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Following on the heels of What are some good places to find trustworthy babysitters?, once we are interviewing potential babysitters, what should we look for to identify them as trustworthy?

Of course there's "chemistry", where you just gauge the vibe you get from talking to the person, and how well your kids like them during the interview; but that's very subjective and going to differ from person to person.

I'm more interested in things that the dedicated babysitter can do to help assure the parents that their children are in good hands:

  • CPR and First Aid certifications would make me feel better, but I doubt I would have made the time to get them at that age
  • INA - International Nanny Association (which I only mention because it's mentioned on sittercity.com)
  • A background check would be nice, but performing it myself or through a service could be expensive/invasive/time consuming and it would be nice if it was just something offered through a service.

What else should you look for?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think the most important thing to have is references.

The references should be the names and numbers of people that the sitter worked for recently, and they should be people that are willing to talk about their relationship with the sitter.

I would not accept written letters of reference. If the parents feel good about the babysitter's relationship with them and their children, they should be willing to take the time to help the babysitter get more work. Talking in person gives you a chance to find out more information about the babysitter's habits and style from a parent's perspective.

Of course, getting the references does no good for you if you do not actually call the references and follow up.

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Definitely - references. And here in the UK you could require them to apply for a 'Disclosure' check - basically background and criminal check. –  Rory Alsop Nov 16 '11 at 9:23
    
I'm not sure I follow your logic in the third paragraph. Your first and second sentences seem to contradict each other. I'd expect composing a letter would take at least as long as the face-to-face conversation. Where I'm from, a written letter of recommendation is one of the highest forms of praise you can give someone for almost anything, short of a recognized award. I would assume this is mostly because it's recorded, not just a conversation which can be denied. I would think someone willing to go on record with "I trust this person with my child" would make a BIG statement. –  corsiKa Nov 17 '11 at 22:45
    
I don't see any contradiction. As to letter vs phone (I hadn't thought of face-to-face), a very nice letter takes maybe 20 minutes to compose. A phone call to someone interested in hiring would take more or less than 20 minutes... for each person interested in hiring the recommendee. It's a one-time investment of effort versus an ongoing commitment to be available to provide a personal attestation. Most importantly, though, you will have very little luck asking a recommendation letter specific questions. –  Beofett Nov 17 '11 at 23:23
    
I also should mention that I have heard of situations where someone was willing to write a recommendation letter at the termination of employment, simply to facilitate the break, and not because of any real satisfaction with the relationship. A letter saying simply "I, insert name here, recommend such-and-such is less convincing to me than someone who would be willing to go on and on about all the wonderful experiences they had with the person. Of course, a very well-written, detailed letter would hold more weight than a minimal letter. –  Beofett Nov 17 '11 at 23:27
    
Not to mention it's not terribly difficult to forge a letter, as long as you're reasonably sure the recipient of the letter won't be tracking down and calling the person it's supposedly from. The phone call or F2F is more reassuring because you can get a sense of who you're talking to. –  Adam Tuttle Nov 18 '11 at 0:58
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I agree that non-family references are important. I have actually received calls from families looking for sitters because I had been listed as a reference. I would also see if your local parks and rec, hospital or Fire station offers a baby sitters course. I have found the sitters who have taken this type of course to be very prepared. The last one came ready with activities, and asked for me to show her the first aid kit and fire extinguisher before I left for the evening.

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