Top 6 Qualities Of A Great Nanny 

11 min read

Executive Summary

Identifying the traits and skills you want in a nanny will make the hiring and interviewing process go more smoothly. Here are six qualities of a great nanny that my partner and I looked for when choosing the right person for our household. Click each bullet point to skip to that section for more details.

Hiring a nanny can be intimidating, especially when you don’t know what you need as a new parent.  It’s crucial to sit together as a team with your partner, if you have one, as well as your nanny agency, to envision what it will be like to have someone in your space and to determine what kind of personality, traits, and experience will best fit your home and lifestyle. 

Beyond childcare, my nanny is responsible for tracking all household supplies, unpacking and packing the kids for trips, and doing easy meal prep. This means critical thinking skills and being comfortable with technology were essential qualities I was looking for.  

Before creating your job posting, I highly recommend identifying the traits and skills you want in a nanny so you know exactly what you are looking for when you start interviewing your candidates. 

With that in mind, here are six qualities of a great nanny that I looked for when hiring…

Qualities of a Great Nanny: Flexibility

qualities of a great nanny

Flexibility and being able to “go with the flow” are important traits for a nanny to have, according to Jacey O’Neill, a placement counselor with Westside Nannies.

“Nanny jobs are so different from working in a corporate environment. Typically every day is a little bit different,” says O’Neill. “Duties are going to change day-to-day, routines are going to change, and they have to be able to be moldable in that sense — not too rigid.” 

Your nanny’s job is to care for the entire family, not just the children, so a flexible nanny will be willing to take on job duties as assigned — including making crockpot meals for the entire family — and pivot to different tasks depending on what’s needed in the household. 

Forrest Barnett, president of the staffing agency Hire Society, agrees that flexibility when it comes to everything from schedules to scope of responsibilities is one of the main qualities of a great nanny. 

“Childcare in general requires wearing a lot of hats at a lot of different times,” he says. “So willingness and flexibility to understand that and be open to all the moving parts is huge.”

Qualities of a Great Nanny: Communication Skills

qualities of a great nanny

Finding a nanny who matches your communication skills is also key. I’m a direct communicator, and have even been described as “perfectly irreverent” (which I took as a compliment). My beloved nanny understands, matches, and values my communication style. 

Understanding how the household communicates — in person, via text, or email — is something that staffing agencies consider when matching nannies and families, according to Forrest Barnett with Hire Society. 

“We’ll talk about methods of communication with nannies,” he says. “What are your email, text, and smartphone skills like? That’s all a part of understanding stylistically how best they communicate.”

Personally, I choose to run my home like a business so I use email as the main vehicle for communication, Trello for assigning tasks, and a shared digital calendar for managing schedules. This means I need someone who’s comfortable using a computer, has solid written communication skills, and is familiar with basic digital tools.

They also need to be comfortable with collaborative weekly meetings. Every Monday, we have an in-person team meeting to review the calendar and task assignments and discuss anything our nanny is noticing in the home or with the kids. 

Here is an example of our communication flow: Recently, when our nanny noticed a chip in the marble of our kitchen counter, she made a note in Trello to discuss it during our Monday team meeting. After agreeing that it needed to be addressed, I told her to go ahead and reach out to our contractor (she has access to our vendor Google Doc with his contact information). 

She then scheduled the repair work, put the date in the shared calendar, and emailed me before and after pictures before moving the Trello task to the “done this week” column. She also paid the invoice with our household credit card, which she has full authority to use with all purchases under $1,000. 

Qualities of a Great Nanny: Critical thinking skills 

qualities of a great nanny

Because I wanted my nanny to be able to take on additional duties, including personal assistant-type tasks, critical thinking skills were an important quality that I was looking for. 

A history of experience with other families may help build this skill naturally in a potential nanny. Still, some people are just born with better deductive reasoning skills than others, and boy, they do matter if you want to run an efficient household. I dare say, this might be one of the most important qualities of a great nanny. 

One way to test for critical thinking skills during the interview process is by posing a hypothetical situation. Katie Provinziano, the CEO of Westside Nannies, gave an example of this while speaking at a panel at the International Nanny Training Day Event. She says you could ask: “If we were traveling, and our flight was delayed for 4 hours. What would you do with the kids to keep them busy in the airport?”

Another way to get a feel for a potential nanny’s critical thinking skills is to ask their references questions about this quality. “Can she think on the fly? Is she good at making measured decisions?” says Dara Yates, founder of  Seaside Staffing

Qualities of a Great Nanny: Personality and Relatability

qualities of a great nanny

In a survey conducted by Peacock Parent, “personality & relatability” was one of the top qualities parents said was important to them when hiring a nanny.  

The personality traits that parents look for in a nanny are usually the same ones that make a great parent: patience, showing love, playfulness, and engagement. 

One anonymous survey respondent said when it came to personality they really “needed to feel the love,” and paid attention to how the nannies interacted with their baby when they first met. 

“Some nannies didn’t pick up or come close to the baby, despite years of experience. That wasn’t ok with me,” they wrote. 

Not only is the nanny’s connection with the baby important, but also their connection with you. After all, this is a person you’ll be around a lot.

“Really what people are looking for is someone that they’re able to be comfortable with in their own home, and are going to act professional throughout,” says Forrest Barnett from Hire Society. 

Another aspect of personality to consider is whether you’re looking for someone more extroverted or introverted to care for your children, according to Caitlin Santora, recruitment specialist with Hire Society. 

“Some people need someone more outgoing to really pull the energy out of the child, while other families want someone who’s a little bit more laid back and reserved,” she says.

My partner and I prefer someone more laid back and reserved, and considered that an important personality trait when selecting someone who will inevitably impact the vibe of our home with their presence.  

Qualities of a Great Nanny: Willingness to Travel + Stay Overnight

Willingness to travel might not be a quality that everyone looks for in a nanny, but for me and my partner it was key since we love traveling. We also needed our nanny to be willing to do overnights in our home without us on the occasions when we need to leave the children behind. 

 “A lot of our nannies enjoy traveling with the family. But it’s very important to really understand the amount and level at which they’re comfortable traveling,” says Forrest Barnett with Hire Society. 

With this in mind, we looked for a candidate who could keep up with the physical demands of a travel day — helping with kids’ suitcases, walking through airports — and still have a great attitude throughout it all. This is not always easy to do on long travel days for any of us, so excitement about traveling with us was a priority in searching for the right nanny for our family.

This was an area where having a nanny agency help us with the search was really beneficial. They thought through the logistics of what traveling with our family entails and then found someone who fit that — on top of all the other qualities we were looking for. 

Qualities of a Great Nanny: Early Childhood Education

qualities of a great nanny

Your nanny will spend a lot of time playing with your kids, and will be a central figure as they develop. A background in early education is one of the qualities of a truly great nanny, as both you and your kids will end up learning a lot from this skill set. 

“I think bringing the skill set of education in the mix is important,” says Dara Yates with Seaside Staffing. These skills can be subtle, like knowing the right size crayon to give a 2-year-old vs a 3-year-old, according to Yates. 

Caitlin Santora with Hire Society says education in early childcare development was a quality she looked for when hiring her own nanny. 

“It’s nice to know that the nanny can play wonderful games and really deal with tantrums in a way that I can’t,” she says. “That’s a huge plus.” 

I couldn’t agree more. We chose a nanny with a background in education and we’ve learned so much from her. One of the most important lessons she taught us is how to handle sensitive situations with our kids. Her tone is always calm and authoritative. She never reacts emotionally to a high-stress situation created by a young child. Instead, she models the importance of breathing to stay calm. She purposefully does it loudly and slightly overdramatic since she knows the kids are watching and learning and will imitate what she is doing over time to calm themselves down. 

Learning these types of tools from her allows my partner and I to respond calmly instead of rising to the level of chaos that is created when kids are bound to be kids and push boundaries.

The Qualities of A Great Nanny

Nailing down these six qualities — flexibility, communication, relatability, critical thinking skills, willingness to travel, and early education expertise — really helped us zero in on the best candidates for our household. Five years later, our nanny is still with us and has become an integral part of our family. We trust her to nurture and teach our kids, take on household management tasks, and, of course, travel with us on vacation. 

If you need help identifying the qualities, skills, and personality traits that are best for your household, I highly recommend using a nanny agency. They’re experts at matching the right nanny with the right household and will know the questions to ask to find someone whose communication skills and personality align with your own. 

Hiring the right nanny is one of the best investments you can make in your family, but it’s just the beginning. Not sure if you’re ready to hire help? Take our 2-minute quiz to find out. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to receive our latest articles in your inbox.

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