Patty Manko Wed, May 21, 2014 @ 04:10 PM 11 min read

Interviewing a Caregiver- Advice from an Expert

An Interview with Donna Levin,  

Donna Levin,


Donna Levin is a co-founder and the Vice President of Operations for, an online company that is the world’s largest destination for family care.  Donna has her own connection with parents of children with special needs: her son experienced a seizure episode when he was an infant. As a result, her husband, whose background is in social work, stayed home to care for him for his first 3 years.  She understands the importance of finding quality care and supporting caregivers.

 Finding the best caregiver

When first launched, most parents looking for care for their child with special needs would advertise for a babysitter or nanny along with everyone else.  The team decided to start a team focused on serving the special needs community and set about doing research to define their offering.  Eight months of collaborative research produced  a new enrollment flow for care providers, refined search capability for families and some data that would be helpful vetting caregivers for families of people with special needs. The overall finding was that each family uniquely defined a quality care provider.  The research backed up the experiences of the individuals in this series: there is no “best” caregiver profile. ’s mission became making sure families have lots of options to find the provider that is the ideal fit for them and focusing on presenting many choices of people and skills.

Ask the right questions to get the information you need

Donna shared her favorite questions to ask when interviewing a caregiver for her own family.

What are some things that I personally need to know about you in order for the two of us to have a good working relationship?

Once we develop that relationship, what should I never do if I don’t want to ruin that working relationship?

These questions should open up the conversation and give you an opportunity to learn about the applicant’s personality.

Do you have any other obligations that could impact your ability to do the job? .

You need to know if the applicant has a hard start and stop time. This could be for a number of reasons from school, second job or caregiving.

When it comes to experience, you want to cover all the bases to be sure they meet all the qualifications necessary.

What is it you love most about caregiving and why?

What has been the most challenging experience you have had as a caregiver?

What did you learn and how did you resolve it?

What has been your experience with medical emergencies?

Have you dealt with a medical emergency? What steps did you take?

Ask questions relating directly to their temperament- it is especially important that the caregiver’s temperament is compatible with the person with special needs’ diagnosis.

How do you manage a challenging situation?

How do you redirect attention in a challenging situation?

How do you handle a tantrum? (especially appropriate when caring for a senior or adult child.)

Reference Check

The next step after the interview is the reference check. Most providers show up at the interview with two references lined up.  Donna suggests asking for a third reference on the spot or to be provided within a very short time thereafter.

She received the best advice from a colleague at a national non-profit: ask to speak to a family member.  The logic is this: if they don’t honestly believe their son, daughter, or other family member can fulfill the responsibilities of the job, they will begin to hedge.  They may say things like: What kind of support will they have?  How much training will be involved? These are warning signs that the person may not be the ideal caregiver, no matter how great the connection appears at the time.

Background check

For this step, Donna advises to do what makes sense for your family and your situation.  The background check is just one other tool you have to make an informed decision. offers a spectrum of services.  On one end is the preliminary check- social security number verification, the State sexual offender registry search (all 50 states)  and a national criminal database search.  Unfortunately, not all states are consistent with the information they provide.

On the other end of the spectrum, offers their Premier background check. This search involves calling upon a network of local private investigators that go beyond the databases available and physically visit the local courthouses in question and do research.  They can figure out every place a provider has lived – even if the provider has not reported it because they don’t think it was important information. For example, let’s say the applicant had speeding tickets out of state- it may be important to know this if the provider is driving your loved one to appointments and errands.

The CORI check is the most comprehensive check available in Massachusetts.  CORI even shows allegations made against an individual, in addition to substantiated infractions. The comprehensive nature of the CORI means that an individual would need training in order to understand and interpret the CORI report.

One of the best tools is to do your own research.  Google the person.  Check their social media presence – if it is not public, will they give you access? Check to see what communities are they involved in. Any community info will come up in a search- e.g. a local police blotter.

The Offer

After you have finished your interview, your background checks, research and reference checks, draw up the terms of the offer. 

Be explicit in outlining your expectations. Arrange for the new caregiver to spend time with the person they will care for and watch the interaction. Have a trial couple of days during which family members can check in. You can also poll neighbors for their observations and of course, ask your loved one for feedback, if possible.

Always keep a schedule of regular one on one meetings.  You need to know how the individual is handling the stress of caregiving and conversation is a great way to review things.  Your goal with these meetings is to keep good situations going and address situations when things are not working out.

Donna Levin is a co-founder and Vice President of Operations for (NYSE: CRCM). has grown to be the world’s largest online destination for finding and managing family care, with 10.7 million members spanning 16 countries.’s web and mobile platforms enable families to connect to care providers and caregiving services in a reliable and easy way, while also helping care providers find meaningful work. Through its consumer matching platform, tools and resources, allows families to make more informed hiring decisions. The Company also enables families to pay caregivers electronically online or via mobile device and also subscribe to HomePay to manage their household payroll and tax matters.  Through its Workplace Solutions unit, also serves hundreds of thousands of families whose employers provide access to’s platform, as well as backup dependent care, as a corporate benefit.


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