for. Check it and then check it again. Read it out loud to yourself and make sure that all of your sentences make sense. Make sure there are no missing words, no "their/there/they're" errors, etc.
No, a nanny job is not rocket science and I'm not looking for someone with an amazing vocabulary and writing ability. But I AM looking for someone who pays attention to detail. If you can't recheck your own paragraphs to make sure you're presenting yourself in the best possible light, how do I know you're going to listen carefully when I explain to you how to handle and prepare breastmilk or formula for my baby? Or what kind of and how much solid food to give him? Or if he's sick, the correct dosage of his medication and how often to give it to him?
3. Responding to a Job Posting: If you see a job posting that sounds like a position you might like to have, first and foremost make sure you read it thoroughly. Most of these websites ask the parent to provide the salary they are willing to pay, the days of the week and hours they are looking for, as well as other things the parent is looking for such as first aid certification or someone who speaks a language other than English. If a job listing says $15/hr for 3 days per week, don't waste the parents' time if you are looking to make $35/hr on the weekends. If they list a salary range, make sure you are comfortable being paid with the middle amount, not just the higher-end listed. Can we put a price tag on quality care for our children? No, not really, because our kids are priceless. But there ARE limits to what we can afford. Don't apply for a $10/hr position hoping that the parents will like you so much they'll be willing to pay $20. They won't be.
4. The Cover Letter/First Message: The first time you contact the parents through an online service is probably going to be through an email. Don't just write something like "I'd love to know more about the job you posted. XOXO Stephanie." (Yes, I did receive messages like this.) Definitely don't just copy and paste the About Me section of your caregiver profile into the body of the message. That tells me you just don't care enough to put the time in to send something even the least bit personalized.
Use the opportunity to tell me why you're applying to the job I posted - do you love working with infants or toddlers and maybe you live close by? What days are you available? When could you start? Why should I look at YOUR profile and consider hiring YOU? If you want some help writing a great first message, google "writing cover letters" and use the tips you find online that are what people use for applying to jobs and graduate schools. The rule of thumb for writing a great cover letter is this: Sell yourself in 3 paragraphs or less.
And once you've done that, for the love of god, SPELL CHECK IT.
5. Your Profile: Especially after you've just applied to a job listing, go through your profile and make sure that you are putting your best foot forward. Does it include extraneous information that I'm probably not going to care about? Like how many dogs you have? Or maybe that you live in the house that your grandfather built? Or how about the fact that you work at Starbucks part-time? (Actually, scratch that. That's totally relevant if you can get me a discount on my morning jolt.)
Point is, if you're looking to work with children, you should explain why you love working with them, what type of job you are hoping to get, what your desired pay is, what your qualifications are, and for how long are you looking to be a nanny. If you're 21 years old and about to graduate from college and move to NYC to pursue a job as an investment banker, make sure you put in your profile that you are looking for a short-term position and why.
6. Communications with Parents: First, remember that this isn't quite the same thing as putting an ad on Craig's List. Parents have to pay the online service for the privilege of communicating with you. Therefore, if I shell out the cash so I can send you an email, please take the time to read it carefully and respond thoughtfully and thoroughly and TIMELY. If I send you a list of questions to answer as a pre-screening, please read all of the questions carefully, think about them, and make sure your response actually answers the questions. At the very least, make sure your answers make SENSE. I asked all of my applicants what experience they have with potty training, the ages of the children, the methods used, etc. One girl, who used to work in a daycare, claimed that they potty trained children there in 2 weeks. 2 WEEKS!!! Now THAT I would pay $35/hr for!
I don't expect applicants to pay the same level of attention to email as I do to their profile and cover letter, but you should still scan for spelling and grammar mistakes, stay on-point, and answer emails as promptly as you can. I am still waiting for people to get back to me with their answers to the screening questions I sent over 2 weeks ago - and I mean waiting for quite a few people! If you applied to a job, ANY job, and they called you to schedule an interview - would you NOT call them back for 2-3 weeks? I don't think so, especially not if you really want the job.
Remember that most parents who are looking for childcare are not particularly happy about doing so. Many of us wish we could afford to stay home full-time. Many of us wish we had family close by who would care for our kids while we work. Our babies mean the world to us, and finding just the right person to care for them is no easy task. But if you really want to work as a nanny for a great family, utilize this advice and not only will you get more interested parents, you will also make our task of finding a nanny a lot easier.