Hiring a new nanny to care for your children is not a decision to be taken lightly. It’s a serious professional relationship and a long-term commitment that will have a lasting impact on your kids’ growth and development. For those reasons, it often takes more than just an interview or two and some thorough reference checks to know if the candidate you have your eye on is actually the best fit for your family. And one of the best ways to figure out if you’re ready to make that final hiring decision is to see your potential new nanny in action with a trial day.

A nanny trial day sounds like a major, potentially stressful test, but that’s not what it is at all. It’s actually a chance for your kids to meet and interact with the nanny in a low-stress, playdate-like environment, and it’s a no-strings opportunity for you to assess both a nanny’s professional skills and how their personality and values play into the way they do their job.

So, what does a trial day look like?

The typical trial day happens after the interviews have been completed and lasts about four hours, though it can be longer or shorter depending on your preference. The candidate should be paid for their time, and prior to the trial you should provide instructions to the nanny, just as you would if they were caring for your children at any other time.

Make the nanny aware of your typical routines and any pertinent information they need to know in order to be successful, whether it’s that your grade schooler needs to be met at the bus stop at 3 p.m. or that your toddler will only drink from the blue cup with two ice cubes. The trial day is about seeing how the nanny works, but it’s also about establishing whether or not a potential candidate connects with your family and feels like a good match. If they’re left without any guidelines or prep, it’s possibly they’ll be so worried about performing the basics of doing the job well that you won’t really get a chance to assess much else.

While the nanny is working, try your best to mirror your own daily routine. While observation is important, you don’t want to spend the trial micromanaging the nanny and refusing to let them show you how adaptable and personable they can be. If you usually work during the day, work for part of the time that the nanny is there. If you’re a stay-at-home parent and will be functioning alongside the nanny, make sure you do that so you can see what it’s really like to work together. Remember that the trial day is also giving the nanny an opportunity to see what the job truly entails, so it’s important to give them the tools they need to shine.

What should you look for during a trial day?

            Use the trial day to look for the qualities that are most important to you as a parent. No brand-new nanny is going to walk into your home and automatically know how you like the playroom organized and where your youngest stashes their blankie. Instead of focusing on task-based perfection, focus on personality and potential. Is this someone who seems energetic and enthusiastic about their job? Do they show initiative? How do the kids respond to this person? Is the nanny doing a great job of keeping the kids engaged and active?

Ultimately, a nanny is so much more than just a person who watches your children. They’re a skilled professional and an essential part of your everyday life, and over time, they can also become an important member of the family. As a parent, you should decide which traits signal to you that a candidate is worthy of those distinctions. By the end of a successful trial, you should know if the nanny you’re considering is not only someone you feel confident can grow in their role, but also if they’re someone who you believe can have a positive and lasting place in your home.