Saturday, April 17, 2010

Interview with a gimp

Interviewing for jobs when you're on crutches does not inspire confidence in your potential employer. I went on two interviews this week and didn't get either job. They were a nannying position and a library assistant. I didn't expect to land the library assistant spot because it required "paid experience" and I have volunteer experience. Between leaving my home and coming here, I babysat, so I thought I had the nanny job sewed up and in the bag. They went with another girl who was younger and "could keep up with the children better".

There was another strange comment she made that made me want to ask your opinions. The mom and dad were only a year older than me. When the mom called me to tell me they went with the other girl (which was nice of her to call me), I asked her what I might be able to do to improve my next interview if she didn't mind telling me. She said it was the leg and that I had made her uncomfortable by the way I spoke to her husband. I don't know how I spoke to him that made her uncomfortable! I was polite and that's all. I didn't flirt or find him attractive in any way - I have Harris. That's a strange thing to say isn't it?

Back to the summer job hunt. I have one more nanny interview and I want it to go well so I would appreciate all the feedback I can get. It's a summer only job with a family of five kids. I want to mention my background without mentioning the QF. Should I do that? What can I do to downplay the cast?


  1. As far as the wife's comment..some people are just weird.

    Ruth, you should see if you can get temporary disability pay in your state. I was able to get it when I broke my ankle (& I'm pretty sure we're in the same state). I know it's discouraging about the nanny job, but it may have also been for your own may have found it difficult to keep up with the kids while you were on crutches..With a broken ankle, maybe some kind of job where you answer phones would be good..

  2. Hi, Ruth. This is my first time commenting, but as a former homeschooler who had to figure out work and college on her own as an adult, I can identify with SO much of what you have written.

    Now for your question at hand, interviewing with anyone close to you in age is awkward, so you can chalk part of it up to that. Also, maybe it wasn't what YOU said to her husband; maybe HE said something about you that made her feel uncomfortable. (It's always easier to blame the "other" woman, regardless of how silly or serious the husband's offense might be.) More importantly, as employers, they committed a federal crime by discriminating based on your (temporary) disability.

    For your next interview, I would mention that you grew up in a large family, but NOT the part about being QF. Don't suggest anything negative about your background. (Over time I developed a close relationship with the family I nannied for; but to begin with I was very vague about my background.) Be sure to mention that your leg will be back to normal soon and how much you miss being active and on your feet. (They like to hear that you won't be sitting around.)

    Have you seen the movie (based on the book) The Nanny Diaries? I just saw it recently--deliciously evil. :) It can be brutal work, but I hope you find a job as awesome I did.

  3. Some men have been known to have affairs with their nannies. It could have been as simple as "you're the kind of guy my husband would find attractive, so I don't want you".

    It could also be the case that you (thinking that the man is the decision making authority) naturally gave most of your comments to him instead of to her. That could have made her feel ignored or wonder why you weren't talking to her.

    The crutches are EASY! Laugh about it, and say you sprained your ankle hiking because you are just SO ACTIVE and love being out and about. In fact, say that it is one of your personal flaws in that you need to learn to temper your enthusiasm.

    Regarding your family, it is a big selling point to have grown up with so many kids. Mention you have X # brothers and sisters. You had a "totally crazy" family, but you loved playing with your siblings and often/usually functioned as their "second mom".

    General Interview Techniques:
    Claim a "flaw" that is actually positive.
    Tell the truth.... but not the whole truth. They don't need to know everything, just about your experience and how you'd be around your kids.

    If the blog comes up ensure them that you would never ever ever ever put ANYTHING that pertains to them or their children online. But you probably don't want to mention it.

  4. Hi Ruth,

    Sorry that the wife made that comment; she's the one with the problem, not you. I wouldn't worry about what other people think. Sometimes, two people don't mesh, that's all. Better to find out now than take the job and then have her pull her strange routine on you.

    I agree with the poster about seeing what state aid is available to you in lieu of your temporary disability. No need to starve or go into hardship. That's why we have the safety nets we do for people in our country.

    As far as what to say in the future, I would just say the things that will paint a positive picture/image of you, things like growing up in a large family and being your mom's right-hand woman, helping out with your siblings, responsibilities, etc. in order for them to know that you can indeed handle nannying children.

    Wishing you the best! :)


  5. When interviewig play up the positives.
    I agrre with the posters who have said the cast is from being so active! I interviewed from a wheel chair once. I just said it was temporary and the cause was working in my own yard. Didn't get the job, but they referred for another job I did get.
    And play up the BIG family thing. As the oldest daughter you were very involved with helping out and watching the little ones.

    Good luck

  6. Some people are just insecure, and bringing a nanny in can exacerbate that. It has everything to do with them and nothing with you.

  7. Ruth... this is the first time I've commented, but I felt like I might have something to add since I'm going through a lot of interviews myself lately. I'm interviewing for fulltime post-college jobs, but for the past four years I've worked for a career counseling/leadership management company and picked up a LOT of interview tips along the way. In your situation, I would definitely play up the large family... maybe don't mention exactly HOW large, because you never know what detail is going to hit somebody the wrong way, but just say as one of the oldest you just LOVED running after and taking care of your younger siblings! The crutch is easy... it's a temporary setback that occurred while you were being your active, funloving self ;) I have no idea what happened with that woman's husband, like others have said she most lifely just felt jealous of you for some reason, but in the future you might want to be respectful and polite but slightly ignore the husband, and lavish all your attention and talkijng points on the mothers. Also, do you have a resume? If your college's career center can help you through one together it's always a nice, professional touch, no matter what position you're applying for. Good luck and I hope you get an awesome job!

  8. Hi, Ruth! Good luck on the hunt. It's true that some people are uncomfortable with any show of disability, regardless of how insensitive and just wrong that is. For someone to be put off by crutches for a injury (and actually SAY so, wow!), that to me signals something jerky or perfectionist about the person.

    I agree with the previous commenters on the husband thing:
    IF you did anything "wrong" it might have been inadvertently treating the husband as the decision maker. (I seriously doubt you put off any flirtation vibes to him.) Unless you are nannying for a fundamentalist family, nanny decisions are all about the wife. (And even then, most of the time.) In these interviews, you're selling to the wife.

    But you just as likely didn't do anything and it was either something weird about her or something the husband said about you later or, most likely in my opinion, she just didn't feel it with you. You are much better off anyway with someone who does. Job search is a learning process, and going to many interviews before you find the right fit is just part of it. You'll find your interview skills improving the more you do it.

    Another thought: With your background, you're probably constantly honing more, uh, mainstream social skills already anyway. You may run across people who don't know how to feel about the way a lot of ex-ATI/ homeschooling types come across - that combination of maturity/inexperience. I have a friend who hired a new assistant and was trying to describe certain odd things about how she acted that he couldn't figure out. I finally said to ask if she was homeschooled - and she was! And then she "made sense" and everything was fine. Even though I was grown before my family went ATI, I was in home or church schools my whole life, and in my first few teenage/college jobs people were always questioning why I was different. It's nothing to worry about, because it smooths out, but you can be matter-of-fact about having been homeschooled and that will probably give a satisfying category for why you don't seem like a typical college student.

    Just 2 cents - might be helpful, might not. Since I've never met you, I don't know how much that applies! Keep up the search and you will find a family that fits!

  9. Ruth,

    I'm glad you asked for feedback! A lot of people wouldn't have had the courage to ask what to do better. As for the leg, I agree with Erin. Tell them that you went on a big hike and it turned into a crazy day. But that since you and your friends are all well versed in how to handle emergencies, it all turned out well.

    Point out that the cast will be coming off soon, that you are incredibly mobile, having been all over campus, and that you now have very strong arms from crutching around and that works well for lifting babies.

    Definitely mention the family. Tell them that you have x number of bros and sisters between the ages of .... and explain as the oldest girl that you were responsible for x, y and z. Emphasis that you can feed one child, while reading to another and monitoring two more in the same area.

    If they ask why you have so many kids in your family, laugh it off and say your parents love kids and wanted a large family.
    Most people will take it at face value or at worse assume you are Mormon or Catholic.

    I would also point out that since your are used to more kids, that nothing phazes you. You are used to the noise, the fun, the activity and it seems like home to you. If they home school, point out how you can be useful, if they say they like something (like gardening or biking) point out how you've done that in the past.

    If I had that many kids, I'd hire the lady with the huge family. A person like me, from a small family, would freak out with that many kids. They've got to know that while you need a job, they need a person who can handle that many kids.

    Also, ask what the kids like to do. If any of your interests line up, react and say "I love that, too!" The parents tend to like people who show interest in the kids as people and not just as charges.

    You might also want to point out that you are a good house guest (if it's live in)and that you keep your space clean. No one wants a person who blasts hip hop music at 2 in the morning living in the house.

    It sounds like the other lady saw something she didn't like. Who knows what it was, but just take hints from the people interviewing. Smile, make good eye contact with both people. They want someone they feel comfortable with and that they can trust with their kids.

    You should also ask about the structure of the job and structure your reply to their expectations. If they need help cooking, you can say that you are well versed at making meals for a large family. That kind of thing. Every negative can be spun into a positive. I would even point out that since you started school late, you are older and more mature than most of your fellow students. Let them think about that! You aren't 19, and that works well with 5 kids.

    I'd trust you with my kids! I hope you find something. I think you'll be fine. Let us know what happens.

  10. Hi Ruth,

    I used to be a nanny and I'm a parent now. A lot of younger parents are uncomfortable having a nanny so close in age to themselves. They feel weird telling them what to do. So it may be as simple as that. Good luck with the job hunt and leg healing!


  11. Ruth I am sorry you did not get the job!

    Yes interviewing on crutches does suck, and I want to reiterate what the other posters are saying. For most mainstream individuals, nanny decisions are made by the mother. Perhaps due to your background you were "selling yourself" to the father and she misinterpreted that to be a sexual interest. ALSO, with them being only one year older than you (27yrs), the wife may have wanted a younger nanny (i.e. 17-19) because she would not see a younger woman as a sexual threat. Yes yes, sad but true.

    I hope something great happens for you.

  12. I think Erin makes a good point--maybe you focused on the husband more than the wife, or perhaps vice versa. Or maybe you were just a little awkward around him, which raised a yellow flag for her.

    As for the leg, I would make a point of addressing the issue at the beginning, letting them know it happened while you were being active, but that it's not a common occurrence for you. Also, be sure to tell them when it is anticipated that you'll be back to normal. That's what would concern me: would you be fully active again by the time you start?

    Be sure to play up your large family and your responsibilities. But don't make it extreme. There's no need to share every little detail, and I'd leave out the QF stuff. Also share your experience with children outside the family and things like teaching Sunday school or working in a church nursery (if anything like that applies to you).

    Give examples of specific activities you enjoy doing with children of similar ages to your potential clients. If they are anything like me, they want to know that their children will be kept active and doing interesting stuff. Tell them why you like 3-year-olds (or whatever age). Ask them about their children--what their personalities are like, what kinds of things they like to do, etc.

    Also, make a point of saying that while the children are definitely your first priority, you try to keep the house in order during the day. It really peeves me to come back to a messy house when I have a babysitter. I don't expect anyone to clean my bathrooms or do laundry, but it's nice to have toys put away and dishes in the dishwasher.

  13. I agree about putting together a resume with a cover letter. It makes you look so much more professional and put together. Plus, it's a great place to list, for example, your CPR/first aid certification (which, if you don't have it, you definitely need to get), references, etc.

  14. Nanny jobs are really hard to get, plus the job market right now sucks. If you are not EXACTLY what they want (I interviewed for several nanny jobs, and I think I didn't get them because of my old beat up car, and the parents not wanting their kids to pick up my dialect.) When does the cast come off? Is there any chance you can interview for other jobs while the cast is on, or wait until it comes off? You ever thought about getting a year round, part-time job? That with financial aid should make it possible to share an apartment with someone off campus. Is it possible to stay with your brother this summer? Maybe you could babysit in exhange for board or something. LOL. I sometimes get carried away planning other people's lives. My own life...

    About the husband thing. Its hard to tell, especially when I wasn't there to hear how you spoke to him. HOw were you raised to speak to men? Maybe you spoke to him the way you were raised to, without knowing it? Or like another poseter said, the wife could just be weird. Good luck.

  15. Hi Ruth,
    I've never commented before, but I've nannied for years for a wide variety of families. Most of the advice other posters have given is fantastic (large family, actually enjoying being around kids, normal being active, etc.) I would ask the parents questions like what their expectations would be from you - are there scheduled activities or can you organise things for the kids, what activities do they like, etc. Definitely play up the fact that you are a bit older than "normal" nannies, and thus more mature and more able to deal with any little situations that the kids throw at you. If you don't have your first aid/CPR I strongly recommend you get it and mention to parents that you have it/are going to get it soon. If you helped homeschool or Sunday school kids growing up I would mention that you have also worked with kids in educational settings and would enjoy working in some educational things while nannying. Even if it's as easy as reading a few books a day, practicing letters and words with the older kids and colours/shapes with the younger ones. The parents always told me it was great when they came home and their kid ran up to them say "I learned xxxx today!"
    I have nannied for a friend who is only 3 years older than me. It was a bit awkward at the beginning but I put myself in the "employee" position so she wouldn't have to. I asked questions that I didn't really need to, just so she could answer them and explain things - I think she felt reassured that she was, in fact, my boss for the time I was nannying her son.
    Good luck and stay positive!

  16. I was thinking about the husband thing... I think the mere fact that she told you that at all is pretty weird, and a little rude. Why basically accuse someone of hitting on your husband who you met very briefly, and are never going to see again? It almost seems like vindictiveness, which is so totally unnecessary that I think it proves beyond a doubt that SHE most definitely has an issue, and it wasn't your fault at all.

  17. i was homeschooled too and you could definitely tell up to about a year ago. sometimes you can still tell. i just don't tend to have the same social demeanor that other people expect, so it comes across as "unpredictable"... it's something that gets better with time and "real world" experience although i'm quite an eccentric cat anyway so that doesn't help my case. :)

  18. Hey Ruth,
    I was nanny for many different families for years. They are some of the most awkward interviews as the mother is sizing you up not only as a caregiver to her child but also, sometimes, as a potential threat. I had several mothers tell me point-blank that I was too pretty! Kind of a backwards compliment huh? I had a boyfriend and was not after her husband in any way!! I also had a mother tell me not to wear skirts or shorts around her husband (yeah, I quit that job after a couple weeks). Don't worry - it's her problem, not yours. Find someone more secure to work for.

  19. Hi Ruth,

    I agree with all of the commenters saying that usually (unfortunately) most of the nannying decision are up to the mothers, because usually they are the main cargegivers/responsible AND because they can be afraid of the competition too (maybe for the children too). The fact that she mentionned it IS weird. I would be so ashamed to acknowledge it.

    Anyways, I wanted to ask something (you don't have to answer but maybe think about it). I know it's "just" nannying, but how do you feel the years between 20 and now ? As a lot of posters have pointed out, saying you're very active is important, and they may ask themselves how come you're 26 and only a sophomore... So maybe, you should turn it around and say you wanted to help your mother (because she was sick or something, staying vague should be good). I don't know exactly what you should say but plug somewhere you were not just sitting around at home waiting for your parents to kick you out...

    I agree also with the poster mentionning that this attitude against your crutches is illegal.

    I hope you find something quick, I'm sure the parents are gonna be very satisfied with you ^^

  20. Side note, I believe you must have at least 15employees to be accountable to Federal Employment discrimination laws, as well as the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). If I am mistaken I apologize.

  21. I wanted to add-

    Addressing your age/only being a sophomore might be a good idea if given the opportunity.(If the interviewers know how old you are) You do not want to appear "flighty" or as if you have been sitting on your parent's couch since you were 18 (which is what a lot of people would think).

  22. You're right see

    Anyways, this surely is an informal job so don't think you could really go after them for that (maybe for not paying you or something).

  23. I think you should say you started school late because you needed to prepare and save up for it (which is true). Tell them that you wanted to make sure you picked the right program and school and you're very happy to be where you are. If you add in something about the cost of school these days, people will understand. There are too many people with degrees they hate because they were young and had to decide. I have a masters and am four classes away from a second masters because I had no clue what to do with my life. It's an expensive lesson!

    If they ask, just say you are working hard toward a degree and are excited about the future. I wouldn't get into all the details because its frankly nobody's business. If they ask, use it as a strength. You know kids, you can handle a herd of them at one time, and you are a smart, organized young lady who can make a difference for the summer.

  24. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! All of these ideas and insights are helpful.

    I really don't want to go live with my brother's family (in another state) for the summer. It's expensive to fly back and forth and I want to try and get my life started here for good. Obviously, I would travel if work took me somewhere later but going back home takes me away from my therapist and my new life here (umm- Harris, my hiking friends). I know that sounds pitiful but it's true. I have a little resume but I didn't even think to put my CPR training on it so that's a great idea. I like the idea of a cover letter. Thanks again!

  25. I know someone already mentioned this but you might consider looking into a job as a receptionist. I've been a nanny and several other things but the receptionist jobs are easier to get usually and being pretty works in your favor (especially at car dealerships or places where men hire) try dr's offices, car dealerships, churches and office buildings. Most of those places are usually hiring receptionists or assistants of some sort. Hope you find something soon!

  26. Ruth, I think it's totally understandable that you want to stay and work for the summer O_o. I think it's gonna do real good to live amoung "us" lol ^^ Also earning money (in not too dire job) makes you feel so good about yourself !

    Don't undermine your choices ! I think we all support you here !

  27. One of the things that has always worked for me (and I'm one of those people that has gotten jobs from ads, not through contacts) is remembering that I am interviewing them as much as they are interviewing me. I come off confident and not desperate. A good thing! Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job too - they may know of something.

  28. First time poster. I agree with the others that the wife is the one who makes all the decisions. I have a friend that has gone through quite a few nannies and you would actually be a dream to her (she has 5 children from 1 to 10). What she usually does is give her nannies a trial to test them out before she decides. You may want to suggest that if you think they are on the fence. have you checked Craigslist to see if there are other jobs. What about housekeeping (once you are done with your cast)?

  29. Just stopping by again to ask if you have considered doing personal care (e.g., staying with older people in their homes)? If you can get a good position, that can work out very well for everyone concerned. I've found out about those jobs through word of mouth--maybe putting up notices at activity centers where seniors gather would work? In my experience, it paid as well as nannying, plus I got paid to sleep!

    Also, different ones mentioned the importance of explaining your work experience gap. This is one of the toughest parts of the journey, I think. As someone mentioned above, saying your mother wasn't well (however you define "well") and needed you at home is a good way to handle it. My story is that I worked on my family's farm; what I don't say is that my work was gardening and doing laundry and cooking and cleaning house and homeschooling siblings.

    I don't know what your professional aspirations are, but I second the suggestion to look into receptionist jobs. If you can get an entry-level position in a company that has growth opportunities, that would be awesome. Even better is one where the employer rewards hard work. (Ask about growth opportunities in the interview, so they know you're ambitious.) Doing this helped me get some strong business skills under my belt before I ever went to college--and they're still valuable in my current academic career.

  30. Ruth,
    Your reasons for wanting to stay where you are seem to be healthy and normal. The job market is tough. Keep trying. You will land something.

  31. Does your area have day camps over the summer? I worked in 2 different camps over one summer, and while the pay was not great, it worked well for my circumstances. Your background with children would obviously be an asset. One of the camps I worked for was through a park district, and the other was through an association for people with special needs.

    Good Luck!

  32. I agree with the camp option. Partly because I am the wife of a camp director and you would be an asset to camp. I love the ministry that we are involved in and it is a fun place to be and see the Lord move especially coming out of homeschooling and Gothard/ATI as we both have done. I'm only guessing as to where you are but Forest Home, Hume Lake, and JK Ranch are some great summer camps. I will say that most camps have done the majority of there hiring and so that may not work. I wish you were her cause I need a second half nanny for our camp here at Pine Cove. Hope you find something... Praying for you.

  33. Ruth,

    I agree with the poster who said you should use the time to interview them as much as you are being interviewed. Always ask what their expectations are (that shows you are aware that there is criteria you'll need to meet) and ask them what activities they have planned for the kids and what would their ideal nanny do in the summer. You always want to find out who is looking for a nanny and who is looking for a nanny/cook/housekeeper.

    I would apply every where. Ideally, something with room and board would be great. My first job was at 19. I put together a pitiful resume listing babysitting jobs (for a retail position) and the interviewer said he was impressed I took the time to organize that information. I admitted I'd never had a real job and he said we all have to start somewhere.

    Be honest and friendly and you'll find a job. You'll be amazed at how many people don't show up on time, don't work hard and don't care about a work ethic. It's not hard to stand out when others don't even try to be a decent employee.

    And I think it's fine that you want to stay and build a life. Eventually, you'll get an apartment and start collecting stuff and wonder where all the time went.

    Good luck!

  34. Ugh, the "competition" angle. I only nannied for neighbors, so I never got that, but I heard about it from other nannies I met. Another thing to consider is that in houses where the division of labor is informal but still very gendered, often the question of who has control over how the children are cared for is the site of conflict between spouses. (One example I think I see a lot is Fun Dad versus Uptight Mom households, in which one parent never knows when dentist appointments are and doesn't care if the kids wear sunscreen or not and the other is prone to getting very cranky because she's in charge of figuring out how to get to all four parent-teacher conferences in two hours.) So you may well have stumbled into an area of family conflict; I really don't think it was your fault, and I think it's a good indication that these would probably have been hard people to work for.

    Does your local unemployment office have a job board? I found my first job through one of those. Also, have you applied to campus food service or other campus jobs? There are often summer vacancies where they need people to prepare for camps or conferences. Best of luck!

  35. I wouldn't worry about the husband thing either. I think a lot of career women who hire nannies are afraid of losing their children and/or husband to women who fill the more traditional role. I worked as a nanny in high school and college and I had a few jobs that ended because the mother felt the children liked me more than her or that her husband liked the dinners I made too much. I even had one mother who stopped hiring me after I turned eighteen because she said I was no longer "jail bait" and therefore might tempt her husband to stray.....needless to say I was kind of glad to lose that position.
    It's just hard to get a nanny position in general because the moms are trying to walk a delicate balance of getting the best person for the job but not someone who is better at it then they are, and some of them aren't the best mothers to start with which makes it even more difficult for the nanny to not outshine them while appearing competent. Good luck in your search though.

  36. Ruth,
    If you happen to live in the Denver area, I'd totally let you live with us this summer, in exchange for a little part time nannying, while I sinfully work in the man's world of lawyering. I have no worries that you'd hit on my husband or vice versa, and I am pretty sure you are already better at mothering than I am, so none of that would be a concern, lol.
    Also, this is one of my favorite new singer/artists, and she reminds me of you. She is a preacher's daughter, by the way . . .
    If that link doesn't work, just google "youtube diane birch rise up"

  37. Are you sure that husband comment meant the woman was uncomfortable in an jealous way? It seems to me that with your very cult-like upbringing, you might have just talked to him in an unusual way. Maybe you deferred to him too much out of habit, or maybe you were aloof out of resentment. It might be jealousy, but it might be something else.

  38. Great insights, all.

    Am I the only one who saw the title of this post and thought of Pulp Fiction?

  39. btw, i'm on and and if you live in a highly populated area you'd probably find many people hiring on those sites.
    there's also
    which i think i was on the database once but am not now.

  40. As a nanny, I always talk primarily to the mom. I talk to the dad enough to be friendly and informative when the mom isn't around, but I act like the mom is my employer and the dad is my coworker who works in another department who I don't really have anything is common with.

    I have been a nanny for several families and this formula has ALWAYS worked for me. I do this to avoid the "Governess Syndrome" or even the suggestion of it. The best part is that families expect this. The mom expects to have every piece of info on their child and she will probably take an interest in you, so she expects you to talk to her. The dad will probably expect you to talk more to the mom than him. This is very sexist, but it works.

    As for the leg, joke around about it, and if you can, play with the kids during the interview. If the kids are not there, ask where they are. If you can't play with the kids, maybe you shouldn't be a nanny. I know you'll be great and if you get the cast off by summer, then it's not a problem and you should tell the parents when you interview.

    As for bringing up the QF background, bend the truth. Just enough so you can tell the truth later if you need to an you won't get caught in a lie. Say you come from a big family and have lots of childcare experience. Say you have experience with age groups from birth to adolecense and up to however many kids you've ever been the sole keeper of at a time before.

  41. Act responsible and ORGANIZED. Be nice! Do not go in to the QF stuff. It will freak the Mom out. Bring you MVA record and emphisize you do not drink.

  42. i love reading these comments!!!! man!!!


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