Client Interviews Part II: First In-Person Interview

There's not one way to skin a cat and I for one have asked many providers for a run through of how their interview process works and taken the "best of" (in my opinion) to create my own client interview process.  The goal is to streamline the process so that I can save time but also cover all important topics in an attempt to "weed out" candidates.  My interview process consists of three parts; 
Part I The First Phone Call, Part II The First In-Person Interview and  Part III a Playdate. 

How I Do It

In my last post I talked about phone interviews and the last "to do" was to invite them back.  So now what?  There's not one way to skin a cat but here's what works for me.
I'd like to start off with a little bit about how I prefer to conduct my interviews.  I for one do not hold the first interview during daycare hours.  There are several reasons for this ...
  1. Having interviews after hours (weekends on occasion) while my family is home (my husband, mother or adult sister) makes me feel safer. 
  2. Children tend to act out when guests are here which messes up my groove and can leave a bad impression on the potential client.
  3. My clients appreciate that I don't conduct interviews during daycare hours. 
  4. I don't know them from Adam.  I work alone during the day and there is no way I am welcoming a stranger into my house in a house full of children.
  5. My current daycare children don't get the attention and care that they require if I am holding an interview during the day, likewise I feel that the potential client doesn't get the 1 on 1 attention during an interview if I have children to supervise.
Instead I of holding the first in-person interview during a time when I have daycare children present I hold the first (and longer) interview during a time when I'm free and then hold a shorter "play date" at a later date if I feel that the family may be a good fit.
The interview is not just a time for the parents to interview me but also a time for me to interview the family.  I want to see the family dynamics and see how they react when their child's behavior needs to be corrected.  I also want to see how the child behaves around the parents.

Before The Interview
I get everything that I need for the interview prepared before interview time.  This includes cleaning and de-cluttering both inside and outside of my home.

Inside the Home:
  • De-clutter surfaces like countertops, tabletops, etc. and dust/wipe
  • Clean bathroom; wipe counters and mirrors, swoosh toilet, clean sink, sweep/spot-mop floor, shake out/vacuum rugs and empty waste basket
  • Wash dishes and clean kitchen sink
  • Check for fingerprints/grime on walls, switch plates, doors etc.
  • Pick up and organize toys
  • Fluff couch pillows
  • Sweep floors and spot-mop
  • Vacuum rugs and carpet
  • Close the door to any rooms that are not going to be on the "tour"
Back Yard:

  • De-clutter surfaces
  • Check for obvious cobwebs
  • Pick up and organize toys
  • Sweep porch/concrete
  • Check for hazards and broken toys/equipment (should be doing this daily anyway)
  • Check grass and plants for trimming/mowing/raking

Front Yard

  • Check for cobwebs
  • Wash windows
  • Sweep porch/sidewalk
  • Check grass and plants for trimming/mowing/raking
  • Check decorations to make sure they are straight
  • Check flag to make sure it's not rolled up

I also take out my Daycare Binder as well as have two personal copies of my handbook handy and a bulleted list of my policies.  The Daycare Binder has my resume, training and workshop certificates, sample newsletters and TB and background clearances for all of the adults in my home.  The bulleted list of my policies is a brief overview of the policies in order in which they are listed in my handbook and include the page numbers of where they are in the handbook.

Ten minutes or so before the interview I turn the ringer on my house phone and cell phone off and turn off the television/radio.  

During The Interview

Once the family arrives I invite them in and make the formal introductions.  If possible I have everyone living in the home present during the beginning of the interview so that the potential clients can meet them.  For me this includes my husband, mother and three children.  This is important to me because I want the family to meet them so that they know who lives in the home in order to determine whether they feel comfortable with them or not.  I make eye contact, smile and give assertive handshakes to the adults.  Once the formal introductions are made my husband takes the children upstairs or outside so that I can conduct the interview without interruptions. 
I immediately begin by taking control and give the family a tour of the daycare part of my home.  I conduct the tour by explaining what we use the rooms for and point out things that they wouldn't know unless they asked.  Normally my tour takes about 15 minutes because I go over A LOT.  This is my "sales pitch" time.
Here are some brief examples of what I would say (but not everything):
Living Room
"This is our living room and main play space.  As you can see the toys are kept in low bins and organized by type so that the children can access and find toys easily.  A main goal of mine is to promote independence so that is why this is important.  Here we have cubbies.  Each child has their own cubby for their belongings so that they a have their own place to keep their own things.  This space also doubles as our nap space ..."
"Here is the kitchen.  As you can see there is a gate which keeps the children out.  That's for supervision purposes.  If I am in the living room and they go into the kitchen then I can't see them so I put up the gate.  It's just an extra precaution because even if it wasn't up or didn't close properly I don't keep anything dangerous within reach.  Cleaning supplies are kept in a high cabinet, knives and other sharp objects are locked up and the stove knobs are removed any time that it's not being used ..."
"Our bathroom door is kept closed at all times when it's not being used.  We have a child-size flip down toilet seat installed so that the children can use the toilet just like an adult.  It looks just like the adult version which makes them feel more grown-up because they go potty just like mommy and daddy.  The toilet is even slightly lower than traditional toilets for the same reason.  If you ever use the toilet you'll feel the difference (smile).  The children use the step for easy access to the sink and we practice good hand washing skills.  The soap dispenser is hands-free and automatic so that they don't have to touch the container, this reduces contamination.  We have a dispenser with paper towels instead of cloth hand towels to dry our hands for the same reason.  You can see that I have a rack with toothbrushes, that's because we also practice dental hygiene.  We brush our teeth after every major meal like breakfast, lunch and supper, including me, so they each have their own toothbrush which I provide and keep here.  I sanitize them about every 4 weeks or so and replace them every 6 months ..."

After the tour I ask if they have any questions so far and then I tell them that I would like to go over my policies with them.  I always start off with an explanation about why I have the policies and why they are important.  It may sound something like ...
"I'd like to quickly go over my policies now.  This is important because I conduct my daycare a certain way with certain goals in mind so it's important that my clients understand the policies and my philosophy and agree with them because if not then it isn't going to be a good fit, which is okay... I'm just going to go through them briefly so please stop me if you have a question or need me to clarify it further.  If something doesn't work for you please say so, so that we can discuss it, okay?"

I then give a copy of my handbook to each parent to follow along with me and I just go down my bulleted list and explain in my own words what the policies are.  For me this takes about 15 to 25 minutes depending on how many questions they asked.  I do this because I can't tell you how many times that I or other providers have complained that they gave a new client their policies, which they signed, and still they had issues arise later with the client not following them, not understanding them or simply not reading them.

CAUTION!  No matter how much in need you are for a new client never agree to enroll a client on the spot.  At the end of every interview I let the parent know that I have other interviews scheduled and that I will be in contact with them shortly after making my decision... even if I don't really have another interview ... yes, I know.  Sneaky sneaky.

Give yourself at least 24 hours to think about how the interview went and to mull on it.  Once the excitement and nerves have subsided (and c'mon let's face it, we all get at least a little bit nervous) you may think back and realize there were some "red flags" that might become an issue later, or might find another family that's a better fit.


By the time the interview is over I have a pretty good feeling about whether or not they are still interested in my daycare and whether or not I think they are a good fit.  If I think they'd fit in nicely and if I get an overall good vibe about them then I'll invite them back for a "playdate". 


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