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Hiring a Nanny: Traditional Nanny Agencies vs. Online Nanny Services

By Steven Lampert Published 09/11/2007 | Kids & Teens , Parenting
The nanny hiring process can seem overwhelming, especially if you choose the do-it-yourself route of placing a nanny classified ad. Sifting through hundreds of responses from potential candidates, making endless phone calls and screening and interviewing candidate after candidate is enough to make some families run for the nearest nanny agencies. However, with an online nanny service as your partner, there are many benefits to bypassing nanny agencies and investing the time to find the right nanny candidate on your own.

Traditional Nanny Agencies

Families who wish to bypass the hefty investment of time and energy required with the do-it-yourself route may go directly to a traditional nanny agency. With a full staff on hand, an agency has more resources to screen candidates carefully and verify references. A full-service agency basically does all of the "dirty work" of the selection and hiring process for the family. Nanny agencies will initially screen a pool of candidates over the phone to ensure that they meet the minimum qualifications required by the family. They then set up in-person appointments with potential candidates. Oftentimes, a large percentage won't pass the phone interview, and a number of the candidates who do pass the phone screen won't make it to the in-person appointment. A percentage of those either won't pass muster at the in-person meeting, or their references won't check. Those who pass all of the agency's tests are presented to the family, who, knowing that the agency has pre-screened the candidates, needs only to choose which nanny they feel the most comfortable with out of the pool of highly qualified candidates.

With nanny agencies, you are effectively paying top-dollar to access an available labor pool that is pre-screened, professional and ready to work. This is the most expensive option, but a quality agency offers the best service for those who are short on time or energy. Note the use of the term "quality agency". There are hundreds of nanny agencies out there, but only a select few that have real processes in place to find the best candidate for your family. A full service agency can cost upwards of three-thousand dollars to do a full-time placement. If you do choose to go this route, look for an agency that will provide you with a three-to-six month replacement guarantee. This way, if you feel that the agency did not provide you with the nanny you expected, you have a point of recourse.

Online Nanny Services

The do-it-yourself route of nanny selection has come a long way since the days of placing a "nanny wanted" ad in the local newspaper and waiting for the phone to ring. Today's online nanny services provide families with an economical option that combines the do-it-yourself approach with the thorough approach of traditional nanny agencies.

Many people like the fact that with an online nanny service you are in charge and ultimately, you determine the quality of the outcome of your nanny search. And, although the nanny hiring process requires you to take an active role in the search for the right candidate, quality web-based nanny agencies act as a partner, so that you do not feel like you are going through the often overwhelming hiring process alone. The best online nanny services provide helpful hiring forms and information similar to what nanny agencies use to give you the tools needed to find the right nanny.

Although families must essentially act as their own HR department during the nanny selection process, conducting nanny interviews and filling out all the appropriate paperwork, a paid membership with a quality online nanny agency involves much more than access to listings. An online nanny agency should present members with candidates that are drilled down and tailored to the families' preferences. Look for an online service that asks both families and nannies to fill out preliminary getting-to-know-you questionnaires, and the search for a nanny online will be a lot more targeted. This reduces the headache of sifting through hundreds of ads only to find a handful of candidates, who may or may not pass your screening process.

Although some web-based nanny agencies will include nanny criminal background checks for an additional fee, parents should be clear that most online services typically do not screen or conduct background searches on potential nannies; their claim to fame is connecting parents and nannies. In depth, verified information about potential candidates is usually not provided by these types of services.

If you are unsure whether to go with a particular web-based nanny agency, ask for an in-depth preview of the pool of candidates or a free trial membership. Trustworthy online nanny services will provide families with a sneak preview of their candidates so that they can decide whether or not a paid membership is worth it. Take note of the amount of candidates that the service provides--you will likely be impressed with the quantity of candidates available when using an online nanny service.

The primary reason that many families decide to use an online nanny service is affordability. Oftentimes families feel that the value an agency provides is not worth the high price tag that comes with the service. Online nanny services provide tools comparable to those that nanny agencies use at a significantly lower cost, but the important question to ask is whether or not you have the time and resources needed to effectively use those tools.


There are benefits and drawbacks associated with both traditional nanny agencies and web-based nanny services. It is important to evaluate and understand the tradeoffs associated with paying a lower price for a membership to an online nanny service. For those who have the time and resources available to spend on the nanny hiring process, using an economical and efficient web-based nanny service is likely the more attractive option.

About the Author

Steven Lampert is the president of eNanny Source, an online nanny service that brings together families and nannies. Lampert previously ran a successful, award-winning nanny agency in a major city for over 10 years, during which time he worked with thousands of families and nanny candidates. Through this experience, he became familiar with the important steps in a nanny search, which he continues to apply to his business today. To learn more, please visit www.enannysource.com.