During my daycare years, I did many interviews with potential client families. Most of them went quite well, so well that all of the families signed on with me. Okay, all of them except one family. The interview was going great, until my youngest locked herself in the basement. And I couldn’t find the key. And she was crying quite a bit. And banging on the other side of the door. Yeah, it was just as bad (and embarrassing!) as you’re thinking it was. However, through that interview experience, as well as the others I’ve conducted, I’ve learned a few things. I’d like to share them with you so that your daughter doesn’t get locked in the basement too. Or so that you’re able to find the clients you want, whichever.
– First we need to get one BIG thing straight. Your potential clients are not interviewing you. YOU are interviewing them. Yes, they’ll have questions for you. Yes, they’ll want to check your credentials. But YOU are the one who will be welcoming them into your house every work day and depending on their reliability and adherance to your policies. You need to make sure that they will be a good fit for your business.
-Schedule interviews during a time when no other daycare kids are around and when your spouse or someone else can watch your own kiddos (no matter how old they are!). This would be the lesson I learned after the Locked Basement Incident. Some Daycare Providers like to introduce their family members to potential clients; since I did all of the care, I didn’t feel this was a necessary step.
-Have your Home Daycare Parent Handbook and Policies ready to look through with them. If possible, sending them a copy by email in advance or having it posted on your website is ideal. I avoided (and possibly weeded out) potential issues when parents showed up already familiar with the way I do things.
-Have a schedule for the interview. Once I figured out how important this was, I had a “script” that I liked to follow so that I knew everything was covered. Here was mine:
A) Welcome: Welcome family at the door, with a special welcome for their little one. I wanted to start getting to know their child as soon as possible.
B) Rundown: Give the parents a quick rundown of the structure of our interview ( “We’ll have a quick tour first, and then we’ll sit in the playroom and go through the handbook and policies.”)
C) Tour: I would take parents and their child through each of the rooms that were used for daycare – the room the littles napped in, the bathroom (where we changed diapers and did our potty routine), the kitchen and the playroom. At each stop, I would quickly talk about that part of our day. In the nap room, for example: “Each child has their own dedicated playpen or cot to sleep in. I provide it for them as well as their sheet, blanket and pillow. Naptime is from 1-3, and for the first several days after a new child starts with us, I’ll rock them to sleep, rub their back or sit beside them to help them settle. ”
D) Policy Discussion: It would usually be about 10-15 minutes into our interview at this point, and the little one would be getting pretty restless. This is when I would lead them back to the playroom, and close the gates giving their little one free reign of the playroom. This not only allowed us to talk, but also gave the child a chance to explore and play without any other children around. Go through your handbook and policies point by point. I found it especially helpful to go over the payment policy. Things like sick days, holidays and late payment penalties are very important. It ensures that your potential clients know exactly what to expect, and it shows that you conduct your home daycare like the business it is. It also eliminates any haggling — something I dealt with before going through the policies with each client. This portion could take anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes.
E) Question Time: At this point, I would ask if there were any questions that the family had for me, and after that I would ask some questions about the child’s usual routine, food likes/dislikes, allergies, etc. Many times they would ask if they could come and stay with their child for an hour or two on the first day. I would only allow it if I had their registration papers in hand. Many Providers do not allow this for the safety of all of their children. That’s perfectly reasonable and is completely up to you. At this point they would quite often say thank you and I would usher them out. I never expected or asked anyone to hand in a registration immediately, because I wanted them to have a chance to discuss the policies and make sure they were willing to adhere to them. If asked when I needed to hear back from them, I would tell them anytime is fine, but that the spot would go to whoever gave me a check first (as long as they did well in the interview).
-After the interview, assume you will never hear from them again. That way if anyone else calls for the same spot, you are free to offer them the spot as well.
That’s it! The most important part is using your time wisely. Yes, you need to sell yourself and your home daycare, but your priority should be using this time to make sure that this family will be a good fit for your daycare. No amount of pay is worth it if you have to continually chase the family for it, or if you never know when they will show up, or if their child is a
terror would do better with a personal nanny. Now get out there and start interviewing!